Tranhumanism Ethics Debate TranscriptsBy Adam Sinicki
Transhumanism is a highly controversial subject that has philosophers, politicians, scientists and researchers in furious debate. But what's the general consensus on this topic? Regardless of what the 'experts' make of this brave new world, the people who really count are the every day folk who will be using this stuff.
To ascertain what the general public would make of this bold technology, I conducted a series of focus groups that addressed the subject and introduced these technologies to people who had not encountered them before. Here are the results of those discussions.Interviewer: Okay, um, I guess we might as well get started as quickly as possible. I'd just like to say
thanks again to everyone for coming; because I know you're all very busy but this has really (.) saved my
life. I had like, two hours, and I didn't have enough people (.) but I managed to do it in the end. If you
could just read the top sheet - the about the study sheet - that'll tell you what we're hoping to do.
Interviewer: Okay, if you're happy with that perhaps you could sign the consent form. If you need a pen
I've got one here. Done? Yeah. Okay basically we're talking about Transhumanism, which err, there's not
as far as I'm aware anything like this been done before. Aaron are you reading the Transhumanism
information sheet? You're not meant to be doing that. Sorry I should have said that. You've got an
advantage over everyone else now. So it's just kind of like a laid back discussion on what your views are
on the subject (.) so (.) it's cool.
Okay first of all have any of you heard of the term Transhumanism before? Or before I introduced you to
Interviewer: Oh you have? Where did you hear about it?
Aaron: Just general Sci-fi stuff.
Interviewer: Oh Sci-fi, we get that allot. Um and err (.) anyone else?
Interviewer: Okay, what would you think the term meant, based on what you know, and if the rest of you
would just like to hazard a guess (.) what do you understand by the term 'Transhumanism'? Well that little
about bit does cover some of it as well (.) So could you maybe just put it into words?
Craig: Pumping humans with drugs to make them stronger, more intelligent and better age span
Fiona: Changing genetic structures maybe?
Aaron: I'd have said also the use of technology to enhance...
Interviewer: Yeah well that's basically right except it's err not just like you say - drugs - it's all of those
things. Well yeah there is a Transhumanism information sheet in there, as you already know Aaron, could
you just have a look it is quite long so (.) They're not in order okay (.) keep you on your toes. And you
don't need to read the vignettes page yet.
(the sheet they were given can be read here)
Is that everyone? Okay, so how has that changed your perception of Transhumanism? Or has it?
Fiona: I didn't think it was (.) as (.) wide ranging as that.
Interviewer: Aaron - when you said you heard of it through Sci-fi was there anything specific? Any books 45
Aaron: Umm (.) Well it's definitely not a hidden topic if you look at a lot of the movies coming out recently
(.) errm (.) no not specifically, I've read a number of books that cover the issue.
Interviewer: And use the actual term 'Transhumanism'?
Aaron: Some (.) I've also come across terms like 'Posthumanism' before. And things like X-men don't
mention it at all, but it's still a form of Transhumanism
Interviewer: Yeah, Heroes has dealt with it a lot recently (.) Posthumanism is interesting as well. Are there
any examples you can think of specifically?
Aaron: The only author I can think of that (.) I think Arthur C. Clarke used it once (.) but the other author I
can think of is errm Dan Simmons.
Interviewer: Okay, I haven't heard of him that's interesting. And would you say it's been portrayed in a
positive light or a negative light?
Aaron: Very much depends on the author.
Interviewer: Okay so fairly balanced so far (.) Okay well knowing what you know now what do you guys
think of that? I mean generally do you think it's moral to enhance an individual's performance?
Daniel: Sort of depends on the circumstances really doesn't it? Because if someone's been sort of an
injury and they need something better then I don't see a problem with it. But if it's just because you could
be a bit better - it's not really why.
Interviewer: Yeah see that wouldn't really be an example of Transhumanism if you were repairing them up
to an 'ordinary' standard - it's when
Daniel: Yeah well beyond that is to make them better so...
Craig: Well if you had that then you'd just have all the rich buggers making themselves faster, stronger (.)
and they'd all just be err (.) designer thing then wouldn't it?
Fiona: It takes out the whole effort thing doesn't it, like you admire people who are really great or have
really great abilities don't you because of all the work and the effort they've put into it as well and it takes
that element out of it.
Jack: Something like the Olympics would be a write off...
Aaron: Yeah I think all sporting would be a write off if you could change yourself to -
Craig: There is that whole thing that we're only using something stupid like 5% of our brain or something -
I don't know what it is - and so to get past that. Which would be handy, but then if it doesn't get past for
everyone, if they only do it for people who can afford it then...
Aaron: What do you mean by the 'classical sense' of a human being?
Interviewer: Well um, when they say 'beyond human' I don't want you to think of like (.) spiders with eight
arms (.) Just because you know - because it's kind of a blurred line isn't it. I mean when you've changed
your DNA are you still human?
Aaron: Because when you're talking here about injecting with err (.) an altered DNA (.) but that alterred
DNA could come about naturally as well (.) so to what extent is Transhumanism talking about producing
something artificially which could occur naturally?
Interviewer: Um, yeah it can be - just I guess the chances of it occurring naturally are very, very slim.
Transhumanism is just working towards the goal of something that heads in the direction of heading away
from being 'classically human', but each individual technology doesn't necessarily take you that far.
Aaron: But then what is 'classically human'? I mean, what's your definition?
Interviewer: I don't know, I suppose that's quite subjective (.) I mean what's your guys' definition of
Interviewer: That's an interesting point - it's something that comes up quite a lot because it's something
that no-one knows I suppose. That myostatin example - there is actually a boy who's been born with that
mutation he's only young at the moment though so it will be interesting to see what comes of it.
Craig: What mutation?
Interviewer: You know that myostatin example where you can get strong without doing anything? There's
a kid like that who's been born like it. So it's more a problem with regulation you're saying?
Craig: Yeah well if everyone had it it would be (.) well I suppose it would be a good thing because if the
whole world was more intelligent then you're going to get better technologies, you're going to be able to
develop things to fight against the global warming and all that shit and stuff like that and I don't know
develop fission instead of fusion - but if only a handful of people have got it, then eventually it's going to
end up corrupting them and crushing the rest of us - and you're going to end up with an elite group of
people with superior brain power who are controlling everything and everyone else is going to be (.) well
worthless. It's probably going to end up like Russia. Well (.) old Russia. China (.) whatever.
Interviewer: So do you guys agree that if it was available to everyone then it wouldn't be a bad thing?
Jack: It probably would be...
Craig: But it couldn't be available to everyone though...
Aaron: It couldn't be available to everyone (.) but even if it is available to everyone I wouldn't see it as
being (.) uniformly good.
Fiona: Well it, it would, if it, you know age, and (.) what am I trying to say (.) if you can live for a
ridiculously long length of time it would cause a lot of population problems. So you know what's the
solution to that going to be?
Aaron: Probably we'd also end up with very difficult social environments. Where currently we've got it
where we've got the natural progression of the head of the family so to speak, head of the company
moving on when they get too old (.) but if we did have an elongated life that wouldn't come about we'd get
it where people come up from below who were capable of doing it but haven't been given the opportunity
because there boss hasn't left yet.
Daniel: It could sort of stand in the way of things because of the traditional view of the older generation
being opposed to change. So if you've got some old guy and then you've got the younger people with
some new revolutionary ideas then the older people would go 'no we've always done it this way' - we 47
shouldn't change it if it's working.
Craig: So pretty much the world would be too small (.) there wouldn't be enough space for everybody and
Aaron: I guess if it goes hand-in-hand with space exploration then we might have an answer.
Craig: Yeah - that would be okay - increasing intelligence so we can go into space and create new
colonies and then (.) spread (.) with everyone living to a million.
Interviewer: So do you think that would be a desirable scenario?
Craig: It's not going to happen is it?
Interviewer: Well I don't know (.) we're talking like (.) you know 200 years away...
Aaron: Are you? Because you're talking about having the ability to increase certain (.) errmm (.) abilities
through DNA alterations now - that's now, that's today, that's not...
Interviewer: Yeah - you could in theory try it on a human today, I just don't see it as catching on that
massively that quickly - but I could be wrong. The soonest I expect to see it, and a lot of people expect to
see it, is kind of in the Olympics. But you know, not legally.
Would you say there's any individual elements of it that you would say are acceptable?
Craig: I suppose it could prevent against disease couldn't it?
Interviewer: Certain vaccines could be considered Transhumanism in a way.
Craig: That would be a handy thing (.) but then again you'd have the same problem with too many people.
Because you've got the same problem now - of you can cure so many diseases that you've got more
people living and living longer and (.) draining everything. Which isn't a nice way of putting it but you know
(.) You know what I mean.
Interviewer: Yeah I know your views on...
Fiona: Yeah on an individual level though, I mean I'm an atheist so I believe once your dead that's the
end kind of, so it would be nice if you could live as long as possible (.) so from that point of view I think it's
a good thing.
Craig: But would you live like you're living now or would you live dribbling in an old people's home for
another 20 years?
Interviewer: Um, well in theory the idea is that you don't age, not that you just live forever because yeah
that would suck...
Craig: You don't age at all?
Interviewer: Um yeah, they haven't actually built that one yet (.) but yeah there are technologies that are
Jack: So you don't age from the point of...
Craig: So you don't age from taking it?
Interviewer: Well what we'll see later is that they're working on one that could increase your lifespan by about thirty percent, and you just age more slowly.
Jack: Which is more natural I guess.
Interviewer: So would you think something like that would be okay?
Jack: Even then I would have issues like what we talked about.
Craig: It would need to go hand-in-hand with space really. Otherwise you're just going to run out of space
Aaron: You probably wouldn't, you'd probably end up with mass destruction because it's got to reach a
balance at some point. If history teaches us anything it's that we've got to reach a balance between err...
that everyone is able to survive at. So if you've got overpopulation you'll end up either with some genetic
or some disease coming through, that would wipe most of the population out, or you would end up with
Craig: Basically it would come down to people fighting over food.
Aaron: Or social injustice.
Aaron: Because effectively if you had people who were able to extend their life and also enhance their
ability almost certainly they'd up in a position of power at which point we've got the mass population of the
world as you do today, with 90% of the world living below the poverty line or something ridiculous, um (.)
they wouldn't stand for it.
Jack: Which would create another divide, a bigger divide.
Aaron: But one based on longevity and ability.
Jack: It's almost a way of exaggerating the kind of problems that we do.
Interviewer: Yeah because a lot of these issues already exist with technology available only to certain
people. I mean how do you see this as different?
Fiona: Um, I just think - you know - there's so many issues in the world which haven't properly been
addressed in developing countries and stuff, that putting time and effort and money into research to, you
know, into stuff that's not important yet, we should solve the problems that we have got first before, you
know, trying to advance anywhere near perfect.
Interviewer: You don't think maybe Transhumanism could solve some of those problems?
Fiona: Yeah (.) um, but, it's more um, you know a social level I think, a lot of the problems and then it
doesn't really apply so. There's loads of economic and political injustices and things like that. I think they
need to be addressed before.
Aaron: I guess theoretically in an ideal world, you would already have, this would be introduced as he
says - across the population - but we don't live in an ideal world. So it wouldn't be. So we would end up
exacerbating the problem we currently have.
Interviewer: So it's more of a practical problem? Do any of you an objection to it on any other basis?
Aaron: I don't think you can hold it back really.
Daniel: I'm sure you would get moral arguments from people about it but I don't really see why, because if
you've got the ability to make stuff there's not really any reason to stop - the same with stem cell things -
there's the moral thing, but if you can make people live, and make them better and healthier from broken
and paralyzed legs then there's not really any argument to say 'no you shouldn't'.
Craig: You're bound to get a load of religious fanatics who'll start going that's not the way that God
created them, whichever God they happen to believe in - I dunno, the one of sixty hundred that there are -
but they're bound to turn round at some point and say 'they didn't create us this way' and blow up the labs
and shit as they usually do.
Interviewer: I haven't had anyone like that yet which is unfortunate.
Craig: No? They'd probably try and rip the camera apart. But err (.) it's bound to happen if you start
Interviewer: Do you guys still think you'd be kind of 'yourselves'? I mean are there any identity problems
Jack: Umm (.) inherently I think it will change you. If you are smarter and you are stronger you'll become a
different person because you'll be doing things you don't usually do, you'll be acting in ways you don't
Craig: I suppose it might depend really though, it's all relative to the people around you isn't it? You only
base your intelligence really on how you compare yourself to everyone else. Like people now, like bin
men - not saying anything against bin men - but bin men now know more about the world and are more
intelligent than someone living in the 1800s but they probably don't consider themselves particularly
Craig: So it's all relative. If everyone was more intelligent then it probably wouldn't make a lot of difference
to sort of how you view yourself.
Daniel: I don't know, it still could, because if you're sort of making yourself stronger and faster it could sort
of take the element out of getting there so it could sort of inherently make you lazier despite the fact
you've got stronger and faster.
Craig: Wouldn't you just change the goals? As in if you're stronger and faster you can I dunno whatever,
climb around whatever, you just pick harder routes don't you?
Daniel: But then you still, the result of doing that might be to think 'hmmm I could train or I could get
another injection and make myself a bit stronger and then I'd be able to do it.
Craig: I suppose then it would only come up against the limits of what they can do wouldn't it?
down that route. If you're going to say 'I'll just inject myself and become stronger'. Forget the training.
Interviewer: Yeah because to an extent that already kind of exists.
Daniel: Pretty sure that's the result it would go down.
Jack: So people would abuse that (.) Well there's the strong possibility that people would abuse that.
Interviewer: Well err (.) thanks for that that's good so far, um if you pick up your piles of paper we have
some vignettes - these are kind of hypothetical scenarios um, in which a technology could be used by an
individual - if you could just read the first one and then we'll uh, discuss the implications of that.
J is a university student who excels in his studies but is socially withdrawn. Partly J lacks the
confidence to socialise due to his slight fram but he finds it very hard to put on muscle and has
little time to get to the gym due to his time-consuming studies.
Through a friend however he has recently become aware of a form of gene doping that can
permanently block the production of myostatin in his body. This in turn would cause him to
develop far more muscle tissue with no extra work on his part which he believes would bring him
greater confidence and also more success in attracting partners. The process requires a single
injection, is entirely safe, within J’s budget, and such mutations have been known to occur
naturally in humans.
Interviewer: Err (.) so what do you guys think 'P' should do? Do you think it's okay for him to use an
injection like that?
Aaron: I would object on a err moral stance, simply because, I don't think his um (.) body structure is his
issue. I'd say his err...
Aaron: Confidence. His social outlook is is more of an issue right, his self esteem. His self esteem is more
of an issue than his ability to look one way or the other.
Jack: It's like he's sort of gone for the quick fix option.
Aaron: It's err (.) it's err (.) believing something that isn't necessarily going to make a difference.
Fiona: Yeah I completely agree with that actually, I don't think, I don't think it would achieve what he
wanted at all. I don't think having more muscles is going to attract more women.
Interviewer: Do you guys agree with that?
Craig: Yeah it's sort of like the reverse of bulimia...
Interviewer: Yeah it sort of is isn't it? It does exist in a...
Interviewer: Um, would you say it's any worse than if you were to turn to steroids?
Daniel: It's sort of the same thing isn't it?
Interviewer: It kind of is. So you don't think it's any worse than steroids or any better?
Fiona: Well if it's safer (.) it's probably better just in that term.
Daniel: Yeah, just to the extent of self injury from doing it, not from...
Jack: It's just a risk factor, but it's inherently the same process.
Craig: Strikes me as a bit of a dozey vein thing to do really...
Interviewer: Okay, if we were to repaint it, if say he was a climber but he wasn't very good and wanted to 51
Daniel: Tell him to climb more.
Craig: Practice more.
Interviewer: Some people though, you know, don't have the genetic capability to be as good as others...
Craig: Do something else. Go and find something else...
Aaron: Incidentally um, climbing is less about your genetic makeup and how much you actually train to
climb a certain way. So errm, more muscle yeah great, but it also makes you heavier so you also need to
be able to move with that muscle and climbing makes you use not just your strength but also your
balance and your head. So you may not be any better simply because you've got more muscle...
Um (.) it says with no (.) it's entirely safe so with no side effects (.) I would find that hard to believe (.) Um
changing your, the way your body works, is bound to have other effects other than simply producing more
Interviewer: Yeah it is fairly hypothetical at the moment so (.) At the moment as it is there is a slight risk of
them erasing a gene that you currently have (.) which obviously can result in any kind of terrible thing but
this is a hypothetical scenario where they've perfected it. And they have got a lot of ways that they're
working on to improve that. Um, in the studies on mice and things they've been completely healthy other
than added muscle.
Aaron: A bunch of bulky mice walking around! *Laughs*
Interviewer: Yeah I've got a few photos if you want to see them (.) they're quite weird (.) they look like
Mighty Mice. So there's no circumstances? Maybe even if he was a power lifter you still wouldn't...
Jack: Doesn't change it. It's no different to climbing is it?
Interviewer: I guess it's kind of cheating isn't it?
Jack: Pretty much.
Interviewer: So that's a no for that one then? Okay, does anyone have anything to add on that?
Craig: I've got Pinky and the Brain jammed in my head now...
Interviewer: Thank you (.) I'll take that into consideration (.) *Laughter* Maybe that's a mouse who's you
know, enhanced his intelligence? It's possible. And the other mouse is quite intelligent too (.) he comes
across as stupid but he can talk...
Craig: True that's fairly smart for a mouse.
Interviewer: Yeah. Um okay, if we could move onto the next vignette in that case.
T is an Olympic athlete whose ambition it is to run the 100 metres at the London Olympics in
2012. He has recently come into contact with a geneticist who can provide him with a nonpermanent form of gene doping that will cause his DNA to express an extra type of muscle fibre
found in many mammals but currently dormant in humans. This type of fibre is faster than the
fast twitch muscle fibres that we normally use when sprinting and it will give him a considerable
edge over the competition. The procedure is banned by the Olympic committee but is entirely
safe and undetectable.
Okay, how does everyone feel about 'T'?
Daniel: He's cheating
Jack: It's just basically asking if he should cheat...
Interviewer: Yeah (.) I've generally got a quite negative response to that one. You can't see any reason
why that would be okay?
Interviewer: Um, would you guys think it would ever be okay if it was introduced to the sport?
Aaron: If they all had it?
Fiona: If they all had it then what's the point? You might as well no one have it.
Interviewer: Yeah. Well some parallels have been drawn to kind of shoes and things - in that in a way you
already have a way to enhance performance through money. It can come down to who's got the best
Aaron: So you're saying that an American team's going to be at an advantage to a central African team
because they have the ability to buy - except that, that's been shown not to be true
Aaron: Because this year a Jamaican won it by a long way. And he doesn't necessarily have the financial
backing the Americans are used to.
Fiona: Studies have shown that the black athletes are a lot better at the hundred metres.
Aaron: Yeah genetically...
Interviewer: Yeah well that's actually due to their muscle twitch fibres which is what that one's about - in a
way you see that could close a gap that already exists... it's okay because it's natural - is that what you
Jack: Well yeah, that's a natural gap, and you would be trying to close that unnaturally.
Aaron: I think if you started introducing this eventually you would move away from sports, you would end
up with designer sports, so effectively what you would end up with is someone being genetically modified
to be a formula one car without needing the driver as such, so it would change sports entirely. I personally
would disagree with it but...
Interviewer: Err what would you guys think if we kind of reached a limit where we weren't breaking
records any more? Naturally?
Daniel: Well that actually happened, some of the shot-put stuff, javelin I think. There was some of the
records from the 1970s which some people were sceptical about so they just changed the weights and
used that instead. Started it again.
Interviewer: I suppose that's another solution. But in a way it's kind of a shame isn't it not to ever
Daniel: It's kind of a shame.
Aaron: I guess though if you take it further naturally you'll end up at a point where you cannot physically -
I mean you've reached a physical limit of the materials you're working with. So your bone structure and 53
your muscle structure cannot physically work any faster.
Interviewer: Yeah there's a maximum speed.
Aaron: And to my mind genetic modification wouldn't change that because you're not going to be
changing the limitations of the materials you're working with.
Interviewer: Yeah you could end up breaking bones or tearing ligaments.
Aaron: Unless you go, you know technologies, and they had the South African runner this year trying to
get into the Olympics with bionic legs. Not bionic but, non natural limbs, and I guess I mean he didn't
make the time that was needed but in a way he had advantage because he had less weight and he had
less of the issues that the normal leg structure has that could go wrong so I mean that would be... that's a
step further than gene modification though.
Interviewer: Would you disagree with him being in the Olympics?
Aaron: I'm not sure.
Daniel: Because I thought some of the issue was that he was using less energy to run, wasn't that the
main debate why they didn't let him in?
Aaron: Um, yeah
Jack: Yeah and there was something like the actual legs he was using, their shape - apparently they do
have an extra bounce that you don't get from, you know your legs absorb anything but these would give
him an edge.
Interviewer: So do you guys think that would be wrong?
Aaron: I think it would be unfair on the other people he was racing against if he were to win. So he could
never win a victory and be seen as having done it off his own back.
Interviewer: So what about a separate event for Transhumans?
Aaron: Well they've got Paralympics.
Interviewer: Yeah so do you think such an idea for maybe Transhumans would be okay?
Aaron: So what you come up with a Transhuman Olympics? I think you'd eventually see the way the
Paralympics have err less err attention as the Olympics, you'd end up with the Olympics not having as
much attention as the 'Transolympics'.
Interviewer: So would you guys object to that?
Craig: It's seems like a bit of a waste of time, if you're going on about humans they can't break records
anymore (.) why do you want to? Why do you always have to get better and better? Reach a limit and
Jack: I think it's that whole concept of someone set the standard, you know fairly realistic, I think it's Usain
Bolt set the record something 9,66 was it? Something crazy (.) what's the world record?
Aaron: 9,69 I think...
Interviewer: He kind of cheered at the end so he could probably have been quicker.
Aaron: Yeah he's obviously capable of going faster.
Jack: Yeah but there's the concept that whilst it's extremely fast it's a realistic target that we can try and
Aaron: And it's still a, one you can achieve simply by being born in a certain way and training very very
hard whereas if you bring in the modifications that goes out of the window. I think you destroy the whole
basis of all sport, all business, all social standing as we've got now...
Interviewer: It's quite massive...
Aaron: Because it's all based on, in a sense the American dream. I mean you work hard, you get to a
certain point. But you'd end up with something like Gattaca, it would be harder for everyone.
Interviewer: On the other hand though I guess you could say then anyone could do it.
Aaron: Anyone could do it but I don't think (.) the race the human race would survive as a social being if
anybody could do it.
Interviewer: Yeah, just out of interest for you guys to know, Usain Bolt he smashed what they previously
thought was possible - the biomechanics for someone that height, they didn't think he could run at that
speed. Apparently it's to do with his feet touching the ground for a short amount of time but putting in
enough energy at the same time. Quite interesting (.) Um, if you guys would like to move onto the next
N is a middle aged business man who is normally at the cutting edge of technological
advances that can improve productivity in the workplace. Recently his colleagues and friends
outside of work have been upgrading themselves with 'brain chips' that allow them to interface
with machines via the power of thought alone, communicate with one another, store information
and more. The chip requires a small keyhole surgery but is fairly affordable for N.
Um so what do you guys think of 'N'?
Craig: Brain chips?
Interviewer: Yeah, not like the chips that you eat.
Craig: Yeah no I get it. Brain chips. Riiight, that's a bit crazy.
Interviewer: Yeah it's not actually (.) I'll give you some background information because I had this problem
last time. There is um some precursors to this technology they've already created a human-computer
interface for paralyzed people where they can move a mouse with just their mind and type on the keys.
They've also made a brain implant where you can send an image to another person, so err, who's also
got the brain implant and they'll see it in their line of vision.
Craig: Yeah that's a bad idea.
Interviewer: That's a bad idea?
Aaron: Takes a lot of mental power at this stage doesn't it - it takes a lot of training moving a mouse
around the screen. Are you saying that's involved in this or are you saying it's been perfected where it's
Interviewer: Um I imagine as the technology improves it'll become easier as you go on. The way it works
at the moment is that err - he's paralyzed and the err firing in his brain that would normally correspond to
moving his finger they've just made the chip pick up on that and move the mouse instead. So for this
you'd probably have to - but obviously it takes time to learn to move it in that way.
Jack: But beyond the whole work place scenario the chances are that people might start using this for 55
general living. And that in itself - if you're communicating without speaking it takes away a huge human
process. Just walking around thinking and not talking.
Aaron: What control would you have on it? Would you be able to control your thought process or would
you just be broadcasting everywhere?
Fiona: Exactly it would be horrible! If everyone could know exactly what you were thinking, you know,
there's a reason why you don't express it all (.) you don't want everyone to know.
Aaron: You'd end up with everyone killing each other!
Craig: It does seem like it's going to be a fucked up place doesn't it?
Jack: If you just really hate someone you send them a horrible image...
Aaron: Stop it! You get, you know, with a computer people hacking into computers to access stuff could
you get people hacking into your brain?
Interviewer: I imagine in theory that they could hack into the chip so they'd have access to as much
information as that had access to...
Aaron: But is it vice versa? Actually that's a serious problem - if you could control something through your
thought process through the chip, could someone then reverse it?
Craig: Control you...
Interviewer: Um I imagine that's (.) maybe possible (.) I don't know it would only be able to affect the
neurons that were connected to the chip...
Aaron: In which case it's like a serious identity card issue...
Daniel: Well like you say the guy controlling the mouse by firing the chip you could surely indirectly cut in
between that so making the mouse do stuff without him doing it.
Interviewer: Sure and then I guess that would (.) you could frame him or something...
Interviewer: Well they've already actually created a technology where they can control mice with a remote
control, which is pretty wrong.
Daniel: Not good!
Interviewer: But that is a completely different technology that wouldn't even come under the heading of
Craig: It's coming up to Craigtmas here's a remote kids.
Interviewer: Mouse control! That would be amazing though.56
Interviewer: I don't know why...
Aaron: Well imagine what you could do with it (.) would you have any issue with prisoners anymore?
Overcrowded in one place? If you could control them all?
Jack: It's crazy (.)
Craig: Yeah. What if they're stuck in there for the wrong reason? And you're doing it to someone who
doesn't deserve it.
Aaron: It is, I mean imagine how easy would would be to have a err (.) a nationalistic government in
power who controls your every move (.) it would be ultimate for them.
Jack: You could just like use that for military purposes (.) sending people out onto a battlefield without
their own choice. If they were to.
Craig: Go down to the trenches. Run over now! No.
Jack: And you know, who decides who has that power as well?
Craig: Well that will be the ones with the enhanced brain power from earlier, who we made smarter then
put brain chips in us, and they'll control us. This is a great new world you're inventing here.
Interviewer: *Laughs* I'm not inventing it!
Craig: I really like this place!
Daniel: I remember seeing a TV show about this brain chip thing where they all had chips on their heads
and it was all controlled by a massive computer, sort of keeping everyone alive.
Interviewer: Like Star-Treck
Daniel: It might have been Star-Treck actually, no it wasn't, and basically the computer told them if they
took these attachments off their heads then they would die and it had all been programmed into their
head just because the computer that if they took this off their heads they would die and it was sort of
controlling their lives and making them change their memories and things which sort of brings up the
same issue again.
Craig: It was on Doctor Who as well with ear people as well or something...
Daniel: Was it?
Craig: Yeah the whole world stopped for five minutes to have a download or something stupid.
Interviewer: Like the i-Phone!
Craig: Yeah you're turning everyone into i-Phones. I hate i-Phones.
Interviewer: That's the dream!
Craig: I hate iPhones. I hate phones.
Interviewer: Um it is interesting to wonder why they're even building (.) doing tests on controlling mice.57
Jack: Military, you'd think.
Interviewer: I'd like to think they wouldn't...
Jack: Usually the most technically advanced situation, people, you know military had the first computer I
Interviewer: Well they invented the internet didn't they?
Jack: Exactly it was a military construction.
Aaron: SERN invented the internet.
Interviewer: But was he...
Aaron: That's the Scientific Research Centre in Switzerland.
Interviewer: It was used very early on by the military wasn't it?
Aaron: I believe the military initially disregarded it said it wasn't of interest.
Craig: The trouble we'll get is the military will get onto it then we'll have drones controlled by some dude
sat in that chair somewhere and it'll cost no life to go and attack things and they'll just go and blow the shit
out of everything and destroy the world. Brilliant.
Interviewer: Presuming, it doesn't errm, it isn't, reverse engineered and that it's used as it's intended what
are your views on the brain chip?
Craig: Still a shit idea.
Daniel: It just seems to be cutting out the middle man, but then allot of the things you said at this point -
communicating with people over a distance, storing information, it's just sort of taking out a middle step.
Aaron: It is a natural step though isn't it? It is the next natural step. If you can get to this point then you
know, what's the point in having a social network like Facebook when you can do it straight away?
Interviewer: And it is heading that way isn't it when you consider...
Aaron: And if you're going to start losing out on business opportunities as a result of not being able to
connect so quickly, then I think you'll see it being taken up in a big way.
Craig: You say it's kind of heading that way already with you know increased business links and
Facebook, different to how it was in the 1950s, but is it better now then it was in the 1950s? More people
are stressed, more people are murdered... is it a better world than it was before the technology?
Aaron: It's putting demands on people.
Craig: Like like businesses now, say like, okay from my point of view, when I was working, you'd have a
mobile phone now, so whenever you go out somewhere your boss can onto you 24 hours a day, just
phone you up scream down the phone to you for whatever reason, but years ago you would never get 58
that you'd be sent out for the day and left alone and then you'd come back, but now he can phone you all
the time you're permanently under stress, you're permanently being watched. You know? And things like
that and then obviously with um proper big business like Tokyo where everyone's always phoning you all
the time with Stock Exchanges and things like that it's just one big mess and then all you need is one
thing to go wrong, one stock exchange to crash and then you go into recession. So if that's what it's like
now, which I reckon is worse than it was in the 1950s but that's just my way of looking at things, but if it
goes past that then there's if something goes wrong it's going to cause even more problems; you know if
one stock exchange crashes half the world's brains stop working, the population of China dies.
Interviewer: I guess we'd be more dependent on technology as well at that point.
Craig: Yeah well for me personally I thought it was a better way of life when you had little villages you had
one butcher and one thing and one this. But now that's gone if you go past that...
Aaron: If you go back to the 1930s with the crash in the states, great depression, through natural causes
(.) essentially through natural causes with the draught how different is that from today with your current...
Craig: Well the only thing is if it happened again today it would probably cause more disruption and that
because it's all, I mean that happened because all the stock exchanges were linked and the rest of it,
same as they are today, but with more people today and greater you know technological demand on it it's
probably going to cause more damage and more destruction than it did at the time. I don't mind a lot but it
seems the more technology increases and the more it's incorporated into people's lives the more
Aaron: I think we're more vulnerable...
Jack: The more reliant we become on it...
Daniel: We've still got the recession at the minute and personally I haven't felt anything different, there's
been the massive crash all we've got is I can get a cup of tea for 2p cheaper because of VAT. And I don't
really know anyone who's going 'Oh God I've got such a massive issue with this crisis at the minute' just
everything seems to be going along as normal.
Interviewer: Partly because we're students though.
Aaron: I can't do a weekly shop under £25.
Interviewer: Oh yeah it has gone up a lot hasn't it?
Aaron: It's gone up a huge amount if you look at Tesco's prices.
Craig: Well I haven't felt anything because I'm essentially living in a bubble living on campus I don't really
see the outside world but I know four people now who've lost their jobs because of it.
Aaron: It is affecting everyone.
Aaron: But I agree with you we're much more vulnerable because of this (.) errm because if you look at
this issue with the current crisis I would suggest that most of it comes from perception of issues rather
than an actual physical issues, and if you've got that much greater connectivity and it's still rumour driven
then yeah what could be the consequences?
Craig: It's like Northern Rock really isn't it? There wasn't really anything major going wrong with it but
someone said yeah they're going to lose their money, everyone withdraws their money and they go bust.
You know if they didn't have the mass communication then it would have carried on and people wouldn't 59
have lost homes and...
Aaron: But I don't think we're going to go backwards in time (.) I think we're going to naturally get, bring
this in. I think this is going to come in.
Interviewer: They've already designed a mobile phone that you integrate into your hand apparently, this is
what I learned in the last focus group (.) which is (.) horrible.
Daniel: It seems a bit like an unnecessary risk; it's like key-hole surgery on the brain there's always going
to be risks involved in it and a lot more problems than I can see the benefits from it.
Interviewer: I suppose there are other technologies such as um (.) what do you call them it stops you
getting a disease...
Interviewer: Vaccines and things.
Daniel: M yeah but they're more, they've got more general benefits than cutting out the middle man I think
Interviewer: Yeah. Going back to what you said Craig about um, you know, how you preferred the 1950s;
in retrospect then would you have ceased a lot of the advances we have today if you could?
Craig: I don't think you can stop them really...
Interviewer: But hypothetically, do you think we'd have been better off then if we hadn't have invented say
Craig: Probably, well pretty much yeah. Well people were generally nicer to each other that's the way I
see it. I mean obviously it depends where you go I mean if you went to a little village or if you went to the
city where people were getting down trodden, well if you go back even further when their were work
houses and that, but essentially it seems the more you sandwich people together and the more you put
people into contact with each other the more bad you see, the more negatively impacted people are (.) it's
like America for example. America and Canada, they've got the same amount of weapons and what have
you but every night on American TV you get bombarded with murders and kidnappings etc and as a
result everybody's paranoid and scared. In Canada they don't show so much of that and everybody's,
well, you've still got murders and the rest of it, but people generally feel happier and safer, it's just
because in America they've been shown so much more of it because of the communication and that?
Interviewer: Do you guys agree with those statements?
Jack: Not really no.
Interviewer: You think progress is a good thing?
Aaron: Err (.) progress is irrespective to what he's saying, I think, I think people are people whether they
lived 200 years ago or today...
Fiona: I think if you look at like measures of happiness and things I think people are just as happy now as
they were because I think it's all relative...
Craig: It's just I think the more people get subjected to the bad in the world, the more sort of reclusive and
scared they become. They won't talk to the person on the street. I mean even where I live back home you 60
can talk to the person on the street and say hello to someone and they say hello. You walk through, go on
the tube or something say hello to someone and they think you're going to kill them. You know? You can
tell difference in where you come from and that and people are just generally more scared when they're
subjected to more images of violence. I could be wrong but...
Interviewer: Be interesting wouldn't it to test it, how happy people were then and now (.) someone should
do that now then do it again in 50 years (.) be interesting. But yeah um I imagine that many people would
have had similar objections to the internet as they have to these technologies. When you imagine how
massive it's become it probably would have scared a lot of people. But um, I'm aware of the time so err
shall we move on to err the final vignette?
K has just learned she is pregnant with a baby boy. In a position of privilege she is able to
afford a procedure for the child that would alter the expression of several genes (specifically
age-1, daf-2 among others) responsible for regulating Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1). This
would result in cells less sensitive to insulin which in turn could increase the child's life-span by
as much as 30% as well as having the side effect of improving its resistance to heat, toxins and
other environmental stressors. K wants to give her child the best life possible but her husband M
is against the idea.
Great okay so what do you guys think of 'K's situation?
Craig: Don't do it?
Interviewer: Don't do it?
Fiona: It depends on how long the technologies been around, if lots of people have already used it for a
hundred odd years and it's been shown that it's safe and you know...
Jack: I don't know seems like something (.) 30% longer if they got it you know you've got kids outliving
their parents (.) wait hang on (.) no that's not right...
Aaron: Parents outliving their kids.
Jack: Sorry yeah. If let's say the child went on to have kids but didn't do the same procedure on their
children, the child would live longer than its own kids (.) and that just seems so wrong.
Interviewer: That could happen anyways.
Jack: This is true but you're definitely increasing the likelihood.
Craig: It's back to what you started with though because if you could have therapy an injection or
whatever to make yourself bigger faster and stronger well that's exactly the same thing except the kid
doesn't have a choice in it because it's just having it done to it.
Daniel: Yeah it's sort of picking and choosing your children you know do you want blue eyes? Do you
want them to live longer? Be a boy or a girl? Have blonde hair brown hair (.) whatever.
Aaron: Yeah you would end up with a Gattaca situation.
Interviewer: What's a Gattaca situation?
Jack: You need to watch that film if you're doing this topic.
Aaron: Yeah. But essentially you can pick from birth what you want the person to be. Errm, but then
again, 30% extra longer life (.) is there any reason not to?
Daniel: But is there any reason to?
Aaron: Yeah - 30% extra longer life
Daniel: Well, what's just living a little bit long.
Aaron: Resistance to heat! Toxins and other environmental stressors (.) which has just been thrown in 61
there hasn't it?
Interviewer: No, no it is (.) it's to do with strengthening the actual cells so apparently they'd be
strengthened against all things.
Aaron: As a parent I don't think you would you would have a choice - you would go 'okay yes this will give
him the best in life' and that's what you aim to do as a parent.
Interviewer: Yeah that's the thing
Daniel: But is there still limits to how much you want them to have the best in life sort of forcing things on
them all the time and how much you want them to have their own choice in things?
Craig: Is it going to create another divide where only rich will be able to afford it?
Aaron: Yes. Absolutely. But as a parent - you would be sitting there going 'what's the best for my kid?'
and if you believe that's the best for your kid, then you'll probably go and do it.
Craig: I suppose they would but I don't think they (.) should. If you look at it from the outside then...
Daniel: It's the same as we've seen in lots of different scales. If you've got two school at the end of the
road one of them's lots of stabbing knives and shit - and the other end's sort of really nice and everyone
gets straight As, you know no-brainer which one you send them to.
Aaron: If you go larger than that all of us in this room have grown up in a position of privilege, when you
compare it to the rest of the world. Should you then have your kids go and live in rural Africa? Simply
because it's fairer for the kids in rural Africa? Or should you have them continue to live here? No you
continue to live here. So that's just one step further.
Interviewer: What do you guys think of that?
Fiona: Yeah I agree, I think if you're thinking from the point of view of a parent then you are always going
to want to do what's best for your children. But it would I think it would create another divide.
Interviewer: I find all these things; they're quite different when you think about it individually as to when
you think of it, as a whole.
Daniel: As an outside person you're thinking it's a bit of a crazy idea but soon as it was your child and
your situation you'd be a lot more inclined to say yes.
Aaron: Mm hm.
Interviewer: Because it's not really - I mean it's the same the divide and the forcing the idea on the child,
it's not that different from deciding whether to send them to private school. Really. How would you guys
think that was different?
Craig: Well it's not it's just another problem.
Aaron: Less extreme but...
Craig: It's just introduced a whole new can of (.) you know problems. When you've already got all these
problems going on already you know where you live what country and all the rest of it, then you, if you 62
just, if you're introducing all these variables as well then it's just more problems in life.
Interviewer: Do you guys think in that case you should take it away from everybody if only certain people
can have it?
Fiona: You can't really do that though can you once the technology's out there you can't really say oh we'll
take it back, we'll undo it.
Interviewer: Then do you think now that it shouldn't be invented in the first place?
Daniel: You can't really say you can't invent this and you can't not invent this (.) it's just one of the facts of
life - people are going to try and push the boundaries.
Aaron: To a certain extent all this discussion, and our opinion is superfluous, because although the UK
the states may regulate it's not going to stop countries like China and India where allot of the research
takes place now. Errm. And anyone who wants it could probably go there and get it. If it's undetectable...
Interviewer: I have a zip file on my computer, that apparently (.) I haven't looked (.) but apparently it tells
you everything you need to be able to modify yourself. I mean if you had the know how (.) apparently it's
not even that expensive the equipment so if you had the know how conceivably anybody could do it.
Aaron: So yeah if you take it to the extreme what you're going to see in 50 years you're going to see two
strains of the human being.
Interviewer: Yeah it could happen. That's why I think it's a very interesting topic. There doesn't seem to be
enough done on it.
Fiona: Would it then (.) inevitably then it would speed up natural evolution. So you know, Transhumans
would out compete the normal humans would die off.
Aaron: Normal humans would become slaves to those who had Transhuman technology.
Craig: The slave trade would come back. Beautiful world.
Interviewer: Everyone's always so negative!
Jack: All because parents want their kids to do a bit better.
Interviewer: Everyone's so suspicious of everyone else.
Aaron: It's human nature.
Interviewer: Yeah it is human nature.
Aaron: Hey well look at the world at the moment, if this is what we've got at the moment (.)
Interviewer: Is it so bad?
Aaron: Then what's it going to be when you can actually increase the divide? I meant the divide is getting
huge already, even in the UK. You look at the population living on the border of poverty and you look at
the upper levels and if you're going to exacerbate that through actual physical differences it's going to get
a hell of a lot worse.
Interviewer: In a way though you could argue that you could actually help it.
Aaron: But you won't! You won't! I mean history teaches that if you've got something you're going to keep 63
it for yourself and do it for your own even if it's across the UK. It's not the Congo.
Daniel: But how would you feel if you could theoretically give it to everyone?
Aaron: You physically couldn't though (.) The practicality of it - six billion people in the world...
Daniel: Yeah six billion people in a line for an injection (.) I don't think that's going to work.
Fiona: Yeah we can't we can't we don't do it now with medication and stuff...
Aaron: Yeah we have a hard enough time getting vaccines out there, then you've got idiots in charge of
compa (.) err countries who have absolutely no connection with reality and err you expect it to work in
their country? In Zimbabwe you'd end up with Mugabe having a 30% longer life you'd have the same
issue going on for another 40 odd years (.) 20 odd years...
Interviewer: Yeah that's quite a bleak outlook when you paint it like that.
Craig: Seems like a bit of a waste of time and if they were going to put all this time into developing it, then
it goes straight into the world, why don't they distribute the vaccines and stuff they've got now and when
they've done all that then start thinking about this.
Interviewer: I suppose theoretically you could think that once they became intelligent enough to think of
how to you know distribute it somehow.
Aaron: No we're intelligent enough already (.) just not smart enough.
Fiona: Yeah you could kind of (.) you know (.) how far could it really go, if you look at the balance of the
Earth of everything on it and how it's balanced and stuff. If we went on and made ourselves resistant to
the damage we've done to the environment then we can just carry on doing whatever we want and at
some point the earth will change. The environment is going to change so much and it does change quite
quickly sometimes that you know, we could just wipe ourselves out by you know (.) ignoring the natural
balance that should be there.
Interviewer: Hmm it could help with global warming couldn't it...
Aaron: You're into the realms of absolute Sci-Fi now, um and I guess they are possible. But yeah I guess
we will probably wipe ourselves out at some point. But I don't think you can hold it back. I don't think
there's any way you can stop this (.) if it's already in the reams of practical now.
Interviewer: Yeah, well I think it's getting to about half past (.) does anyone else have anything they'd like
to add before we wrap up?
Fiona: I'm miserable now.
Aaron: Absolutely just all commit suicide.
Interviewer: It could work out really positively...
Craig: We're on the fourth floor...
Aaron: No we'd all have to do it at the same time otherwise it won't be fair.
Aaron: Give the world back to the animals, oh wait we are.
Interviewer: Quite deep isn't it (.) I haven't found anyone who's positive about it yet, all my groups are
Craig: I'm going to have to go and watch Elf or something now.
Interviewer: *Laughs* To cheer yourself back up?
Daniel: Is this why we get the chocolates to cheer us all back up at the end?