Russell and Duenes

when do we become more machine than man?

with 3 comments

I’m currently reading This Mortal Flesh: Incarnation and Bioethics, by Brent Waters. He raises many important questions, but his analysis of “posthumanism” raises the important question of how we would draw ethical lines in our technological advancements in regenerative medicine. Specifically, he addresses the issue of whether or not we should allow ourselves to become “technosapiens,” which is to say, human beings that are beginning to merge with and even be taken over by machines. Many would say that we ought to avoid this altogether, but I’m not sure it’s that simple. Nobody currently seems to have a problem with humans using artificial hearts, joints, limbs and various other mechanical devices intended to restore a greater measure of health. If we are willing to use such machinery now, what would be wrong with going further and employing nanotechnology – nanotechnology being the use of microscopic regenerative machines that rove throughout the body acting as little fix-it men – and how would we decide when we’ve become “too much machine and not enough human?”

If regenerative medicine can allow us to live longer, how much longer is ethical? Forever? As Waters asks it: “At what point does medicine cross the line, becoming a hubristic attempt to transform necessity into goodness, and thereby forsaking the art of helping patients come to terms with their finitude and mortality?…So long as the willful destruction of embryos is avoided, cannot humans enjoy longer and healthier lives with their dignity intact?” How long? How healthy? How much human body? How much machine? If we say that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to live healthier, longer lives, then where do we draw the lines? When does this desire compromise our dignity and proper humility as humans under God? I’d love to have some takes on this.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

January 29, 2010 at 6:26 am

Posted in Bioethics, Duenes

3 Responses

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  1. A little belated, the age of the technosapien is almost over. Twenty years from now people will look back on when we implanted machines and artificial organs in our bodies and laugh. It is already possible to grow organs in a lab. The new human will have new parts cloned from their own cells. We’re there already, we’re becoming genetosapiens…or something wonky like that.
    TOG

    theothergardener

    February 4, 2010 at 3:22 am

    • Point well taken. We’re not quite there, however. The organs that are being grown from our own cells are not of the kind that can be reliably transplanted yet. But I don’t disagree with your assertion about where it’s all headed. I went to a very helpful conference on umbilical cord blood research, and it is amazing what clinicians are already doing with cord blood. I do wonder, however, if being able to grow our own organs would accomplish what the technosapiens want, viz. a kind of immortality. Either way, I don’t think the goal is achievable nor desirable.

      -D

      russellandduenes

      February 4, 2010 at 5:29 am

      • I’m afraid rather that it’s just one more way of the corporation to try becoming immortal through us.
        TOG

        theothergardener

        February 5, 2010 at 5:16 am


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