The Perfect Human

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The Perfect Human

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Tue May 09, 2017 7:33 pm

Salvete omnes!

Two threads in one day. Im inspired today I guess lol Anyway, I've just seen a few days ago Guardians of the Galaxy II. It made me remember an old ethical dilemma of mine. Again, like my previous thread, it is related to genetic manipulation.

Should humanity alter and perfect itself through genetic manipulation? What do I mean by perfecting? I'd say things like: A revamped immune system capable of dealing with deseases in a more efficient manner than today; body regeneration (we have the gene, it just isn't active), which is the capacity to regrow severed limbs; immortality (some species are technically immortal); a body that can't develope cancer as easily; increased strength; increased coordination; better hearing and sight; a better calibrated metabolism; capacity to digest cellulosis; nightvision; a more condensed and efficient brain (maybe even a bit bigger); a more proportional appearance (better looks); the list can go on and on. Basically make our species the best it possibly can while still looking human.

Would this be considered ethical for you? Where should one draw the line?
"Ignis aurum probat" - Seneca
C. Curtius L. f. Vot. Philo Aurelianus
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Re: The Perfect Human

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Wed May 10, 2017 1:09 pm

Salvete philosophi!

This question has been asked in the transhumanism thread before, and it is indeed an important one. It might be the most important question that humanity has to answer in the near future due to technological adnance. So it is good to bring the topic up again.

As said before the human gene pool is facing a major problem due to the progress in medicine and social welfare. We have eliminated natural selection. So if we do nothing about it, mutations and genetic diseases will increase and one day everyone born would have one or more serious genetic defects. Our intelligence is especially sensirive for such negative efects, since the brain depends on several hundred genes to work optimal, as a recent study has shown. None of these mutations are life-threatening, but they decrease the overall capabilities of the human brain. We can counter these efects by genetic engineering and eliminate mutations in affected genes.

So I think genetic engineering is a must, if we want to maintain the status quo of the human gene pool. The alternative is increasing natural selection to fix negative mutations. But this is something that we do not want for the human community. It would mean to let people die, if they are unfit to compete with stronger ones. Medical genetic manipulation is by far the better option.

Valete!
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Re: The Perfect Human

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Wed May 10, 2017 9:25 pm

Agreed amice. There is a necessity for future gene manipulation to maintain our current state of existence, given the rapid ending of natural selection. But I'd also like to see your thoughts on not only genetic maintainance, but also inhancement to more "godly" standards, for lack of a better word.

If humans could become immortal, should they? I would like to quickly wave off the first concern people have on this, overpopulation, since studies are making clear that humanity has a natural Limit of growth and that as we grow in numbers we naturally come to a natural equilibrium. I believe if we are all immortal we would after a while have as many kids as there are deaths (deaths being in this case by accident, homicide, force of nature or powerful external deseases). But would such a world be considered better? Should we aspire to immortality?

The same goes to all other traits I said, how much of our genes could one alter and still consider the end result "human"? Where do we draw the line?

Another question this raises is: Since most likely only the rich would be at first modified, what ethical implications does this entail socially speaking? I'd like to hear your insight.
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Re: The Perfect Human

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Thu May 11, 2017 9:57 am

"Improving" humanity beyond eliminating genetic defects would not really be possible. We cannot "invent" new genes and proteins. Most phaenotypes are also determined by many genes. The effects of each gene would need to be considered. This is too complex to be computed in advance. We would need to use trial and error in a process similar to natural evolution. And it will be beyond our capabilities for many centuries to come.
There is a limited possibility to transfer existing genes from other species into the human genome, if we expect apositive effect (eg. vitamin synthesis), but I doubt that parents would run this risk with such little advantage to expect.

Immortality is indeed a different issue, because it is akind to a genetic defect. One problem of aging, which is responsible for the limited number somatic cells can divide, is the shrinking of the telomers ( the ends of the chromosomes). So with each mitosis the chromosomes get shorter until they become non-functional resulting in cell death.
There in an enzyme that can solve this problem (telomerase) and it exists in reprodactive cells and cancer cells. They are iindeed immortal. We only need to activate it. However we would significantly increase the risk of developing cancer. There might be a trade off, and we might solvd this problem in the near future.

But as you already said, not ageing would make us live longer, but not indefinitely. In fact there are immortal species known and not just bacteria. There is a polype (hydra) which is immortal in so far that it does not age. Nevertheless the average polype still does not live longer than a few years.

This technology would of course be available for wealthy people first. But to a degree this is already the case. Rich peoplel live longer than poor people because they can afford better medicine. We can see this in the different life expectancy in industrialized countries and the third world. Is it ethically questionable? - Well, it is a fact. Efforts are done to provide health care even to those who cannot afford it, but differences remain.
But can we force somebody not to use medicine, just because there are many poor who cannot afford it and his money would give him an unfair advantage? - I think this wouldbe an absurd idea. It is logical that everybody does anything possible to prolong his life. Not doing so would not prolong the life of others either

Not equal misery can be the priority of a society, but advancing, so that one day all benefit, even if some will benefit earlier than others.

I cannot see ethical problems with immortality, but it must go together with birth control of course. This is where the society has to intervene. And it is a problem we are already facing with human life expectancy increasing and the resulting growth of the world population.

I cannot see any logically consistent argument to deny medical help or the benefit of gene therapy to anybody on ethical grounds. Reciprocal ethics is based on the principle that we must not harm others, not that we have to reject an advantage for us, because it is not available to others.
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Re: The Perfect Human

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Thu May 11, 2017 4:50 pm

I agree wholeheartedly. I would like to point your attention to this chart: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TFRT.IN

It shows the rate of fertility in the world and in specific countries by year. It showcases a natural phenomenum called Demographic Transition. Populations naturally have Boom and Low phases, tied intimately to their Industrialization. It is probable that there will not be any need for a worldwide birth control effort. Surely there will be an initial population Boom given the elimination of aging as a factor of death, but it would after a while balance itself out. It would definitly have a positive effect in more developed countries.
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