763-S006 Essay 1 and Essay 3
Essay 1: Utopia/Dystopia
Science fiction engenders the kind of flexible thinking, which doesnot merely motivate rather forces humans to contemplate the manypossible aftermaths of our deeds. Utopia/dystopia is one of the manyscience fiction concepts. The article “Brave New Words” by EileenGunn explains utopia as a science fiction, which presents a positiveoutlook of a future where scientific development makes the worldbetter (Gunn, 2014). Utopians believe in an optimistic, as well asattainable future. However, science fiction becomes dystopian when itfails to meet human expectations. This is evident throughtechnological advancements that cause more harm than good to people.An illustration in the article is the atomic bomb (Gunn, 2014). Whenarguing about science fiction, many writers often seem to use theutopian or dystopian view. The difference often appears to derivefrom the possibility or impossibility of a better future arising froma technological advancement. Gunn (2014) presents an argument whereutopia eventually becomes dystopia in some manner. Thus resulting inthe conclusion that utopia is disguised dystopia.
“The Machine Stops” by E. M. Forster is a science fiction shortstory, which explains the concept of utopia/dystopia through sciencefiction. Forster wrote the story in 1909. It starts with aconversation amid two characters, Vashti and Kuno both living in adistant future. Kuno is Vashti’s discontent son, unhappy with themother’s lifestyle. The story is set in a period where individualsno longer live on earth’s surface rather in air-ships. Vashti staysin a single room that comprises wholly of technology as well asmachinery. All her time is spent resting in an electronic armchair,and because she does not move around, or perform any chores she isoverweight. Everything in Vashti’s room is controlled electrically(Forster, 1909). This includes lighting, music and even ventilation.Kuno calls Vashti and attempts to explain his discontent with thecurrent life. He anticipates a life where he can be capable of seeingand hearing from the mother in real life, in place of via technicalcommunication. Kuno requests Vashti to visit, which she refutes,claiming that it is enough to communicate via the phone machine. Inaddition, she claims to lack time for visiting. When both charactersdisagree, Kuno’s image fades from the machine plate living Vashtion her own (Forster, 1909).
The issues portrayed in “The Machine Stops” relates to ourcontemporary society. The ways of life of the characters resemblethose of people in our current society. The dependence on technologyis the main theme of the story, seen in everyday life. People areprogressively losing touch with each other, as they depend on forinstance computers to exchange information, instead of face-to-faceinteractions. In “The Machine Stops”, this is apparent when Kunotries to convince the mother to meet him. “I want to see you notthrough the Machine, said Kuno I want to speak to you not throughthe wearisome Machine…. I see something like you in this plate butI do not see you….Pay me a visit, so that we can meet face toface….” (Forster, 1909 p. 2). Forster presents a machine-mediateddystopia, where a machine meant to improve life has become a cause ofisolation. It is successful in making it possible to compare “TheMachine” with current technologies as the internet. The internethas become such an important part of society gluing people to theircomputers, replacing personal communication with online chatting, andrestricting people to one place, which is the location of theircomputers and internet.
Forster’s narrative is a call to action, urging people to stopoverdependence on technology. “The Machine Stops” is anillustration of the manner humankind appears trapped by technology.It is set in a period when humankind relies on a global machine forperforming every task. As a result, humanity has neglected theearth’s surface to live in isolation as well as immobility(Forster, 1909). Human beings dwell in a honeycomb of rooms within ahuge subterranean machine, which responds to every human command.When commanded to provide food, the machine does so, when ready tosleep, the machine prepares a bed, when in need of entertainment, allone needs to do is inform the machine to play music. E.M. Forsterwrites the science fiction as a manner of warning people that theaftermaths of depending too much on a machine is human isolation, inaddition to eliminating love in society. It is unanticipated that theauthor, a hundred years before, was capable of foretelling preciselyhow technology could grow. Forster also predicted how technologycould alter humankind’s life. In “The Machine Stops”, themachine is not merely the definitive technological development, whichcatered for all human wants. In addition, it provides a differentmanner of connecting resulting in total isolation (Forster, 1909).Humans do not leave their rooms nor meet one-on-one. People live incells containing a gleaming blue optic plate, as well as telephonemachinery, which convey images and sounds amid persons. Thetechnology makes it possible to communicate despite geographicaldifferences, in turn reducing the use of personal interactions.
According to Ramona Pringle, “Life Imitates Art” there areperils, which prevail when synthetic life in formed. This happenswhen “machines become more lifelike, people lose their humanity, welose sight of the value of empathy and emotion, favoring moreprogrammable traits” (Pringle, 2013 para. 22). This is the humanmovement explained by Forster’s “The Machine Stops”. Hedemonstrates the dependence on a machine without contemplation of itseffects, since in the utopian view the machine can only be good.However, the view fails to consider how slowly people becomeisolated, hence making it dystopian. Although technology is good, itlacks the ability to meet the demand for emotions. As the article“Life Imitates Art” demonstrates, the cyborgs are capable ofacting as humans, except when in emotions. They are incapable ofechoing the differing emotions, which make humans different, whichmeans replicating humans is improbable (Pringle, 2013). This issince people are difficult and hard to define. They are adoring,hateful, as well as inclined to do wrong. In “Life Imitates Art”Ramona Pringle explains, “Falling in love, fighting demons, andovercoming obstacles make us human” (Pringle, 2013 para. 1). Shefurther argues that although man made robots, and cyborgs are simpleas presented in science fiction writing, humans’ attempts at makingthem complex are impossible. The robots and cyborgs are programmed.To avoid the isolation and overdependence on technology, individualsneed to accept the accountability of educating and informingthemselves on technologies, which are altering lives (Winston, 2012).
Forster, E. M. (1909). The Machine Stops. Oxford and CambridgeReview, 1-25. Retrieved from http://www.ele.uri.edu/faculty/vetter/Other-stuff/The-Machine-Stops.pdf
Gunn, E. (2014). Brave New Words: How America’s Leading ScienceFiction Authors Are Shaping Your Future. Smithsonian Magazine.Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/how-americas-leading-science-fiction- authors-are-shaping-your-future-180951169/?page=2
Pringle, R. (2013). Life Imitates Art: Cyborgs, Cinema and FutureScenarios. Futurist, 47(4). Retrieved fromhttp://www.wfs.org/futurist/2013-issues-futurist/july-august-2013-vol-47- no-4/life-imitates-art-cyborgs-cinema-and-futu
Winston, M. (2012). Children of Invention Revisited. Society,Ethics and Technology.
Essay 3: The Ethics of Human Enhancement
Human enhancement involves endeavors to upgrade or enhance thecognitive and physical capabilities of humans via technologicalmanners (Alhoff et al, 2009). These enhancements range from applyingnanotechnology to mold prosthetic parts of the body. It could alsoinvolve neuro-technologies, using gene therapy as well as geneengineering to heal disabilities. Human enhancement results inconsiderable ethical issues concerning the social or human freedomsof marginalized persons that become targets of the technology.Corporate interest in human enhancement is encouraging a moneymakingmarket for medical organization, advancing past treating the ill toenhancing the healthy or affluent.
It is not possible to agree on if human enhancement should beaccepted or not, due to the diversity in views. The increase in humanenhancement makes one question what it means to become human. Arguingfrom a diversity lens, the paper presents the differing views onhuman enhancement by questioning if being human means having enhancedcapabilities and cognition, or leaving an improved human life whereenhancements are able to cure illnesses.
If being human means having enhanced capabilities, human enhancementtechnology becomes an important part of improving humans. Germinalchoice technology is amid the many technologies, explaining diversityin human enhancement. It regards to technologies, which make itprobable for parents to have an influence on the genetic compositionsof their children during conception (Stock, 2002). This involves thecorrection of genes. The technology, which has already beenexperimented in animals, involves the addition of artificialchromosomes to rats, which is passed to a number of successivegenerations. The objective of the technology is to prevent illnessesusing artificial chromosomes. Employing artificial chromosomes may beeffective, especially since the chromosomes are impossible to testprior to human use (Stock, 2002). It is not possible to avoidgerminal choice selection as a technology resulting in humanenhancement. This is because most persons deem the technology ashelpful, as it becomes practicable in many laboraties globally. Thereare mixed views concerning the use of such a technology. There areindividuals that argue against allowing people to select the genes oftheir offspring. At the same time, there are persons that supportsuch technology. The main objection towards human enhancement is thatusing the gene technology results in apprehension of treading onharmful ethical territory (Stock, 2002). This means that progressingwith the technology is likely to result in a post-human future.Technology will make it probable to change human real meaning withtime. Another diverse view that human enhancement is that becausehuman beings are still evolving, the use of genetic technology iseffective in enhancing the evolvement of human beings (Stock, 2002).
A different technology that has resulted in diversity on theethicality of human enhancement is that of designer babies. The humanenhancement technique involves the injection of artificial humanchromosomes in artificially fertilized human eggs (Begley, 1998). Theaim of this technology is to create genes that convey instructionscommanding the suicide of cells. When a baby is born in a family thathas a history of prostate cancer, and the cancer starts to develop,the genes triggering suicide will kill the cancer. The objective isto eliminate the possibility that an individual will develop cancer,especially where there is a family history (Begley, 1998). Atechnology slips a healthy gene to the cells of the organ of a sickindividual having a genetic illness. This raises different ethicalviews of human enhancement resulting is designer babies. There is theargument that correcting genes is not a simple technological fix thatrequires to be adopted. In addition, such an enhancement does notprovide equal opportunity for persons from all social classes(Begley, 1998). It is merely affordable to the wealthy persons insociety ruling out the possibility of those from low social classfrom benefiting from the same. At the same time, is the view that itis necessary to improve the genes of a baby in meeting ones needs,and in cases where it is aimed at improving life. This largelyapplies to ensuring that designer babies develop genes that fightgenetic illnesses.
In the coming years, it will not be unusual to meet people wearing arobot. This follows the invention of the BiOM, which is an entirelycomputerized ankle-foot structure, invented to have similarity withany prosthesis (Shaer, 2014). The invention is a form of humanenhancement that will help persons that have had their legs amputatedhave a second opportunity of having an almost real ankle-foot system.Other technologies to substitute for missing legs have not been aseffective because of the restrictions in activities people couldengage. It is difficult to determine the ethicality of suchtechnology considering that it results in human good. The diversityin view is that provided the human enhancement improves the abilityof humans to function then it is ethical. In this case, becominghuman means having the ability to perform all body functions whethernaturally or via enhancement. Thus, provided human enhancementimproves human life, instead of altering genetic composition, thetechnology is widely accepted in society.
The ethicality of human enhancement arises when it results indiversity on whether it undermines the rule of equality. Anillustration is the eugenics law, which led to the forciblesterilization of persons supposed to have low IQs (Fukuyama, 2012).Most individuals supposed that the problem with the former method ofeugenics was its coerciveness, as well as state-sponsorship. The viewis that the advent kind of eugenics arising from biotechnology mustnot be blurred via the similar discrimination. In prospect, it isexpected that parents are capable of making eugenic choices for theirchildren in place of it being a compulsive law. However, it isdifficult to determine if the decisions made by the parents are inthe best interests of the children. This makes it almost impossibleto consent on the ethics of human enhancement, especially whenaffecting children that are not able to make the decisions solely.
It is not possible to agree on supporting human enhancement or not.Scientists have their differing interests, which range from improvinglives, curing illnesses, creating new humans and improvingcapabilities among others. Such technologies range from germinalchoice technology, designer babies, invention of the BiOM andeugenics. By altering the genetic structure of humans, it means thathumans become people that have extraordinary capabilities. Coming upwith technologies that cure illnesses means that humans are able tolive longer. This means that it is not possible to conclude on thegood or bad of human enhancement. Every diverse view has its meritsand demerits.
Alhoff, F., Lin, P., Moor, J., & Weckert, J. (2009). Ethics ofHuman Enhancement: 25 Questions and Answers. US National ScienceFoundation, 1-50.
Begley, S. (9 Nov. 1998). Designer Babies. Newsweek.
Fukuyama, F. (2002). We will undermine the principle of equality.Times Higher Education, 1-2.
Shaer, M. (2014). Giant Steps. Technology, 19-24.
Stock, G. (2002). Choosing our Genes. The Futurist, 17-23.