The Scope of Eugenics: Call for Submissions

Eugenics Archives ( is pleased to announce a four-day workshop at the Banff Centre, May 22nd-25th, 2015, in Banff, Alberta. To acknowledge the significant contributions made by students to the Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada project over the past four years, we invite submissions from early career scholars—students and those within three years of completing their doctorates—from any discipline on topics related to eugenics and its contemporary significance.

Submissions should consist of a single document that includes a (i) summary abstract (<150 words), (ii) longer description (<750 words) outlining the presentation and explaining the relevance of the topic to eugenics, (iii) short biographical statement (<100 words), and (iv) CV. Possible topics include, but are in no way restricted to, the following :

Apologies to eugenics survivors / Child welfare /
Collective memory / Human diversity /
Nationalism / Quality of life /
Queer sexuality / Roma peoples /
Schizophrenia / World Health Organization /
Whiteness / Particular Countries / Geographic Regions

The project director is happy to provide feedback to potential participants on these and other suggestions (e.g., on particular countries or regions of the world). Participants are expected to attend the whole workshop and to contribute a short article to, ideally based on their presentation, within one month of the workshop. Articles accessible via the Encyc or Around the World modules at the site indicate the type of article we have in mind.

Accommodation and meals for all workshop participants will be covered by Eugenics Archives. Participants will also be notified upon acceptance if we are able to cover in full, or contribute to in part, additional travel expenses. The workshop will allow for substantial opportunities to enjoy the Banff surrounds and will encourage networking, mentoring, and informal discussion between junior scholars interested in eugenics and Eugenics Archives team members.

Deadline for submissions : February 15th, 2015 Acceptances : March 15th, 2015

Questions and submissions to the project director, Professor Rob Wilson :

FIXED: a Kickstarter plea

Aimee Mullins' Legs

Some of Aimee Mullins' legs

Oakland-based filmmaker Regan Brashear is launching her film FIXED: The Science / Fiction of Human Enhancement and is running a Kickstarter campaign to help with funding for the film’s clean-up.  You can start with donations of $1 and up–details about the campaign and film here.  The campaign runs until 9.03am EDT, August 31, so donate NOW.  A brief excerpt from the site:

What’s the film about?  What does “disabled” mean when a man with no legs can run faster than many Olympic sprinters? With prenatal screening able to predict hundreds of probable conditions, who should determine what kind of people get to be born? If you could augment your body’s abilities in any way imaginable, what would you do and why? From pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to neural implants and bionic limbs, researchers around the world are hard at work developing a myriad of technologies to fix or enhance the human body, but what does it mean to design “better humans” and do we want to? FIXED follows three remarkable people: Continue reading

What Sorts course

I’ll be teaching a fairly large, mixed grad / undergrad seminar this coming semester as an ethics course with the working title that coincides with the blog: what sorts of people should there be?. Below is an initial draft of the core part of the syllabus. Feedback and suggestions welcome. One feature of the course will be to integrate some of the posts, videos, and commentaries from the What Sorts blog, using them as a basis for further discussion and readings.  If any of you are also making use of some of the resources here or at, let me know by reply here or privately.

Phil 450 / 550
Topics in Ethics
What sorts of people should there be?

Themes, readings, etc.

Course guide description:

This course will be organized around the question “What sorts of people should there be?” and will focus on philosophical issues that arise in several areas at the interface of ethics, science, and technology. Topics that I would imagine covering including most, if not all, of the following: autonomy and personal choice concerning one’s appearance, health, and well-being; choices and responsibilities for one’s own possible and actual children; social policies and common practices regarding future generations, including genetic testing and screening; philosophical and medical views of disability and disablement; bioenhancement and transhumanism; the moral value of human and non-human lives; the nature of persons and the philosophical focus on questions about persons. Continue reading

Does anyone remember “lobotomy”?

Picture of brain surgery

The New York Times recent Surgery for Mental Ills Offers Both Hope and Risk raises, for me, one big question: why the enthusiasm for bringing experimental brain-fu*king to the public’s attention right now? As the article reports but does not underscore in the name of balance, the history of psychosurgery is one of moral and medical failure, though failures recognized only in retrospect. What could be so different now? That we’re not considering lobotomies (which sever the frontal lobes) but cingulotomies (which sever into the anterior cingulate) and capsulotomies (which sever the connections between the cortex and the medulla that make up the internal capsule)?

h/t to ARPH’s Psychosurgery promoted by the NYT: Here we go, again; for a more optimistic take on this, see also Mind Hack’s Psychosurgery : new cutting edge or short, sharp shock (the only comment up there gives some pause, however).

Human Kinds–Ray Kurzweil and Uploading: Just Say “No”–Part 1

Nick Agar‘s talk at the Human Kinds Symposium focuses on Kurzweil on uploading, and gives his ideas a critical combing. Here Nick starts off with some of the basic, background ideas that Kurzweil draws on before getting ready for the view of uploading, in Part 2.

Nick’s Wikipedia page stub is here and his homepage at Victoria, Wellington, is over here.

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