Re: "Sound and Fury" over enhancements

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Tue Jan 08 2002 - 17:57:10 MST

On Tue, Jan 08, 2002 at 04:16:47PM -0500, Mike Lorrey wrote:
> The claim that deaf culture is something which should be preserved by
> the repression of cochlear implant technology is about as logical a
> claim as a claim that POW culture should be preserved by leaving POWs in
> POW camps long after wars have been won.
> On a similar note, you'll notice that few Japanese Americans are very
> put out at having their "Internment Camp Culture" violated by their
> release after WWII....

Actually, I think you should be careful here. There is a fundamental
difference between the interned and the deaf, and that is that the
former very likely regarded their internment as something not having any
bearing on their identity (unless some of them got a really serious case
of Stockholm Syndrome), while the deaf - like many disabled people -
often include the property of being deaf into their self-image. So when
somebody suggests a cure it is not just an issue of getting better, but
to change one's identity. Such proposals need to be handled very
tactfully, and we transhumanists ought to remember the right to
morphological freedom is a *negative* right: we also have the right to
remain unchanged.

> This illustrates that cultures, in and of themselves, have no rights,
> they are figments of individual humans imaginations in order to survive
> in the circumstances they are put in at the time. To seek to remain in
> suboptimal cultures long after the circumstances that brought them about
> are alleviated is simply a form of Stockholm Syndrome: introversion,
> indentification with the oppressor, and denial of reality.

Maybe, but when it comes to valuing one's state it is hard to say that
somebody is simply wrong.

I agree that trying to prevent the use of cochlear implants or impede
their development in the name of a culture is wrong, but I don't see any
ethical right to impose them on unwilling subjects. The issue of young
children (which is really what this is about) is more tricky, since they
cannot truly give informed consent. Here I would apply my "maximize
options principle": unless there is strong evidence that the implants
decrease their ability to participate in deaf or hearing culture, then
it is better to have more abilities and hence options, so the implant
would be a good. I still don't think this makes it obligatory or that it
would clearly overrule parental objections, but as a doctor I would take
my time arguing with the parents for getting the implant.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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