Professor Dr. Brad Allenby Presents Research On Transhumanism, Enhancing Human Abilities

Humans, beware. A new breed of “superhumans” is on the rise, according to Dr. Brad Allenby, Professor of Engineering, Ethics and Law at Arizona State University. Last Thursday, Allenby spoke about his research on the ethics of enhancing human abilities in his presentation, “Man and Superhuman: How Technology is Reinventing What it Means to Be Human.” Allenby began by discussing the power and spread of information across the Internet. He said, “Google is giving you more intelligence than anyone in the history of the world. But, you’re idiot savants because you don’t know how to apply the information in an ethical and moral way.” Although intelligence can proliferate more easily now, Allenby said, many of today’s youth cannot retain the information because there is no need for memorizing facts that can be Googled with the click of a mouse. “[The younger generation’s] cognitive structure has changed,” said Allenby. “Elders don’t understand [all the technology the generation uses].” Advances in technology have allowed scientists to study transhumanism, a movement that suggests the use of technology to enhance human capabilities, both mental and physical. Allenby said, “What transhumanism gets right is that we are at a beginning of an age that is about to change. But so are we. We can no longer assume that we are stable.” Transhumanism has caused many scientists to question the value of human characteristics, said Allenby. “What [about humans is so important that it] is not subject to our design as humans? Physical structure? Not anymore because of plastic surgery. Sports? We redesign athletes all the time [with doping and steroids]. Is there anything about humans that can’t or shouldn’t be redesigned?” Allenby said. Scientists are also currently working on methods called life extension, with the purpose of increasing the human lifespan, said Allenby. It is probable that at least one student at Andover is going to live to 105 or even 200 years of age and live a high-quality life. said Allenby. Allenby added that transhumanism may result in “elite,” technologically-enhanced humans who have greater physical and mental capabilities. “The elite might adapt faster than the people who are left behind,” he said. Allenby said that scientists have completed a rough draft of the genome of Neanderthals, the species most closely related to modern humans. Neanderthals split from the human line 300,000 years ago, and became extinct 30,000 years ago. The reconstruction of the Neanderthal genome poses opportunities to learn more about human evolution, according to the New York Times on February 19. “For arguments sake let’s say we can birth a Neanderthal. The big question becomes: why?” said Allenby. One answer, Allenby said, is whoever does this will be famous, or rather infamous. He added, “The speculation is there could be two species used to make a viable Neanderthal—one chimp, one human.” Allenby posed ethical questions to consider if a Neanderthal were to be created: Would Neanderthals be entitled to the same rights and entitlements as humans? Or would they be considered a sub-entity? Advancements in technology and transhumanism also affect religion, said Allenby. He said that world religions may eventually “realize that science has undercut what God is all about.” With the availability of plastic surgery and lifespan enhancement research, scientists are seemingly playing with the creations of God, said Allenby. “More and more people are unable to cope with the changing world, therefore they are falling more and more behind. Those who adapt get more power and capability,” said Allenby.