re: Transhumanist medical ethics?

Nick Bostrom (
Sat, 27 Feb 1999 22:08:43 +0000

Eric Mortensen wrote:

> Second, it sounds like you want happiness to be made into a moral obligation?

I'm not claiming that it is morally wrong if somebody wants to make themselves unhappy for awhile, but I think it is wrong to create an entity that we know would be horribly unhappy (you can use a different example than Down's syndrom). Especially if the being is such that it is unable to terminate its suffering, (which it can hardly do when it's too young anyway).

> Third, if we mandate that parents perform genetic modifications to their
> children, then someone must pay for them, and most likely that must
> be the parents themselves.

In many cases, it would *save* society a lot of money to pay for the intervention. A retarded or sick child is very expensive for our welfare programs; if that child could be made healthy, gifted and well-natured it would instead contribute to society.

> On the other hand, I concede that it is without its problems to give parents
> a carte blanche on what to do and what not to do. Most people accept intervention
> if mothers abuse drugs while pregnant, for instance. I would probably favor
> a moral code that minimized the number of obligations a parent must have,
> since arguably what counts as an important intervention will be so difficult to
> agree on.

Yes, it will be hard to agree on what counts as important, and some will probably argue against genetic therapy altogether. Some compromise will no doubt be necessary, but it is worth thinking about what would be the ideal outcome (combining protection of the childrens' interest with maximal reproductive freedom of parents).

Nick Bostrom Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method London School of Economics