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Smith, R. (2017). Contra Cyborgs. Free Associations, 18(2):112-115.

(2017). Free Associations, 18(2):112-115

Contra Cyborgs

Roger Smith

With new reproductive and bioengineering technologies, information science and neuroscience, there is excited talk of the transhuman. For the purpose of argument here, I will suppose that there are no technological barriers and will be, sooner rather than later, robot substitutes for humans, cyborgs (humans with machine parts, tools built into the body) and possibilities for the complete, or near complete, replacement/substitution of mental functions by electronic or chemical techniques. Numerous commentators think such technologies are already ‘in progress’, and they may well be right. Why do I object? Why are my feelings so negative about all this? Why am I alienated by the ways of life which have these technologies at the centre? If the technological changes are in fact coming, why not embrace them?

It's my reading of a London Review of Books review, by Steven Shapin, of a book by Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, which prompts the questions. The book sounds crass, a titillating read by an author set on selling lots of copies rather than arguing well, and the review convinced me that here at least was one book I needn't read. The argument is familiar: Man has become God - he can make himself anything, through neuroscience, bio-engineering, etc. The book cites one computer scientist: ‘if I can be 200 with a body of silicon, I'll take it.’

I find no emotional appeal in the whole prospect. Why not? I think my emotions are informed by reasons.

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