Humanity’s End: Why We Should Reject Radical Enhancement (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology)

Humanity’s End: Why We Should Reject Radical Enhancement (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology)

Humanity's End: Why We Should Reject Radical Enhancement (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology)

Proposals to make us smarter than the greatest geniuses or to add thousands of years to our life spans seem fit only for the spam folder or trash can. And yet this is what contemporary advocates of radical enhancement offer in all seriousness. They present a variety of technologies and therapies that will expand our capacities far beyond what is currently possible for human beings. In Humanity’s End, Nicholas Agar argues against radical enhancement, describing its destructive consequences. Agar examines the proposals of four prominent radical enhancers: Ray Kurzweil, who argues that technology will enable our escape from human biology; Aubrey de Grey, who calls for anti-aging therapies that will achieve “longevity escape velocity”; Nick Bostrom, who defends the morality and rationality of enhancement; and James Hughes, who envisions a harmonious democracy of the enhanced and the unenhanced. Agar argues that the outcomes of radical enhancement could be darker than the rosy futures described by these thinkers. The most dramatic means of enhancing our cognitive powers could in fact kill us; the radical extension of our life span could eliminate experiences of great value from our lives; and a situation in which some humans are radically enhanced and others are not could lead to tyranny of posthumans over humans.

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1 Comment so far »

  1. Emannep said,

    Wrote on November 3, 2012 @ 5:04 am

    2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    An Interesting Discussion of an Increasingly Relevant Topic, June 13, 2011
    By 
    Emannep

    This review is from: Humanity’s End: Why We Should Reject Radical Enhancement (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology) (Hardcover)

    Increasing in humans intelligence, life span, moral practices, and/or other central human qualities far beyond what is ordinarily possible is what is meant by radical enhancement. It would seem initially to be desirable prosect, and hence one difficult to reject. Nicholas Agar musters an array of arguments to chip away at this desirability, this difficulty, and eventually succeeds in producing some doubt.

    These arguments are not deployed independently, in a vacuum. Ultimately they relate based upon what Agar terms “species relativism,” the view that the value of experiences is relative to a species. Agar allows that the experiences of human beings may be “objectively” worse than the experiences possible for those who people who have undergone radical enhancement and become, in that sense, “post-human.” Yet he holds that this is not a reason for pursuing radical enhancement.

    It is important, when reading this book, to keep track of the big picture, to identify the major assumptions Nicholas Agar makes even as he presents specific points against the various theories and aspects of radical enhancement (he chooses to focus on the views of four advocates of radical enhancement). In other words, remember to ask if what he says is sound, not simply valid. His conversational style of writing may lull you into a sense of faith that you really accept what he says. Stay alert, and do not let that happen.

    This is a subject worth taking seriously. Radical enhancement may never be available to you and me, but a careful reading of this book should help to decide whether it probably will or will not. If radical enhancement does become available to anybody, then the choice of whether to accept it has profound consequences for the individual, and for society itself. If you wish to become properly informed about that choice, either for personal reasons or to understand what future generations may need to decide, then this book by Nicholas Agar is a very good place to start.

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