The transhumanism scrapbook just became a bit thicker in the past few days, as scientists have now apparently been successful in growing a very small human heart from human stem cells, by telling those cells how to grow, in this article that was shared by many regular readers here:
As the article itself notes, what can be done today with small hearts, could be done tomorrow with other organs: livers, pancreas, kidneys, eyes, and so on:
The hearts have been grown using only stem cells, for the very first time, the New Scientist reports. As such, it mimics the processes that happen when humans hearts’ grow for the first time — except it happens in a lab, at the prompting of researchers.
The new hearts were created using stems cells that were made by reversing human skill cells, so that they turned back to something like an embryo. Once that was done, the scientists encouraged the cells to grow into the right formation, changing their shape and then eventually forming first into the cells that help hearts beat, then into those that connect the heart up and after that into tiny ventricles.
The same technique might also be used to create other parts of the human body. It has long been difficult to encourage lab-created organs to grow into the right thing — but the new research gives a new insight into how stem cells turn into the right cells. (Emphasis added)
What interests me here is the implication of that last, italicized statement, for it goes far beyond the obvious implications. Those obvious implications,I imagine, we can all rehearse for ourselves: a whole new "industry" might be in the making, with "stem cell databanks" available to store one's stem cell DNA against the potentiality that one might need an organ to be grown and transplanted for the future. Indeed, should such techniques become widespread, then one can also imagine a whole new debate over medical insurance and public "healthcare": will this or that policy fund such a procedure? Will public health care pay for it? will religious communities tjhhat might have objection to such procedures be required to fund it in other people, and so on. In other words, think of the current nightmare of "health care" in this country and imagine it on steroids.
All this I find profoundly disturbing, to say the least. But it's the implications of that italicized sentence that I find to be the most disturbing, for what all this really implies is a total control over the processes of life and growth itself. Perfected,such technologies would potentially allow one to "grow" whatever type of human one wanted to grow, and indeed, given science's ability to twist and mangle almost any technological advance it creates into something monstrous, one is looking at a Frankenstein future, not only from the scientist themselves, but from government regulators, who will of course be "asked" to step in and "regulate" what is and is not rising up to the "standard" for humanity. And here, of course, I imagine the reader can speculate just as easily as I on the inherent dangers this will pose. If, say, during the process of "engineering" a particular human into existence, the process goes wrong, what is to be done with him or her? And who has the right to determine that, since, if grown completely as the result of such technologies, it could be argued that this person is not individually sovereign, but someone else's property, as Dr. deHart and I indicated in our exploration of this topic in Transhumanism: A grimoire of Alchemical Agendas? Additionally, one might be confronted with a "life choice": accept our technology for the repair of such-and-such and organ, but then, because it was grown with a patented technology, pay a royalty or lisence or annuity fee for its continued use. And if you don't pay, well... repossession? Believe it or not, there is already a movie out with Jude Law based on precisely this premise.
Conversely there is, of course,the temptation to view such specially engineered humans as perhaps having "enhanced abilities", tempting the technocrats, corporate cronies, and politicians behind them to view the rest of "ordinary humanity" as somehow "sub-human" and "less equal" than their specially engineered products. We've been down this road before. What is evident, though, from this story, is that the time for confronting such issues is approaching faster than anyone realizes. But that future is, I suspect, a bit artificial: is this a future that the vast majority of humanity wants? All my intuition says no. It is, rather, a future that we can easily imagine corporate leadership and financial and technocratic oligarchs want. And we've seen their hellish visions in other areas.
That's what disturbs.
See you on the flip side...
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