Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nick Bostrom

Nick Bostrom has more than 140 publications to his name, including the books Anthropic Bias (Routledge, 2002), Global Catastrophic Risks (OUP, 2008), and Enhancing Humans (OUP, 2008). He is Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University and a full professor in the Faculty of Philosophy, and a co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association.

In 2006 John Sutherland interviewed Bostrom about transhumanism for the Guardian. Part of the interview:

How is transhumanism different from discredited notions of "creative evolution" - the idea that mankind, as a species, was evolving ever higher up the ladder, passing on its acquired traits to succeeding generations?

"Creative evolution, as propounded by Lamarck, was discredited by Darwin. Traits acquired during one's lifetime - muscles built up in the gym, for example - cannot be passed on to the next generation. Now with technology, as it happens, we might indeed be able to transfer some of our acquired traits on to our selected offspring by genetic engineering."

Transhumanism, as I understand it, is moving its focus on to ethics, regarding many of the technological enhancements as being in place. Is that the case?

"When I first got interested in this area a few years ago, the discussions would typically revolve around the question, 'Is this science fiction? Or are we dealing in realistic future possibilities?' Now the discussions tend to start from the position that, yes, it will be increasingly possible to modify human capacities. The issue now is whether we should do it. And, if so, what are the ethical constraints?"
Read the complete interview.

Read more, including the table of contents, about Human Enhancement, edited by Julian Savulescu and Nick Bostrom (forthcoming, Oxford University Press).

--Marshal Zeringue