I worry for young people these days. I know every generation says that about the one that follows, but today’s youth may face a world where simply being human won’t be good enough. Augmentation may be required to participate in society. A cyber-brain here, a bionic limb there with some genetic engineering and a few nanobots sprinkled in for good measure. Being without such tech integrated into their bodies may be a one-way ticket to second-class citizenship, maybe even slavery. Choosing to live as God created them could become a great sacrifice.
I have argued many times that once we must violate our bodily integrity with technology, not to get ahead, but to just keep up, that is the moment when we no longer are masters of our technology. That is the point where technology is our master. That is when we become slaves to the things we have created.
Ironically, the very technology that might enslave the human race is being sold today as the only thing that can liberate us. Case in point, this interview with “Elysium” and “District 9” director, Neill Blomkamp, where he is clear that, to level the playing field, we must genetically enhance. Blomkamp told The Guardian:
You’d literally have to change the human genome to stop wealth discrepancy…. The only way things will change is if we’re smart enough to develop technology that can think us out of this, meaning augmenting ourselves genetically to be smart enough to change sh**.
This is the message many of the young people are receiving today. Jesus is not your savior; technology is. Love and charity are not the answer; technology is. Deny your nature. Enhance and the world will be a better place.
Except augmentation will not stop wealth discrepancy. It will only make it worse. The wealthy will have the means and the access to enhance themselves and their offspring. Not only will they have greater monetary resources, but they will be superior in intelligence and strength as well.
What happens when the wealthy can upload four years of medical school to their cyber-brain in 30 seconds? What happens when their children are genetically engineered to have an IQ that is not even on the chart? What happens when the wealthy have nanobots that allow them to run at Olympic sprint speeds for 15 minutes without ever taking a breath?
What does that mean for the poor and un-enhanced? Does the chasm between the poor and the wealthy get smaller or does it become impassable?
This very scenario is why, when asked what idea is the greatest threat to the welfare of humanity, Francis Fukuyama, economist at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, answered transhumanism. He argued that once we begin to augment and change our nature, the first thing to be abandoned may be equality among men:
Slowly and painfully, advanced societies have realized that simply being human entitles a person to political and legal equality. In effect, we have drawn a red line around the human being and said that it is sacrosanct.
Underlying this idea of the equality of rights is the belief that we all possess a human essence that dwarfs manifest differences in skin color, beauty, and even intelligence. This essence, and the view that individuals therefore have inherent value, is at the heart of political liberalism. But modifying that essence is the core of the transhumanist project. If we start transforming ourselves into something superior, what rights will these enhanced creatures claim, and what rights will they possess when compared to those left behind? If some move ahead, can anyone afford not to follow? These questions are troubling enough within rich, developed societies. Add in the implications for citizens of the world’s poorest countries — for whom biotechnology’s marvels likely will be out of reach — and the threat to the idea of equality becomes even more menacing.
The Catholic Church is also keenly aware of what will happen if we take technology out of the realm of healing and use it for enhancement. Dignitas Personae (27) has this to say about using genetic engineering for enhancement purposes:
Apart from technical difficulties and the real and potential risks involved, such manipulation would promote a eugenic mentality and would lead to indirect social stigma with regard to people who lack certain qualities, while privileging qualities that happen to be appreciated by a certain culture or society; such qualities do not constitute what is specifically human. This would be in contrast with the fundamental truth of the equality of all human beings which is expressed in the principle of justice, the violation of which, in the long run, would harm peaceful coexistence among individuals.
Do your children and humanity a favor. Tell them that enhancing their otherwise healthy bodies is bad for them and for their fellow man. Technology, while nice, cannot and will not save them. Only Christ can do that.