Should apes and other animals accompany humans on their path to transcending biological limitations? Many scientists and philosophers say no. But futurist George Dvorsky has published a thought-provoking article championing animal enhancement, arguing that the opportunity to do so represents a bioethical imperative.
Friday's opening of Rise of the Planet of the Apes comes just weeks after the release of Project Nim, a documentary about the life of chimpanzee Nim Chimpsky, who was raised by scientists exactly like a human child — he even learned sign language to communicate. Both films deal with the concept of "uplift" — humanity's elevation of animals to a higher plane of intelligence.
The pitfalls of animal uplift have been thoroughly explored in science and speculative fiction. But a recent report from the Academy of Medical Sciences suggests that the dangers explored in "fanciful" works of fiction such as these have spread into a realm of graver, more urgent consideration, with many scientists and philosophers urging humanity to avoid pursuing the path towards animal enhancement.
There are some, however, who see animal enhancement not just as an indispensible area of scientific research, but an ethical obligation. Futurist George Dvorsky, who serves on the board of directors for the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, has written a thought-provoking article about the ethical imperative to enhance animal intelligence.
In his article, Dvorsky states that humanity's relationship with animals has long since transitioned from one of subjugation to one of moral consideration, and that tomorrow "it will transition from moral consideration to social co-existence."
It would be unethical, negligent, and even hypocritical of humans to enhance only themselves and ignore the larger community of sapient nonhuman animals . . . The idea of humanity entering into an advanced state of biological and/or postbiological existence while the rest of nature is left behind to fend for itself is distasteful.
You'll find Dvorsky's article in its entirety here, and a compelling counter-argument to Dvorsky's position – written by Futurismic's Paul Raven — here.
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