Published: 2008-01-09 08:46:03
Last edit: 2008-01-09 08:44:56
Tags: bionic, evolution, genes, genetics
I’ve always been interested in the principle of evolution, especially regarding the future of mankind. Evolution is an ongoing process, even in these modern times “survival of the fittest” still applies in some ways, although surviving gets increasingly easier with every technological breakthrough. One may wonder what consequences this will have on the overall condition of the human gene pool...
The driving mechanisms of evolution are genetic drift, gene flow and natural selection. Genetic drift occurs when two genetically distinct organisms from a single population reproduce. If genes from different populations are mixed then genetic drift is called gene flow or gene migration. Natural selection usually plays an important role in evolution because it determines which genetic mutations are favourable; positive mutations result in better odds in terms of survival and reproduction.
Modern technologies allow us to circumvent the laws of evolution. The need for an immune system is diminishing due to antibiotics, the consequences of genetic defects can be minimized or removed using medicine and the advances in genetic engineering have opened a whole new world of possibilities. These current and future possibilities raise some very interesting questions:
Should we improve humans using mechanical or electronic devices?
Electronic devices can be linked to human brains, so combining the memory, accuracy and speed of computers with the creativity of humans is no longer science fiction. People are already being outfitted with pacemakers, highly advanced pneumatic artificial limbs, electronic eyes and bionic ears. These are no improvements though, but merely crude replacements for the diseased or handicapped. The big moral dilemma will arise when healthy human beings can be improved in order to create ‘supermen’ which would be smarter, faster and/or stronger than ordinary people.
One of the main arguments of people opposed to bionic human beings is that these improvements would most likely be expensive and might only be accessible by the rich. I don’t think reasons like this should prevent progress in this field as every human being is already unique, and difference automatically results in unfairness. The possible rewards are too great; it might be a bionically enhanced human who comes up with a solution to poverty or world hunger.
Is it ethical to genetically engineer a new breed of man?
Natural selection could soon be a thing of the past. Diseases that would have killed non-resistant people, resulting in genetic progress, can now be cured. Should we resort to genetic engineering and take evolution into our own hands or is it immoral to ‘play God’? Personally, I don’t believe in God and in my opinion it’s immoral not to cure genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis or prevent cancer if it’s possible by altering or repairing small portions of DNA.
Can an android (human-like robot) be human enough to be human?
The human brain is an amazingly complex organ forged by approximately 80 million years1 of evolution. Computers speeds have been increasing exponentially every 2 years (Moore’s law) and could catch up by 20202 in terms of raw processing power. Suppose for a moment that an entirely mechanical being could develop consciousness and self-awareness; should we consider this being as a thing or as a person?
Although one can only speculate about the future, it does look like some interesting dilemma’s will need to be solved. Will the homo computans be biological, bionic or mechanical? I suppose only time can tell…