Oh, good grief. Should we “uplift” the intelligence of animals? Transhumanists generally say yes, if only to shatter human exceptionalism. But really.
George Dvorsky, who I once saw give a lecture urging that animal minds be uploaded into computers to do away with the suffering of predation, interviews commenters who believe not only that we can increase the intelligence of animals to personhood, but that we should to block the injustice of evolution. From, “Should We Upgrade the Intelligence of Animals?”
[David] Brin doesn’t buy either of these sentiments. “In all my research I have concluded that cetaceans, primates, corvids (crows), parrots, pinnipeds (sea lions), and many other species on Earth appear to be stuck under a firm glass ceiling,” he told us, “roughly the same level of thinking, problem-solving, linguistic ability, and evolution seems stingy about letting any of them crash through.”
Subsequently, Brin argues that it may actually be selfish for us to deny high-functioning animals our enhancement technologies. He pictures a potential future Earth civilization enlightened by diverse voices. “Imagine dolphin philosophers, bonobo therapists, raven playwrights and poets,” he says, “How lonely, if we turn away without trying.”
And what would a transhumanist fantasy be without comment from the wild James Hughes, who expresses concern about the suffering such experiments could cause animals (ya think?), but sees the cause as very worthwhile:
Hughes believes that research on augmenting the intelligence of primates is one area in which they might actually be the direct beneficiaries of the research. Over time, argues Hughes, animal uplift experiments could be of great benefit to the individual animals involved and even their entire species.
How would any of that “benefit” the animals, much less an entire species? What, are we going to “uplift’ countless millions of animals? This is the nonsense world in which transhumanists dwell. I am reminded of the men of the Big Bang Theory comically obsessing about super hero comic books.
Like Brin, Hughes believes that animal uplifting could represent an historic opportunity to alter the makeup of intelligent life on this planet. Uplifting could be seen as a kind of enlightened domestication. We may very well voluntarily choose to relinquish our monopoly as the Earth’s intellectual top dogs, and introduce an entirely new set of uplifted species into the global conversation.
And indeed, any potential risks posed to the animals, says Hughes, may be worth it in the long run, serving as a powerful force for species-engineering. “At least it slightly improves the ethical calculus to say that a line of research may eventually give apes the capacity to reason, communicate and make the case for their own subjectivity,” he argues. Hughes says the argument works even better for genetic and psychopharmaceutical therapies than for brain-machine implants.
Yes, that was me shaking my head.
Isn’t it amazing how these crass materialists—who often mock those who believe that life has a purpose and in Ultimate causes—want to take over those roles? Sorry guys, you lack the wisdom, and no doubt, the ability, to become Evolvers-In-Chief.
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