So our final judgment on "what’s wrong" with Huxley’s brave .. Excerpted from OUR POSTHUMAN FUTURE by Francis Fukuyama. Francis Fukuyama’s Our Posthuman Future fears that biotechnology will make monsters of us. Steven Rose weighs the evidence. The power to genetically enhance future generations could be a boon for humanity – or it could lead to an era of violent rebellion against the.
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Francis Fukuyama achieved fame – or notoriety – ffuture, 10 years ago, he published The End of History. Posthumsn was not some futuristic speculation, but an argument that the collapse of Soviet communism and the triumph of US-style liberal democracy meant that, effectively, the world was now under stable management. He has been rowing back ever since. This is not, as one might have imagined, because the world has been anything but stable in the past decade.
It is because he has belatedly realised that so long as scientific and technological innovation proceeds at its current breakneck pace, social stasis – the end of history – is impossible.
Some of vuture have been saying this for years, but kur is encouraging that the political economists have eventually caught up. Social transformations are an inevitable corollary of the dramatic changes in the nature of work and communication generated by technology. Until the midth century, utopias – from those of Francis Bacon and Samuel Butler to that of HG Wells – all envisaged a technologically stable society.
The much more common dystopic writing of the past 50 years has largely been posited on disruptive scientific and technological fantasies.
Our Posthuman Future by Francis Fukuyama (II) | Books | The Guardian
Of these, first information technology and then biotechnology have come to be seen as presenting the greatest challenges. Gung-ho geneticists promise to encode human life on a CD, to create designer babies, to extend human life indefinitely.
Only slightly more soberly, psychopharmacologists offer the prospect of tailor-made drugs to ease the mental pain of living, enhance intelligence, and control disruptive behaviour. A new trade of bioethics has grown up around such prospects, providing gainful, albeit generally vacuous, employment to otherwise out-of-work moral philosophers.
With Fukuyama’s move into this territory, it may be that bioethicists are going to be upstaged by political economists. His question is clear: Should we just retreat behind the mantra – originated by physicists who worked on the hydrogen bomb – that science is progress, and cannot and will not be halted?
Most US free marketeers writing in this area take this view, in contrast to the European tradition of regulating in the public interest. So the major surprise of Fukuyama’s book is that, in the field of human biotechnology at least, he favours regulation. He begins by summarising what he sees as the current state of play in the science and technology of genetic and brain sciences, in terms of their capacity to extend healthy human life, to understand the roots of human behaviour intelligence, aggression, sexual orientationand to control and change that behaviour with drugs Prozac, Ritalin and so on.
Although refreshingly sceptical about the claims made for the power and scope of such drugs, he rightly argues that at the least they are harbingers of increasingly effective new generations of psychochemicals. He is on less firm ground when dealing with genetic claims, where he accepts at face value the rather suspect evidence for so-called “smart” or “aggressive” mice engineered by adding or removing DNA from their genomes.
And sometimes he is way off course, as when he repeats the once-fashionable 19th-century nostrum that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” – ie, that a human foetus relives its evolutionary history in the nine months prior to birth.
But for his purposes, such errors in biological understanding aren’t important, and his assessment of the direction in which such work is heading seems about right.
That some of us are sceptical about its feasibility should not prevent us from looking hard at its potential consequences. We should be warned by the example of Sir Ernest Rutherford, who knew more about the structure of atoms in the early decades of the past century than anyone else, but still insisted that the prospect of atomic power was “moonshine”.
So what should we do about it?
The middle section of the book centres on two classical philosophical problems viewed from within this new context: The discourse of rights has become very murky in recent years, in part, according to Fukuyama, because of the rejection of naturalism. Naturalism would claim that there is an intrinsic postjuman human nature, and that therefore ethics, and as a consequence human “rights”, can be derived from it.
These assumptions together constitute what has been called the naturalistic fallacy.
Critics point out that human nature can be expressed only within the diverse and historically contingent societies that humans create, and therefore cannot be understood a priori.
There is no “nature” outside social context, and within the limits of evolved human biology the societies that we have created are extraordinarily diverse. In any event, as pisthuman from Hume onwards have pointed out, one cannot derive an “ought” from an “is”.
Evolutionary psychologists reject the first criticism, and despite their protestations that they wouldn’t dream of doing so, happily spend their time deriving multiple oughts from diverse ises.
Futuge accepts their claims to universalism in order to build his case that the naturalistic fallacy is itself fallacious. Hence, he argues, there is a human nature on which human rights can be based.
And insofar as human biotechnology threatens to interfere with that human nature, it is essential that it be regulated.
Sound conclusion, faulty premises. So, finally, to the tough question: Most biotech is done in the US, and outside federal laboratories it is largely unregulated. But the situation is paradoxical, as US conservative religious views on, for instance, stem-cell research clash with an otherwise deregulatory agenda. Legislation to ban so-called therapeutic cloning is currently before Congress, at the same time as the US withdraws from the Kyoto and Start treaties and weakens environmental protection.
Fukuyama looks almost enviously at the tighter regulatory structures in Europe as a harbinger of hope that biotechnology’s post-human world does not have to be competitive, hierarchical and full of social conflict – a future he sees as probable if unregulated biotechnology delivers on its promises. He – and we – should be so lucky. For a political economist to derive a conclusion abstracted from either practical politics or economy almost makes one wish for the return of the bioethicists.
Higher education Francis Fukuyama.