I call shenanigans!

November 2, 2007

So it appears that Case Western has created ‘super mice’ by way of a genetweak. Full article here.

The article itself makes for some interesting reading. The mouse is stronger, faster, more durable, lives longer, eats more but is less fat and, as the talking bobbleheads on CNN pointed out, it is sexually active longer into its lifespan. And best of all, the gene that was tweaked is one that is also present in humans.

But not to worry, say the researchers, this would never be done on humans! Bullshit. It’s fucking intellectually dishonest to present this as something that these scientists did “just for funsies and only for mice.” What kind of fucking moron actually buys that? You don’t do biomedical research on mice because you’re interested in making mice live longer, eat better, and have great sex in their old age. You just don’t. You do it because you want to improve humans. Improve them in the way you improved the mice.

By avoiding the question of whether these techniques can be developed for humans, or worse still claiming that they would never do that is utter bullshit. It’s dishonest and tries to preempt a legitimate discussion on this technique. Claiming that something is unethical and shouldn’t be used to enhance people merely ensures that discussions about the technique don’t take place in the public. And this is a discussion that should very much take place in public. Are you honestly telling me that everyone in the world is bound by the same morals as the CWRU scientists? That China, or Russia, or even DARPA isn’t creaming themselves over the idea of soldiers or workers who can work longer, live longer, are more durable? Considering all the crazy shit that DARPA has done in the past (for example check out Sharon Weinberger’s stuff or the Danger Room blog) this is basically a slam dunk homerun touchdown.

Not talking about techniques like this openly and publicly only feeds the conspiracy theory trolls of the bioconservative movement. Pretending we would never-ever seek to do something like this to humans just reinforces the paranoia that scientists are lying to us and are making a seekrit army of clones in underground bunkers somewhere. Sure, a public debate is gonna bring out the crazy, but last I checked crazy still got to participate in public debate (see: Presidential Election). Crazy is gonna sound off anyway, we may as well have a more open and honest discourse.

Gaining control

May 29, 2007

From the better-late-than-never file, I’m finally writing the post I’ve been wanting to on the FDA approving the new birth control pill Lybrel.

As Amanda Marcotte over at Pandagon points out, this has all kinds of people up in arms — though “all kinds of people” in this case is the predictable list of pro-lifers, religious nuts, and women who’s idea of feminism is being properly submissive to men.

Why does this matter to us? Well part of the transhuman agenda is gaining greater control over our bodies. Anything that helps us do this is good. Looking at the types of resistance to new drugs like Lybrel can also give us an idea about how other therapies are likely to be viewed in the future.

As we move forward and start to see new gene therapies, procedures derived from stem cells, and increasing use of pharma for control of our bodies and biological futures, expect to see a corresponding ratcheting up of the shrill protests. These will probably come from both the religious nuts out there who see these techniques and technologies as interfering with “god’s plan” and primitivists who see this as tampering with our “natural selves”–which is like “god’s plan” but for the faithless.

This has the potential to turn into an uphill struggle and poses a danger of slowing progress. While I’m skeptical of unrestrained progress, this is not a good reason for it to slow down. Slowing progress for safety concerns is one thing. Slowing it because your magical imaginary sky god told you to or because you believe in some fairy-tale magical world where we live in harmony with nature is fucking stupid and should be resisted.

This story, about a double amputee looking to participate in the Olympics, has been getting some press as a human interest story of late. It raises an interesting question on the transhuman front.

Realistically most people are going to be reluctant to make extreme changes to their bodies, especially if the benefits of doing so are not immediately obvious. There are, of course, exceptions such as the BMEzine community or eccentrics like Kevin Warwick, but these people are not likely to appeal to the mainstream, nor do they fit into the realm of immediately useful modifications and are more likely to be seen as gimmicky (unless you really feel saline injections in your cock are something that allows you to be a more efficient and better human.)

So the question is: where are modifications that will be publicly appealing and useful likely to come from? I see three realistic and currently developing possibilities: our aging population, military advances, and athletes. Yes. Athletes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.