Re: the "not to be born" right

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Wed Nov 22 2000 - 11:45:52 MST

"Ross A. Finlayson" <> writes:

> Body modifications of infants unable to make decisions happen quite
> often. One of the most obvious examples is circumcision.
> Admittedly, being hidden by a loincloth, it is not the same as being
> branded on the face.

Yes. A much more nontrivial effect is in utreo surgery, where surgery
is performed before birth. Or for that matter if the mother eats
special food in order to affect the child.

This is of course old territory in bioethics, but I would like to see
if a consistent transhumanist or extropian theory could be
developed. I think that, based on the principles, we have the seeds
for building some good ethics and politics for grownups but where we
really need to develop some new stuff is in these murky areas where
individuality, selfhood and potentiality interact in tricky ways.
> About lawsuits, people generally have the right to raise their
> children how they would, there are certain rules about abuse and
> neglect.

Exactly. So what standards should we transhumanists suggest? I think
it is fairly clear that we would consider it abuse if changes or
upbringing limited or negated the possibility of the child developing
into a full human being, able to fulfill its potential etc. But what
about minor nastiness, like religious icons on the forehead, or
radical changes that the parents could claim did not even produce a
human in need of protection ("It is my body, dammit, and I use it to
manufacture sentient biocomputer parts if I want to!"). Sure, these
later possibilities are not very likely to be common, but they show
the tricky problems a transhumanist bioethics must be able to deal

> Anyways, at some point we can tell the computer what enzymes we want
> and thus print RNA to make them, in the comfort of our own homes.
> Thus any demyelinization of the neuron could be stopped, as well,
> any tumors proactively prevented, and cells' multiplication
> delimited.

In theory, yes. But the devil lurks in the details - protein folding
is a hard problem, and even if you could design an enzyme for doing
function A it is hard to see if it is also going to have unforeseen
effect B. Not to mention that this relies on fairly mature technology,
essentially biological nanotechnology.
> As soon as the zygote is fertilized, and then it multiplies, there
> is the genome for that future person, if it is born. If the gene
> absolutely predicts massive congenital birth defects, it is perhaps
> better to use a different fertilized zygote that has a better chance
> of a happy development and maturity. As soon as the zygote is then
> manipulated, then it too easily leads to the spiral of eugenics.

Which in itself is not bad (unless one believes that it is important
to maintain an unchanged genome). When it becomes bad is when it is
used coercively or to implement somebody else's views of what
constitutes a human bein instead of the parents. Of course, some
critics would say that even having parents chose genes is coercion
against the child (I don't buy that argument; the child does not exist
at that point, it is just a potentiality for a person - rights appear
as it grows up. But that should not be a reason for prenatal

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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