JIS XXV 2013
BRAVE NEW WORLD?
Genetic Engineering & Human Dignity
JIS XXV 2013: 1-38
THE DYSTOPIAN IMAGINATION:
THE CHALLENGE OF TECHNO – UTOPIA
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research
This essay seeks to explore the nature and effects of the new Post-Industrial Revolution as epitomized by the digital universe, the fusion of synthetic biology and cybernetics, and the promise of genetics, engendering new hopes of a techno-utopian future of material abundance, new virtual worlds, human-like robots, and the ultimate conquest of nature. Central to this project is the quest for transcending human limitations by changing human nature itself, consciously directing evolution toward a posthuman or transhuman stage. Less well understood is the utopia-dystopia syndrome illuminated by the dystopian imagination refracted in science-fiction literature in such famous twentieth-century dystopias as Yevgeny Zamyatin‘s We, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and George Orwell’s 1984, cautioning that utopias may lead to their opposite: dystopia, totalitarianism, dictatorship. The thrall of techno-utopia based on technology as a prosthetic god may lead to universal tyranny by those who wield political power. The essay concludes that what humanity needs is not some unattainable utopia but rather to cherish and nurture its God-given gifts of reason, free will, conscience, moral responsibility, an immortal soul, and the remarkable capacity of compassion to become fully human.
JIS XXV 2013: 39-53
CYBERNETICS, GENETIC ENGINEERING
AND THE FUTURE OF PSYCHOTHERAPY
Robert M. Anderson Jr. & Yevgeniya K. Melnik
This essay describes possible futures that may result from accelerating technological advances and the challenges these futures present to psychotherapists. In the next 100 years, human beings will be likely to increasingly use computers and artificial intelligence and become extremely dependent on this relationship. Chip and stem cell implants may provide people with greater memory capacity, computational capacity, and skill sets. Genetic engineering, cryonics, and cloning may allow dramatic increases in the human life span. If these developments occur, they will challenge what it means to be a human being and have a soul. Although psychotherapists will acquire new tools for assessment and intervention, they will face the daunting task of addressing these changes and challenges to personhood with their clients.
JIS XXV 2013: 54-66
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
RESPONSE TO ANDERSON AND MELNIK
William R. Clough
Argosy University-Sarasota, Florida
Futurology is an inherently interdisciplinary field. Anderson and Melnik’s essay deals with how likely technological developments will affect both the process and the subject matter of psychotherapy. It is optimistic about the future of psychology as the profession enters a revolution in technological applications as potentially discipline-changing as medicine underwent with the development of antibiotics, high-tech prosthetics and diagnostic tools, and new surgical, life-saving, and life-enhancing techniques. All these innovations will bring new options for treatment, but also new temptations and dangers. This essay adds social, economic, and theological perspectives concerning the proper ethical home for cyber-psychology. While technological developments can benefit individuals, groups, and society, pitfalls include temptations of power, intergroup conflict, and diagnostic creep. Proper preparation for the future requires encouraging human virtues like altruism and intellect, restraining human flaws like error proneness, ignorance, selfishness, and harmful competition, as well as avoiding the accidental misuse of technology, and mobilizing newfound powers in the service of the common good.
JIS XXV 2013: 67-88
HANS JONAS ON TECHNOLOGY,
MATHEMATICS AND HUMAN NATURE
Bruce N. Lundberg
Colorado State University-Pueblo
The promise and perils of technology rightly provoke awe, thanks, and hope, but also the dread of man-caused natural and social disaster. Technology, and the remarkable mathematical view of nature upon which it is founded, are implicated in raging rifts among nations, rooted in differing images of human nature, freedoms, and ends. The philosopher Hans Jonas achieved key insights into organic life in its relations to technology and mathematics, culminating in critical and cautionary calls for responsible use of technology. This essay explores Jonas’ thought on mathematics, technology, and human nature, and its relevance for a critique of transhumanism’s image of man and human transcendence. Inspired by Jonas, the essay sketches an alternative image of human nature and self-transcendence in four theses on reason and value, the world, responsibility, and transcendence.
JIS XXV 2013: 89-104
EXISTING WITHOUT MY BODY:
TECHNOLOGICAL AND SPIRITUAL POSSIBILITIES
Khaldoun A. Sweis
Olive-Harvey College/Oxford University
Given the exponential growth and increasing sophistication of biotechnology, the possibility of one’s continued existence without a human body is not only a logical possibility, but is fast becoming a natural one as well. The theistic concept of the separation of the body and the soul at death is a coherent, plausible hypothesis that may be explored philosophically in light of technological advancements and without direct reliance upon faith and Scriptures. A case is made through the dissection and defense of René Descartes’ Real Distinction Argument to illustrate that human nature consists of a separate mind and body, coupled with an examination of current biotechnological accomplishments, to show that it is both logically and naturally possible that one can continue to exist without the human body.
JIS XXV 2013: 105-136
NOVEL INTERDISCIPLINARY RHETORIC:
CHIMERAS AND THE POSSIBLE WORLD OF H. G. WELLS *
Jeffry C. Davis
A truly interdisciplinary approach to the topic of human enhancement requires input not only from the natural and social sciences, but also from the humanities. This interaction involves the reading of literary texts that raise relevant questions. H. G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau is a text that artistically explores interspecies experimentation for the creation of chimeras. By examining the novel in relation to chimeras of ancient literary myth and their correlative scientific manifestations, important questions and fresh insights may be gained, contributing to the conversation at large. Interdisciplinary approaches receive affirmation increasingly among supporters of higher education, scientific experimentation, and human enhancement, including Nick Bostrom, a leader in the transhumanist movement. However, Bostrom’s rhetoric betrays itself and highlights the relevance of an authentic interdisciplinary interface drawing on the humanities and even science fiction.
* Oleg Zinam Award for Best Essay, 2013.
JIS XXV 2013: 136-160
AND EMOTIONAL SELF – REGULATION:
HUMAN DIGNITY IN A TECHNOLOGICAL AGE
Anne-Marie Schultz & Paul E. Carron
This essay proposes that Socrates practiced a number of spiritual exercises–including meditation–and that this Socratic practice of meditation was habitual, aimed at cultivating emotional self-control and existential preparedness. Contemporary research in neurobiology supports the view that intentional mental actions, including meditation, have a profound impact on brain activity, neuroplasticity, and help engender emotional self-control. This impact on brain activity is confirmed via technological developments, a prime example of how technology benefits humanity. Socrates attains the balanced emotional self-control that Alcibiades describes in the Symposium because of the sustained mental effort he exerts that directly impacts his brain and his emotional and philosophical life. The essay concludes that Socratic meditative practices aimed at manifesting true dignity as human beings within the complexities of a technological world offer a promising model of self-care worthy of embracing today.
JIS XXV 2013: 161-176
THE FUTURE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
Brigham Young University
Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing. By Paul Dourish & Genevieve Bell. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. 248 p. Cloth. $32.
The Techno-Human Condition. By Braden R. Allenby & Daniel Sarewitz. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. 222 p. Cloth. $24.95.
Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe. By George B. Dyson. New York: Pantheon Books, 2012. 401 p. Cloth. $29.95.