Report: Biotechnology convergence

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  biotechnology introduction

One of the most critical trends in the western culture what might be called the "fusion of flesh and machine". Increasingly, technological artifacts such as computers, rather than being used as tools by people, are functioning as parts of the human organism. On the other hand, human functionalities such as intelligence, emotion, adaptability or reproductivity are integrated into technological artifacts: the days when computers where only able to count apples and pears and their intelligence was not even matching an insect's are rapidly becoming history. Today, the boundaries between organisms and technology are losing their significance.

As new technologies are no longer mere instruments, or "extensions" of the organism, they acquire the capability of modifying the human organism - body and mind - from within according to certain pre-established principles. The history of the evolution of the human species is hastily being re-written as artificial beings begin to mock the categories of evolution and seem to work their way towards historical subjectivity. The German philosopher Günther Anders has extensively reflected on the changes of the human condition provoked by the development of modern technology speaks of an "antiquatedness of history" at a time when technology itself becomes a historical subject and men are becoming co-historical.

However, the softening of the biological definition of the human race is a theme which has accompanied western thinking ever since its origins. Beings half man-half animal crowd the tales of classical mythology and transcend the boundary between the human from below, while divine creatures, temporarily occupying humanoid bodies, relativise humanness form "above". What exactly "being human" meant and who "human beings" could be "defined" is a question with a long history. "Der Mensch ist das nicht festgestellte Thier" as Nietzsche commented.

Just as the boundaries between human and non-human are being crossed by technological development, so also the boundaries between the classical episteme are becoming permeable. Psychology is occupying itself with the emotions of machines, while physics and cybernetics is applied to the human mind and body. The "nicht festgestellte "character of humanness has meant that imagination has become just as relevant a factor in understanding humanness as science. Science fiction as a literary genre is no longer merely a depository of phantasies about a technisised world our of control. As the human monopoly on history seems to dissolve, the baroque narratives of science fiction have also become a resource for understanding history.

However, it is evident that the potentials of the new technologies gives rise not only to wild hopes and dreams and to bizarre stories; they also harbour some real ambiguities of a political and ethical nature. Not only does the merging of previously distinct realities - the human and the non-human worlds - unhinge theories and institutions based upon a clear distinction and separation of the two, it also is placing political practice on a different footing. Will artificial life have rights? Will artificial entities have political power? How will social relationships change?

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Biotechnology convergence
-1   biotechnology summary
0   biotechnology introduction
+1   Convergence
+2   acceleration
+3   body and mind as defects
The third industiral revolution. Life as a product.