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Transhumanism and the ethics of human enhancement

The speaker for the November meeting at The Tea Bar will be Dr. Blay Whitby of the Cognitive Science Research Group at the School of Informatics in the University of Sussex.  The subject for this month is "Transhumanism and the ethics of human enhancement".

Transhumanism is a loosely defined movement that has developed gradually over the past few decades. It promotes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and evaluating the opportunities for enhancing the human condition and the human organism opened up by the advancement of technology. Attention is given to both present technologies, like genetic engineering and information technology, and anticipated future ones, such as molecular nanotechnology and artificial intelligence.

The enhancement options being discussed include radical extension of human health-span, eradication of disease, elimination of unnecessary suffering, and augmentation of human intellectual, physical, and emotional capacities. Other transhumanist themes include space colonization and the possibility of creating superintelligent machines, along with other potential developments that could profoundly alter the human condition. The ambit is not limited to gadgets and medicine, but encompasses also economic, social, institutional designs, cultural development, and psychological skills and techniques.

Transhumanists view human nature as a work-in-progress, a half-baked beginning that we can learn to remold in desirable ways. Current humanity need not be the endpoint of evolution. Transhumanists hope that by responsible use of science, technology, and other rational means we shall eventually manage to become post-human, beings with vastly greater capacities than present human beings have.

You can read more about the nature of transhumanism at this web address:

http://www.nickbostrom.com/ethics/genetic.html

The Tea Bar will be open for at least half an hour before the talk which starts at 7:30pm, so you can get yourself a drink and have a chat with other participants. The discussions will aim to finish around 9:00pm, though everyone will be welcome to stay around and have a chat with the speaker afterwards ... and indulge in more of the Tea Bar's delicious cakes.

The format of the evening is usually a talk of 30 to 40 minutes, followed by a short break so the audience can refill their glasses, before questions and discussions about the talk. Entry is free and open to everyone, but we do encourage you to buy a tea, coffee or drink (and cakes) at the bar to show your support for The Tea Bar who sponsor the meeting by providing the venue.

Cafe Scientifique is a place where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, anyone can come to explore and debate the latest ideas in science and technology.

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  • Mike B.

    I agree with David. It was very interesting but I would have preferred to stick to the original intention of having the opportunity to explore the ethical issues more. It was a shame that the speaker had been asked to change the emphasis at the last minute and I felt his presentation lacked focus and impact as a result. This was not the speaker's fault - he obviously didn't deliver the presentation he had prepared for, and he was well aware that it was not what had been advertised. A pity, but nonetheless an interesting evening.
    Sue Brinsley

    1 · November 26, 2013

  • Gill H.

    Isn't it challenging when a talk doesn't progress in the direction you assumed before it started. Blay is a very interesting speaker, with many anecdotes. Another talk by him next year please.

    November 25, 2013

    • David B.

      I agree, Gill.

      While the talk was informative, I think it would have been more intellectually satisfying if he talked about one or two particular ethical dilemmas instead of trying to cover everything.

      On a slightly different subject, I recently found an online pdf of a futurology book I had in the early 80s. Like most books for children it is still very much in the 'Isn't The Future Going To Be Absolutely BRILLIANT?' camp. There are no troublesome moral or ethical questions here.

      http://life.enhasa.or...­

      I wonder how many of the transhuman predictions have come true?

      November 26, 2013

  • Steven P.

    Very interesting talk by a good speaker but it left me with more questions than answers (maybe that's normal in ethics!). When he occasionally had a position on something he didn't seem to be able to defend it when challenged. I think this area of ethics is perhaps to big to handle in just half an hour, so let's have more.

    November 26, 2013

  • Graham A.

    Sorry can't afford to travel so far. Winchester is my limit.

    September 11, 2013

15 went

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    Venue for Cafe Sci talks & social events. 9-13 London St, Basingstoke

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