All our futures?

Professor Steve Fuller delved into the very essence of what it means to be human when he spoke to boys about transhumanism during a visit to QE.

The American-born Professor of Social Epistemology in Warwick University’s Department of Sociology was invited to the School by Year 12 pupil Prashan Balendran.

He gave a lunchtime talk in the Main Hall to any boys who wished to attend and then held a seminar-style discussion for Sixth-Formers in the afternoon.

In the lunchtime talk, Professor Fuller explained transhumanism, the movement that seeks to develop technologies to enhance human capacities. He distinguished between biological transhumanists and other transhumanists who believe that more can be achieved by uploading our consciousness to a computer. His talk, entitled Ethics of Science & Human Enhancement, outlined the ethical issues surrounding such a step and also considered questions such as cloning: ‘If your clone was to commit a murder, are you responsible for its actions?’

In the session for Sixth-Formers, which was aimed particularly at those undertaking an Extended Project Qualification, Professor Fuller considered further the issue of uploading consciousness, pointing out that some advocates considered this to be an improvement, because it would eliminate the need for ‘carbon-based’ human bodies.

""He looked at how enhancing human longevity could affect the evolutionary process: it might, for example, lead to people having fewer children, thereby reducing the pool of new people with new ideas to improve human lives. There was discussion of one potential pitfall of artificial intelligence, namely the tendency for AI to make pragmatic, rather than moral, decisions.

In addition, Professor Fuller set out some pros and cons of advanced prosthetics: if people begin to replace natural limbs with prosthetics because of their greater efficiency and thus become more machine-like, will that amount to an improvement or regression?