Life Studies Blog (Old)

October 04, 2005

Happiness in the age of advanced technology (by M)


Today I will write again about Bill McKibben's Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (Times Books, April 2003. The previous post about this book will be found in the entry of Sep.26). McKibben talks about the enhancement of the IQ of children. Supporters of such technology say that even if it becomes available, parents still have the freedom to choose the enhancement, or not to choose, hence, no one's freedom will be violated.

McKibben objects to this idea. He stresses that some few people who starts to use this technology might have freedom of choice, but the majority of the followers will not be able to enjoy such freedom. For the followers, the enhancement of their children will become "compulsory." If the IQs of many children in your neighborhood are enhanced genetically, what do you feel when you give birth to your baby? Are you strong enough to refuse it? McKibben concludes that in the age of genetic enhancement, all we can do is "enhance" our own children.

Then, what happens to a genetically enhanced child? McKibben predicts that the child will lose " joy of life", or "the meaning of life", in exchange for some genetically enhanced abilities and long&healthy life. I believe his analysis is correct. I wrote the same thing in the book,
Painless Civilization, Chapter 1.

In his book, McKibben does not deny the progress of science and civilization. His point is that we have come to the stage, in the beginning of the 21st Century, for the first time, where we should say "Enough!" to the further progress of some advanced technologies, at least in highly industrialized societies such as the US and European countries. Bill McKibben is an ecologist, and he does not seem to be a Christian fundamentalist. The problem of happiness in the age of advanced technology cannot be solved solely by religion or politics.

Photo: Kawachi ondo (Kawachi dance song) in Autumn festival, Osaka

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