HUMANS TRANSCEND BIOLOGY
I am trying to come to terms with a book “The Singularity is Near” by Ray Kurzweil, a futurist. The essence of this book is that life as we know it is changing, but the changes are not minor. They come at an ever increasing rate. This is called “exponential growth”. It may have taken man a million years to develop language, but change is now measured in years or even months. There is a coming union of human and machine with much greater capacity for speed and knowledge. In a previous blog I describe some major and minor changes in our lives. I refer to the use of computers, communication advances like Facebook and Twitter, the slow demise of reading books and the post office and personal cheques. Of course most people are aware of pharmaceuticals, available for the last 100 years, which help you sleep, keep you up if tired, make you happy if depressed, and allow you to go to the bathroom if constipated.
But can you imagine such a sophisticated drug which will change a marriage or partnership by being able to influence a person’s mind to be more amenable to the thoughts and actions or personality of a partner. “Oxytocin” opens a mind to other perspectives and can possibly cure failing marriages. Should we want that? How authentic would a relationship be if it depended on drugs to make it successful? Is the process of manipulation mind chemistry on the same level as body chemistry? Taking a drug to lessen pain is not on a level with a personality change. This is a polarizing situation for ethicists who ae perplexed by technological advances and modern pharmaceuticals. Proponents say that if you have children, you have a moral obligation to keep the family together by taking “oxytocin”.
A new DSM-S, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders now lists “shyness” and a “lengthy grieving period” as a mental disorder. A new anti-love drug is in the works for people with an unhealthy emotional bond like the “Stockholm Syndrome”. This syndrome also called “capture bonding” is a psychological phenomenon, in which a person is kept hostage in an unhealthy relationship. Some orthodox Jewish groups give serotonin, a vasodilator to yeshiva students to weaken their libido and allowing them to follow their faith’s moral code. Women exhibit a limited sexual libido compared to men. Change that, and relationships in many marriages would never be the same. A female “Viagra” would have blockbuster sales. There appears to be no limit by men to change personalities for the better, as they see it.
But we haven’t even scratched the surface of manipulation. What would you do if you could guarantee healthy children, brighter childen and vey attractive offspring. This does not involve just being a caring parent. No! You have to change the DNA of a future child before they are born. You can make your new-born resistant to cancer, AIDs, heart attacks and alzheimers. This will not happen this year, or even next, but it will happen sometime in the future. It is called genetic engineering and is happening to mice and a few farm animals now. You insert new genes into a freshly fertilized egg. At present, the federal Human Genome Project is deciphering the 100,000 or so genes spelled out by the 3 billion letters of the human DNA library. The technology is there, but prone to many unknows and errors. Mistakes are acceptable in trials with mice but not humans. There are major problems ahead in human existence and the results are impossible to predict.