Letters

"We must leave our monkey bodies behind": Readers respond to Alan H. Goldstein's "Invasion of the High-Tech Body Snatchers."


Salon Staff
October 2, 2003 11:30PM (UTC)

[Read the story.]

I enjoyed Mr. Goldstein's article, and I fully agree with all that he states. I do, however, differ strongly with how he makes his point. I am not a scientist, but I have long seen that humanity is fast approaching radical and lasting change. In discussing such things with people who have not considered such topics, I have found that phrases like Mr. Goldstein's "Homo technicus won't be anything like us. Homo technicus won't see like us, breed like us, feed like us, or need like us" and "After that, all bets are off" distract terribly from the point one is trying to make concerning the upcoming changes we all face.

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It is my experience that people are more open to considering this change when it is made clear that the truth and beauty of human experience is not going to suddenly vanish. Love, laughter, appreciation of art and music, the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, the instinct to stop and watch the sun slide behind the ocean, all of these, and more, will still be part of whatever humanity becomes. Humans are not about to morph into the shiny war machines out of science fiction action movies, we are not going to "live inside computers." We are not going to sacrifice the best parts of the human experience so that we might live longer and be smarter.

In fact, I believe we possess this innate desire to live longer and be smarter because of our unique appreciation of the beauty of the universe. The collective human mind is assuming control of the functions of life, and that is Darwinian survival of the fittest. Our minds desire a better brain as a mind grows stronger, more fit, with every increase in mental capacity. Mind is in fact creating for itself a un-dying platform of unlimited perception, a vehicle with which to explore, and know, every particle of the universe. And surely these liberated minds will paint pictures of what they find out there, write stories and poetry, and watch in stunned amazement as new stars are born.

It seems those directly enmeshed in the actual scientific pursuit of that liberated mind sometimes forget how much appreciation of the good and the beautiful actively shapes human motivations. The scientist's approach to solving problems, unraveling details can perhaps preclude access to the extra perspective needed to see how their work fits into the sum of human experience. But those of us that have the resources and desire to communicate that summation should do so, and do so by making sure that people who listen come away with an integrated perspective of what is really happening.

-- Jeremy Roush

What blather.

Did anyone tell Mr. Goldstein that we have a national medical meltdown in progress?

I work at the triage desk of a county emergency room, where the lines get longer every day, and getting someone a refill on an old, inexpensive hypertension medicine is a struggle.

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I'm sure the devices Mr. Goldstein describes will be invented, and then put into lots of rich, fat, white people. Meanwhile, the simplest medical interventions will still be out of reach of over 40 million uninsured Americans.

And the lines keep getting longer.

-- David Sexton

Wow, Dr. Alan H. Goldstein really overstates his case for the biomimetic erasure of human life. He reminds me of those who spend sleepless nights muttering about "gray goo." Clearly much of this technology will remain theoretical, and the rest will be restricted to those wealthy enough to pay for it. Beyond that, the insertion of silicon into genetic code is more likely to create unviable "sports" than any post-human species. Besides that, who besides the terminally self-loathing are going to want to be entirely replaced by synthetic parts? The idea of "improving" humanity to the point where we surpass biology is tainted by our species' tragic experimentation with eugenics and forced sterilization throughout the 20th century which ultimately led to first the murder of the mentally ill and disabled, then on to the mass murder of so-called undesirables: Jews, Queers, Gypsies, political dissidents and the like. Any discussion of ethics in regards to biomimetics must take this precedent into account and begin the debate by asking who will benefit and who will suffer from utilizing these technologies.

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-- Will Taylor

Dear God please let me live to see it. Consciousness will not survive trapped in monkey bodies at the bottom of a gravity well. Even if we survive monkey political shenanigans, we are still subject to inevitable ice ages, pole shifts, asteroids, solar flares, and the eventual death of the sun itself.

The natural habitat of Consciousness is the open space between the stars. From there, the next step may well be the open non-space between universes. After that, who knows? But first things first. We have to get off this rock. The "Star Trek" scenario of monkeys in tin cans is not the answer. We must leave the monkey body behind.

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-- Bo Ketchin


Salon Staff

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