FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement – New Day Films – Disabilities – Sociology


Who wants to have a jet pack to fly around with? Me! Who wants to have special robot legs that make you go faster? No? You don’t want that? Only Zachary wants that? I want that. Who would want another eye? Oh yeah, I want three eyes in the back of my head, but they’re covered in hair. What do you think humans need to improve them? A female Marine veteran has become the world’s first true bionic woman– -we’re already part artificial, aren’t we? If there were a drug that would make you smarter, would you take it? Is the quest for a perfect baby morally wrong? A sprinter, who’s running with prosthetic legs faster than most people in the world. -it will redefine the field. We’re used to a certain amount of artificiality, but this is taking it to a whole new level. -it’s happening now. What does it mean when you can augment the mind, if you can improve memory? What does it mean if you could augment the body? In the future, emerging genetic technologies coupled with assisted reproductive technologies could give us the capacity to design enhanced children, which causes concerns about creating genetic castes and super humans. There have been so many advances even in the past few years, that I think people are aware, more aware at least, how quickly the technologies are moving. Us humans, especially us baby boomers, are really gonna want augmentation pretty soon as we start to decay, we’re gonna be demanding more and more augmentation. I’d like to have a better memory. Maybe with– memory chips, or something. I’d probably want to be taller so I could play for the NBA. Well I just turned fifty so memory is sort of an issue. I’m happy who I am. I actually don’t need anything. I mean, if i could fly maybe it would be okay. Am I disabled? That depends which definition we use. Of course I’m a disabled person. Do I see myself as an impaired person? No. I’m just who I am. There’s all kinds of dynamics which go around this obsession with ability and competitiveness, and that the only way to get respect is if you show you are superior to someone else. Ableism is our obsession with certain abilities and the accompanying negative treatment of people who don’t have these kinds of abilities. Human enhancement is no different than human. Everything from brain implants to spinal cord injury rehab to cell phones to gaming: there is no difference between them. What if this kind of collaboration with a machine was flexible enough to allow the user to do whatever they want with it? You want to make a device that has a sophisticated enough collaboration that that human will make it an arm, in their own way, in their own image. My artificial limbs are now part of my body. They are part of my identity now. What I’d like to see is the death of normalcy. What is normal to you? I thought I was normal before my injury-I certainly still feel normal today. I really don’t understand the desire for enhancement technologies– we don’t have basic healthcare, not only in this country but globally. Preventable diseases are number one killers globally. Talk about misplaced priorities. It is this huge irony that the research money goes into emerging technologies as opposed to wheelchairs that are waterproof? That demonstrates the financial priorities of the healthcare system. Wheelchairs are amazing, and that’s really precious and at the same time it’s a machine. You know, I’m subject to its frailties. You know, like any machine. So it makes me feel pretty vulnerable. (Where are the hand controls?) (Daddy, here are the hand controls.) People should think of disability as another human experience (Alright, ready?) that embodies qualities of human adaptability that are common to all people, whether they have a specific disability or not, and the experiences of people with disabilities have lessons for the population at large. Technologies that help bring people up to normal are used to help people go beyond normal. Often when I talk about implants to people, they say “Oh that’s too icky. No one would do that willingly, no one would have a cochlear implant if they weren’t deaf, if they didn’t need it. No one would have a visual implant if they didn’t need it.” And I say to them: Botox. People will do anything to their bodies for enhancement, social enhancement. If you force me to see myself as deficient, and you want me to enhance myself to your level, then I of course will say no, I go further, and then you are deficient because I outdo you. I mean, why would I want to have legs which only get me to your level? Every line we draw will be transgressed in the next ten, twenty, thirty, fifty years, and we are gonna see more and more augmentations, alterations of our bodies as the technologies develop. These genetic technologies assume that human variation along a spectrum of ability should be eliminated. We have these technological developments, they’re not inevitable, but they do have a lot of momentum behind them, and so we at this point in human history we’re at this moment where it’s our responsibility to really look at them carefully, and really make decisions.

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