A Prequel to Gattaca?

The 1997 film Gattaca, written and directed by Andrew Niccol, portrays a futuristic society where babies are genetically engineered according to parental references.  The film features a society that consists almost exclusively of such artificially built individuals, with those who are born in the archaic, natural manner occupying the fringes of this society.  In order to protect the rights of what are referred to as the “valids” and thereby keep out the inferior “invalids,” each individual’s genetic material is constantly sampled and monitored.  Every person’s DNA is stored in a database, making multiple scans and random genetic sweeps in the workplace very efficient.  The story follows an “invalid” who has a dream of becoming an astronaut, a job open only to the genetically enhanced elite.

But my intention here is not to provide a synopsis of the film, which is very good and is certainly well worth the time it takes to watch.  Rather, I wanted to Continue reading

Human Kinds–Species Typical, Sub-typical, Beyond Typical–Part 2

Gregor Wolbring in full swing on ableism and its relationship to sexism, racism, caste bias, anti-environmentalism, consumerism. It all goes by very fast, so be prepared! Part 3 will have some panel interchange on this.

Here Gregor argues that ableism lies at the root of these other “isms”, and so is in that sense the most fundamental form of discrimination.  In the audience discussion following the talk–which, unfortunately, we did not have permission to film–there was quite a bit of discussion of, and resistance to, this idea.  Gregor also writes a regular column, The Choice is Yours, and you can find more information about him there.  On this issue, as Gregor says about most things, the choice is yours.  Is ableism the most fundamental form of discrimination out there?

Human Kinds: Design Issues Concerning Extreme Life Extension–Part 3

The final part of Natasha Vita-More’s talk, together with an audible but hard-to-hear exchange with Nick Agar at the end. Nick is asking about the prototype that Natasha designed 10 years ago, Primo Posthuman. You can get more on Primo, and on Natasha’s work more generally, from her website.

The examples that Natasha provides are provocative, and in the exchange with Nick we’re reminded of the difference between “prototype design” and “industrial design”–design at the planning (detailed as that may be) level, and design at the level of implementation. But even once implemented in some form, there’s the further question of what we might call full-blown implementation, truly industrial design, where we scale up from some kind of implementation to implement the device to realize its full promise.

Example: consider artificial intelligence vs artificial retinae (and related visual prosthetics) or cochlear implants. Continue reading

Gregory Stock on the Uses of Future Technologies

Here is an older, short talk by Greg Stock, from 2003–How Biotech Will Drive Our Evolution–on uses of present and future biotechnologies for human betterment that has recently been posted on TED Talks.

One of the interesting things is that while Stock presents a dismissive view of past hype about future technologies–e.g., the Human Genome Project and curing all ailments–there is also much more uplifting and positive talk about the uses of technology in medicine in 5-10 years, i.e., about the period that we’re almost in the middle of now. It’s nice to have predictions whose test conditions are now in place so we can, well, see how they have fared. I guess you can decide how much difference there is between the past and the present.

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading

Int J of Disability, Community and Rehabilitation Special Issue on Nanotechnology, Disability, Community and Rehabilitation

New in the Int J of Disability, Community and Rehabilitation (IJDCR)

The issue can be found here

An IJDCR Special Issue on Nanotechnology, Disability, Community and Rehabilitation edited by Gregor Wolbring,
Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies Program, Dept of Community
Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Canada

Articles:

Editor’s Introduction to the Special Issue, by Gregor Wolbring

If Nanotechnology Were a Magic Wand What Obligations Would it Bring? Or:
The Right to Enhance Versus the Right to Morphological Freedom, by Heather
Bradshaw

Optimization of Human Capacities and the Representation of the Nanoscale
Body, by Michele Robitaille

Nanotechnology: Changing the Disability Paradigm, by Laura Cabrera

The journal welcomes submissions on a continuous basis that focus on nanoscale and nanoscale-enabled science and technology as it impacts on disabled people and the broader community and the role of rehabilitation professionals, family members and others.

ONCE International Research and Development Award in New Technologies for the Blind and Visually Impaired

ONCE International Research and Development Award in New Technologies for the Blind and Visually Impaired

The aim of the International R&D Award in New Technologies for the Blind and Visually Impaired, held bi-annually by the ONCE (Spanish National Organisation for the Blind), is to distinguish and recompense those researches whose development, use or application represent a clear improvement in the quality of life, equality of opportunities or the process of social and working integration of the blind and visually impaired.
Research areas:

Through this Award, ONCE seeks to stimulate the promotion of scientific technical research aimed at technological developments and innovations in the field of engineering, artificial intelligence, computing, telecommunications, microtechnology and nanoelectronics, with the ultimate purpose of correcting or overcoming the limitations suffered by the blind or the visually impaired on account of their disability.

More here

Call for papers: On the impact of nanoscale science and technology on disability, community and rehabilitation.

Call for papers: On the impact of nanoscale science and technology on disability, community and rehabilitation.

For a special issue of the International Journal on Disability, Community & Rehabilitation (IJDCR) (http://www.ijdcr.ca/copyright.shtml)

Guest Editor: Gregor Wolbring, Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies Program, Dept of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary.

Invitation

Nanoscale science and technology, while still in its infancy, describes a rapidly growing sphere of enquiry, with many and varied implications for the disability field. To establish a ‘benchmark’ of the current state of knowledge and conceptual understanding, the Editors of IJDCR decided a special issue should be devoted to the topic. Background information and potential topics are presented below. Continue reading