Science and technology are not ends in themselves, they should provide benefits. But where does it lead, if the technology, quite literally, conquers the body? Could it be that technology is the future of human nature? This question was publicly posed for an "essay competition" in the spring of 2006 by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (formally Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe / Research Centre Karlsruhe). The essay competition in the tradition of academic prize questions of the Enlightenment addressed the younger generation of scientists, which is preparing to take over in research, teaching and management responsibilities. The participants were asked to develop scenarios of progress, in which body and mind appear as legitimate targets of scientific and technological progress.
Whether antidepressants or plastic surgery, gene therapy or nanorobots – in each case the aim is to optimize and enhance the human being, ultimately up to immortality. But what is the essence and meaning of “optimization” at all? Will the technological possibilities of remolding the human kind – based on the convergence of brain research, nanotechnology, biotechnology and information technology – outstrip social and biological evolution? Or is it time to counteract against the planning games of perfection by introducing human "species protection"? That the issue of "optimization of man" can no longer be ignored by researchers of all kinds, from education to molecular biology, is nicely demonstrated by 153 profound essays received from researchers of nine countries.
The present volume, an offspring of the competition, brings together 36 of the most exciting essays, accompanied by an introduction by the editors. Among the topics dealt with are e.g. the life as "prosthetic God", as Sigmund Freud once described man; another essay ironically asks whether there is a need for "degeneration protection" for human beings. Other essays tell stories about cyborgs and robots becoming more and more indistinguishable from human beings. Some authors imagined flashbacks from the future (eg, from the year 2056) providing thus in a literary form a discussion of today’s thoughts, hopes and worries. Very often ideas and thoughts are taken up, which are known from science fiction, particularly from the major motion pictures. In view of the technological progress their content increasingly turns into serious questions for us about the future of technology and about our future in general.
Grunwald, A.; Hartlieb, J. von (ed.)
Ist Technik die Zukunft der menschlichen Natur? 36 Essays. Hannover: Wehrhahn 2012
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