Re: "Sound and Fury" over enhancements

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Wed Jan 09 2002 - 08:43:21 MST

Anders Sandberg wrote:
> 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 is where a phenomenon like Stockholm Syndrome is involved: the deaf
person is handicapped by deafness to such a degree that they derive
their identity from that which imprisons them rather than themselves.
This is why those who are born deaf adhere so much more to 'deaf
culture' than those who lose their hearing later in life. Those who were
previously hearing already have a sense of identity, and deafness is not
part of it, and they resent their deafness.

An internee in a POW or Internment camp is similarly less likely to
identify themselves with their oppressors if they had a strong sense of
identity before imprisonment, however over time this does break down
everyone, as is evidenced by criminals in civilian prisons for many
decades, they become so institutionalized that they are unable to
function in the outside world. They all eventually define themselves by
the walls and bars and other restraints around them.

Deafness is simply a wall between the deaf person and the normal hearing

> > 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.

Well, I agree with you here, and I watched the program on NHPTV last
night. The cochlear implant requires, it seems, an exterior transmitter
to function. Removing that transmitter, it seems, makes the person
temporarily deaf again. With that in mind, and keeping in mind that the
implant is best performed at a young age (the child implanted was about
a year old) to allow brain development of aural pathways, it is rather
obvious that a compromise can be reached.

I'm thinking of two things: a) how Amish society, which oppresses the
use of advanced technologies by its members, does provide every young
member a span of years to life in the "English" world and decide for
themselves if they wish to remain Amish, and b) how many immigrant
families both require that their children learn english AND speak their
native tongue at home.

Therefore, all deaf children receive cochlear implants and undergo
speech therapy to ensure that they keep up in normal schools with their
speaking peers (its a fact that the average deaf persons reading
development at the end of high school is only at a fourth grade level)
but that a deaf family would also have the child remove the external
transmitter while at home, to ensure that they learn and participate in
deaf culture. As an adult, the grown up child can decide for themselves
the degree of their own participation in the deaf and hearing worlds.

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