Not So Bad

Here is a moderate article from Yuval Levin, a staff member of the President's Council on Bioethics. If you remember them, they appeared to take a conservative and restrictive stance on biomedical and biotechnological developments, clothed in a partisan moral discourse.

Levin warns about scientism and the tendency of transhumanists to favour utopian solutions. They remind me of some of the critics that coined "Pragmatic Optimism" as a nuanced defence.

Still, the argument is positive:

They (or, to be precise, a subset among them) are the new utopians -- strident, rationalist, atheist, materialist proponents of a technical substitute for political authority. But they are also deeply committed to liberty, and this makes them different and better than most of the cold-blooded dreamers of old. We could certainly do worse.

TechCentral Station is always worth casting an eye over and the New Atlantis is a take it or leave it site.


WATCH THIS: Nick Bostrom of the World Transhumanist Association makes his case for radically extending the human lifespan.

A BBC website designed to mimick the workings of a court of law and dedicated to the debate about life-extension: "Welcome to the Court of Opinion... How long would you like to live? Advances in genetics may soon extend our lives by decades - for some conjuring hope of a life that goes on for centuries. But would you want to live forever?"

Nick Bostrom makes his case in this Real One Player clip and interviews Max More, founder of the Extropy Institute, transhumanist artist Natasha Vita-More and Gregory Stock, author of Redesigning Humans. Four expert witnesses contribute their opinion and it is interesting to note how the main opponents to life-extension seem to be the environmental campaigner and the theologian... Incourangly enough, though, the results of the vote are that 31% of respondents do NOT want to live forever, 3,5% don't know, and the rest voted yes, to various degrees.


Nanoscience: a discipline whose time has come - The Lancet calls for the submission of papers in the field of nanoscience.

The progress toward the development of full molecular nanotechnology continues to snowball. According to The Lancet, "Nanoparticles and nanocapsules could be effective delivery systems for drug and gene therapies. Nanostructures offer novel means for body or organ imaging. Nanotweezers and surgical tools only a few nanometres thick are already in development. Nanoprobes may be able to add diagnostic specificity to biopsy studies. And on the margins of nanoscience, there are even suggestions that nanorobots will be able to travel through the body searching out and clearing up diseases, such as a arterial atheromatous plaque. Clinical departments of nanoscience have sprung up in several universities."

Now The Lancet has published a call "for the submission of research articles, reviews, viewpoints, and hypothesis papers in the field of nanomedicine". The closing date for submissions is Dec 31, 2003 and a thematic issue of the journal is being planned for the spring of 2004.

[free registration required for full access to the online article]