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EDC MOOC, Week 4

I realize that #edcmooc finished up several weeks ago, but the last weekend of the course when I planned to finish up all my projects happened to be a perfect storm of excuses not to work on this class, which might be a great start to a conversation on completion rates for MOOCs and what that means in terms of how successful they are, but that's for another time. Before life got in the way, I had this blog post on Week 4's readings nearly ready to go, so I'll present it to you now.

This week we talked about posthumanism, what happens when technology has enhanced the human form so much that we are no longer human, but something else.

It seems like the central concern here is if at some point adding technological enhancements to the human form will become advanced to the point that accepting such enhancements will forfeit something essential to the human experience.

Transhumanists argue that this is not the case, at least not right now. They argue that humanity has such potential for greatness and technology is a wonderful tool to get us to that better place.

However, I really do wonder about some of the major concerns expressed in the readings this week. One that really hits home for me centers around the digital divide already in place in this society. Access to fast, reliable technology is currently a have/have-not issue, so as these advances further, how do we ensure access for everybody?

Conversely, how do we make sure that everyone who doesn't want to be digitally enhanced doesn't feel pressure to. Now that government aid programs are pushing people to apply for services online and receive payments electronically, poor people are suddenly forced to find internet access, but folks who have the means to have technology in their homes, but choose not to, are also being forced to interact with technology they've consciously chosen to do without. What happens when technology embedded in our bodies becomes the norm?

I can't help but think of the difference between the people in the Capitol and the districts in The Hunger Games. The people in the Capitol are modified to utmost degree while the people in Katniss's district are barely able to get enough food. The modified people in the Capitol are made to look like silly fools, while Katniss and the people her district are seen as better. From what I remember, it's not explicitly stated, but the impression is that people of District 12 are more pure, more human.

I suppose it's not really fair of me to express my digital divide fears as a problem with posthumanism, because transhumanists feel that technologies to enhance the human form should be available to everyone. So I guess my real argument is that I don't think that anytime soon there will be a way to ensure that these technologies are available to everyone. Technology costs money and there are huge disparities in wealth around the world, but even in this country, so while it's really neat to see the ways technology can make our lives easier and even better, I have real concerns about how access to technology will further stratify our society.

I also think that one of the potential solutions to this problem - government distribution of technology - is another way in which it can be implemented badly. In this case human modification could be forced on unwilling participants or be used to eliminate undesirable portions of the population, maybe not on the level of Gattaca where those with genetic predispositions to disease are automatically second-class citizens, but there is the potential that parents will try to manipulate the genetic code of their potential children. Prenatal testing is already used in many countries to abort female fetuses.

Another feature in our readings on transhumanism is the idea that these technological enhancements will lead us to more intelligent decision-making by foster more open debate and transparent decision making processes. I'm so torn about this because I see the way technology has democratized information in positive ways, such as the Arab Spring, but I also see how the flood of available information has created more opportunities for the extreme elements in our society to flood the system with misinformation. (Ex: Clearly our President is a Muslim who was born in Kenya.)

So I guess I'm really torn between excitement about the possibilities of technology to help the human race achieve more, yet hesitant that bad implementation of those technologies could lead to further stratification of our society, or worse yet, enforced implementation of technology on unwilling participants.
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