Artist Focus: Rory Hinshelwood
Artist Focus
28 views
28 views

Artist Focus: Rory Hinshelwood

Louisa Hunt - April 25, 2018
172 Views
1 Comments

‘A Brave New You’: Human Enhancement and Bioinnovation

“O, wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,

That has such people in’t!”

 -Shakespeare, The Tempest

Homo sapiens; our differences in experience and understanding shape and define us, however, through these dividing lines our perceptions of reality are underpinned by our humanness. Yet, it is certainly a brave new world that awaits us, and those godly creatures may transcend, to be defined and shaped by science. To what extent, who knows?

Rapid advances in biotechnology are increasingly blurring the line between science and science-fiction. The decisions we make today will lay the foundations for our collective future, only with foresight can we steer progress towards what we want to see. Without it, we face collective failure.

This future is one of human enhancement. One that could see us become more than human, where there may even be the need to eschew the “human” for those whose paths diverge greatly from where we are now.

Technology and science are reaching a stage where they are able to tear through basic evolutionary principles

The human machine has been fashioned through æons of evolutionary progress. Throughout this time we have learned to control the world around us, moulding it as it moulded us. Technology and science are reaching a stage where they are able to tear through basic evolutionary principles, allowing us to frame what lies ahead. The breakthrough technologies, sometimes labelled as “emerging technologies”, are thought to be held within the fields of Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Science (NBIC): some of the fields are progressing at exponential or even hyper-exponential rates.

NBIC technologies also have the possibility for convergence, where an advancement in one field could have an impact on another. The types of things we see emerging range from computer chips implanted into brains, through to technologies that are allowing us to replace strands of DNA.

The future has potential for things such as the creation of nano-scale interventions, where drugs could be delivered to exact cells, or perhaps even the artificial creation of an entire human genome, as is the aim of the Human Genome Project-Write project. There will be new ways to keep us healthy, let us live longer, or even re-engineer our basic functions from the ground up.

Though the line between science and science-fiction is becoming blurred, these advances must also be grounded in reality, and the future is difficult to forecast. In 2009 an EU report into human enhancement called brain implants “highly visionary”. Yet, by 2016, a startup named Kernel claims to have developed brain implants that may allow people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases, such as alzheimer’s or dementia, to improve their memory.

While the emphasis on our technical abilities may, at times, be a little misplaced and shrouded in hyperbole, these potential capabilities are not something we should turn a blind eye to. What remains a myth for now may not remain that way, as the scientific juggernaut ploughs forward into realms unknown.

There is however a certain mythology abound by techno-progressives, such as futurist thinkers and transhumanists, around how far we can push ourselves, and the future that humanity can take; as author Stewart Brand once said, “We are as gods and might as well get good at it”.

The new man; an era led by the Californian Ideology where our new gods will be created in Silicon, worshiping in the shadow of the Valley of unfettered technologically determined utopianism. Where the powerful drive a new mode of reactionary modernism: concepts such as eugenics are becoming rebranded through liberal ideals – consumer eugenics; remove the state, place the individual’s right of freedom, of choice.

There are a plethora of ethical questions to be addressed: who has access to technologies, and how are they used?

This means we need to plan for the future and our path should be cautiously tread. There are a plethora of ethical questions that need to be addressed, as well as questions such as who has access to these technologies and how, and if, they are to be used. These are conversations that need to be undertaken by a wide spectrum of society, not just through technocrats and a techno-capitalist elite.

The latter of which will be able to buy into and exploit the potential gains of these technologies before the rest of us – digital technocrats who know more about us than we do, who hold the keys to personal advancement, could create a never seen before polarised chasms and stratification within society.

Those who can afford to indulge in fantasies of the techno-progressive project may salivate over endless realms of self improvement: as we live in a world where billions survive of less than a handful of dollars a day. This indulgence, as it stands, will be driven by the same neo-liberal paradigms that exposes and exploits those at its periphery. If the chasm widens the dystopian nature of Huxley’s A Brave New World will start to look less fictional as the 0.1% tightens its grip through regimes of authority that truly bring the bio into politics.

While we ponder our collective future, the military is acting as a major driver of change. The idea of the super soldier is becoming closer to being a practical reality. Justin Sanchez, head of the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Biological Technologies Office says that 2017 will “be a game changer” for biotechnology. There are serious advantages to be had for militaries that can increase a soldier’s performance. Soldiers who will one day become veterans; technologies developed for the military will inevitably find themselves filtering into civilian life. Which isn’t ideal. The prospect of a bio-inspired-evolutionary-arms-race wouldn’t bode well for hopes of our continuation.

Given the nature of such technologies and their potential uses. Is their development by such regimes and institutions, with power held in a small minority, the ideal way for them to be progressed? There’s no question DARPA’s implants would probably contain backdoor access for the US government, right into the brain.

As young people we should care about where we are going. Academically we should ask questions about what all of this means. While interdisciplinarity may be somewhat of a buzzword, the future practically demands it. We have seen science without merit; scientific racism still inflicts deep wounds; an excess of modernity can be viewed through the depravity of the holocaust. We need thoughtful progress, one in which social aims are factored in.

We live in a world based on humans and humanness; we live with human rights and universal notions of human equality. If we are to see a delineation of our species into pastures new, it would require a fundamental change in some of the basic tenets of society, of the human experience. We need to ask ourselves if there is an intrinsic value in being human, something we should hold onto, or whether we should embrace entirely new possibilities.

Because drastic change is coming, it’s not a matter of if, but when. Change we need to get right, otherwise dystopia and hyperbole won’t satisfy as explanations for what is yet to come. 

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam
Artist Focus: Rory Hinshelwood
Artist Focus
28 views
28 views

Artist Focus: Rory Hinshelwood

Louisa Hunt - April 25, 2018
Artist Focus: Maayan Cohen
Artist Focus
25 views
25 views

Artist Focus: Maayan Cohen

Emma Phillips - April 24, 2018
Voodoo enthralls at The Old Market – review
Arts
32 views
32 views

Voodoo enthralls at The Old Market – review

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - April 24, 2018
26 views

Trial & error: Sex, sass and foolishness through dance

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - April 24, 2018

One Comment

  1. Well written. I think though that “The lady doth protest to much”. Wouldn’t u want any upgrades? Given the chance? I would get a 12 inch genetically enhanced & or bionic dong that could scratch itself!
    That could save me years of work over a life time & I would call it the Scratchinator.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Artist Focus: Rory Hinshelwood
Artist Focus
28 views
Artist Focus
28 views

Artist Focus: Rory Hinshelwood

Louisa Hunt - April 25, 2018

Rory Hinshelwood studies Zoology with Spanish at Sussex. His brand is called Poplar St., at the moment the brand sell embroidered high-quality t-shirts. Rory works mostly in graphics…

Artist Focus: Maayan Cohen
Artist Focus
25 views
Artist Focus
25 views

Artist Focus: Maayan Cohen

Emma Phillips - April 24, 2018

The Badger spoke with Sussex University’s Maayan Cohen about her creative workshop, ‘Bits and Pieces.’ Can you tell us a bit about Bits and Pieces- what’s the…

Voodoo enthralls at The Old Market – review
Arts
32 views
Arts
32 views

Voodoo enthralls at The Old Market – review

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - April 24, 2018

As part of South East Dance’s micro-festival, Undisciplined, Voodoo comes to being as a collaboration between South East Dance and Project O. Project O brings artists Alexandrina…

Arts
26 views

Trial & error: Sex, sass and foolishness through dance

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - April 24, 2018

For the concluding show of South East Dance’s micro-festival, Double Bill brings two short performances to The Old Market’s stage: Comebacks I thought of later by Eleanor…

An evening with Candoco Dance Company – review
Arts
40 views
Arts
40 views

An evening with Candoco Dance Company – review

Georgia Grace - April 24, 2018

Last week at the Attenborough Centre, the phenomenally unique and refreshing dance company Candoco brought to the stage a double bill of performances exploring identity, community and…

Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome
Arts
60 views
Arts
60 views

Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome

Matthew Nicholls - April 19, 2018

Following the release of his Fourth Studio album ‘Hearts that Strain’ in September 2017, Jake Bugg decided he wanted an intimate tour, and that is exactly what…

Should Instrumental Skill Still Matter?
Arts
85 views
Arts
85 views

Should Instrumental Skill Still Matter?

Rob Smith - April 19, 2018

I am not advocating that all music, no matter how little talent is required, is by default innovative. I will eagerly admit that much of the bland,…

Sussex student takes show to Brighton Fringe
Arts
88 views
Arts
88 views

Sussex student takes show to Brighton Fringe

Georgia Grace - April 18, 2018

  Final year English and Drama student Sophie Pester will be taking her original stage show A Glass Half Empty to Brighton Fringe next month. First performed…

What’s wrong with the literary canon?
Arts
76 views
Arts
76 views

What’s wrong with the literary canon?

Shiri Reuben - April 18, 2018

This elusive and slightly archaic category, 'the literary canon' seeps into what we know and what we think we know about 'good' and 'bad' literature. On a simple…

For students, where does work end and rest begin?
Features
102 views
Features
102 views

For students, where does work end and rest begin?

Lucy Pegg - April 17, 2018

Print Production Editor Lucy Pegg examines the difficult balance between work and rest for students. In an environment that blurs the line between productivity and recreation, can…

Cambridge Analytica: did Facebook share your personal data?
Science
78 views
Science
78 views

Cambridge Analytica: did Facebook share your personal data?

Luke Richards - April 14, 2018

The last couple of weeks have been tough for Facebook, as it reels from the public scrutiny it has received over its lackadaisical protection of personal data.…

Brighton Fringe comic Joseph Morpurgo on satire, Frankenstein and his fictitious nine-hour, one-man show
Arts
118 views
Arts
118 views

Brighton Fringe comic Joseph Morpurgo on satire, Frankenstein and his fictitious nine-hour, one-man show

Georgia Grace - April 13, 2018

At The Badger we sat down with multi-talented comic, three-time Chortle Award winner and Edinburgh Fringe favourite Joseph Morpurgo to discuss his show Hammerhead. Following a three-week…

Amritsar: 99 years later and still no apology
Comment
141 views
Comment
141 views

Amritsar: 99 years later and still no apology

William Singh - April 12, 2018

99 years ago on Friday, one British general marched his soldiers into an enclosed garden in the vicinity of the holy Golden Temple and sealed off the…

Talking disability, identity and inclusion through dance – Candoco preview
Arts
125 views
Arts
125 views

Talking disability, identity and inclusion through dance – Candoco preview

Georgia Grace - April 12, 2018

Candoco are a company of disabled and non-disabled dancers who, for the past 25 years, have challenged ideas about what dance can be and who gets to…

Voodoo preview
Arts
86 views
Arts
86 views

Voodoo preview

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - April 12, 2018

“[A] science fiction that addresses the desire, confusion and responsibility felt as individuals, who are also symbols of many long-persecuted people.” (Quoted from Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila…

Interview with Chris Watson: Take a trip to No Man’s Land this spring
Lifestyle
163 views
Lifestyle
163 views

Interview with Chris Watson: Take a trip to No Man’s Land this spring

Louisa Streeting - April 6, 2018

Sound recordist, Chris Watson, spoke to The Badger about his new installation piece featured in the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts until 13 April 2018. From…

“A moving symbol of cooperation and humanity” – COAL review
Arts
203 views
Arts
203 views

“A moving symbol of cooperation and humanity” – COAL review

William Singh - March 31, 2018

“This is not a show. It’s something else”, we’re told. Gary Clarke’s dance performance of the life and decline of Britain’s mining communities is certainly something else.…

Brighton’s craft beer festival returns in April for third year
Lifestyle
212 views
Lifestyle
212 views

Brighton’s craft beer festival returns in April for third year

Louisa Streeting - March 28, 2018

Brighton will become the hub of craft beer in more than a dozen pubs from April 27-29. The Brighton Tap Takeover returns for a third year bringing…

Young blood promotes brain regeneration
Science
149 views
Science
149 views

Young blood promotes brain regeneration

Nikolaos Manesis - March 28, 2018

On the "growing old is natural" vs "it should be medically reversed" debate, vampires have crossed the picket line from the get-go and scientists have just proven…

The educational psychology of children with autism
Science
172 views
Science
172 views

The educational psychology of children with autism

Nikolaos Manesis - March 28, 2018

The scientific field of educational psychology studies the relationship between learning processes and the individual differences in cognitive development, motivation and intelligence. The majority of children are…