Sajid Khandaker, Cambridge IV 2021 Final, PM
Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFYDsFrd_Po&t=1082s
Infoslide: Transhumanism is a movement that endorses the study and creation of technologies to modify the body, with the aim of surpassing natural limits to human abilities (e.g to senses, thinking, control of emotions, health, or longevity) (Hays, 2018).
Motion: THO transhumanism
Humanity has a way of figuring out what’s good for itself. But when you mess with that natural border, it only makes it worse.
I’ll talk about three broad things.
Why do we think humans can never consent to this kind of technology in any form or in any way in which It exists?
The way we want to frame this is based on the premise of what makes humans, humans.
We think your emotions and your senses are the fundamental predispositions through which human identity is created. So certain things make you happy, certain things make you sad. Every action that we take is often a pursuit of what makes us happy, and an avoidance of what makes us sad.
If we look at our senses, the senses are the transit through which we view all lived reality, our memories, and all our experiences. So our memories are nothing but a collection of what we’ve seen. Our memories are nothing but a collection of what we’ve heard. The experiences with individuals are nothing but conversations we use with our senses and the lived realities that we have are manufactured through it.
So everything that each individual human has constructed for themselves is by virtue of these emotions and actions constructed from them. And by virtue of using senses to construct lived realities for them.
Thus, at that point in time, if they are to consent to a change in any of these things, they are effectively consenting to a change in who they are. The question, therefore, is, is it ever possible for humans to truly understand what they’re consenting to if they’ve never been another person, to begin with?
If I ask you, judge, would you like to trade lives with me? The answer is I don’t know, because I don’t know what it’s like to be me, and vice versa, I don’t know what it’s like to be you. What this puts humans in the position of is a choice that they can never truly understand and consent to. But one choice that has irreversible damage that literally erases their entire identity and the way in which they construct themselves.
We think when you put this choice to humans, it is an unfair choice that most people will make poorly, and will at worst, erase themselves from creation.
Let’s say they can make these choices and this philosophically doesn’t make sense.
We think the worst kinds of excesses work in the real world in which this technology exists, and the way in which it is dissipated to people.
What do we mean by this?
The first thing I’d like to posit is, whenever any technology is created, it is not universally accessible. If anything, evidence suggests that most technology that is adding benefits to humans’ lives is made exclusionary. The ones that are made universally accessible are ones that stop a negative externality.
This is not something that stops something negative, it adds a positive experience by improving what it means to be human. What this looks like is things like plastic surgery in the modern-day, which is not a necessity but improves what you feel like a human with your skin or with a particular aspect of yourself.
In the vast majority of these cases, these technologies, by the way, the motion doesn’t say this technology exists, it’s research to find that technology.
What this means is all of this technology needs money. It needs prototypes. It needs rich scientists to be paid. What likely that results in is patented versions of this technology or really expensive versions of this technology. Unless Opp proves that this technology is going to be made universally accessible, this is going to be true.
What is the likely outcome that results from this? Let’s say this technology is good and it improves human lives. What this will look like in reality is rich kids getting smarter by taking pills that increase their IQ. Or rich individuals living for 150 years or 160 years and expanding their wealth.
The best case of Opposition is, this is gradually made more accessible in a competitive market. But by that time, say 50-60 years later, when competition enters, the entrenchment has already happened. It’s another two to three generations of income inequality that you’ve created.
Why is the status quo still better? The reason is because in the worst case, what we have is randomness. But randomness has a way of equalizing itself. If you look at IQ, I don’t think it’s distributed to one specific race or one specific ethnicity. It’s randomly distributed.
That’s why you see a bunch of Singaporeans and Indians being doctors in America and not specifically white people who are part of the privileged class.
Let’s say that all of this isn’t true. It is a universally accessible technology.
I think this technology is going to be commercialized in just the way every other technology is commercialized, to systematically sell unhappiness to people.
Why is this the case?
Because of this technology, you don’t know the ramifications of how big this technology is, and there’s no scientific evidence of past trends of this, and it’s such a huge field, you often leave a lot of what this technology does to the marketing capacity of those who’ve discovered this technology.
What this allows is for medical companies that have perverse incentives to sell things like five extra years for your father at a point of death. Or ten extra years in which you could spend meaningful time at that point in time.
What this looks like is stripping you of really immense amounts of wealth that would otherwise have been going into understanding the way humans currently live. But because there’s no limit to this and they can continuously sell it, the exploitation never ends.
The problem is commercial incentives have a limit when there are human limits in place. You can’t sell the fact that a person is going to live until 200 years. But this technology and research behind it remove that barrier to commercialization because it allows you to sell the impossible and sell the limitless. Thus commercial actors can make this something that you get fed systematic unhappiness from.
Even if you don’t buy all of this, we think there are ways in which society fixes itself by virtue of structural change. Before that, I’d like to take anything from CO.
POI: Even the comparison you set up seems to be immediately something better for Opp. Like, I would rather have the dad live longer for five years than just die.
Answer: You didn’t respond to the first ways in which none of these realities would be true because it would be restricted, but the second thing is this exploitation has no end, right? And it’s only restricted to a few individuals, and that exploitation needs an end. Of course, you’d prefer plastic surgery in some cases, but if that choice is artificially manufactured, we’d rather not have that choice if it sells you unhappiness and strips you of wealth.
We think that there are lots of ways in which you can naturally fix society,
and that requires galvanization of social movements. What often this requires is persistent emotion. Things like anger, rage, and empathy.
What this technology allows is for an individualized way out, where you can eat a pill and control your emotions or say that you’re happy with your life and not sad. Why is this individual way out and collectivization not going to take place and this individual way out — protected by individuals?
- Collectivization naturally requires an inclination to be — secondary to an initial individualistic thought, you’d always think to yourself of what you can do before reaching out to others.
- Society tells you to be individualistic in the modern world. Every single day capitalism tells you to improve yourself and think about what you’re doing for self-development. So naturally, your way of thinking is individualized rather than externalized. What this allows for is for you to find a short-term solace in lived oppression by controlling your emotions, and never galvanization to fix structures that oppress.
Those reasons show that this is a terrible idea.