Programme

(T104)
Enhancement Cultures and Future Bodies
Location 117a
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 11:00
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Melike Sahinol (Orient-Institute Istanbul) email
  • Martin Sand email
  • Christopher Coenen (KIT - Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

We invite contributions that focus on practices or visions of body modification in different cultural settings, shedding light on heterogeneous ways in which bodies may be (per)formed now and in the future. This can include but does not need to be limited to so-called 'human enhancement'.

Long Abstract

The variety of technologies used for body modification, including so-called 'human enhancement technologies' (HET), and the settings in which they are embedded are increasingly experimented with and discussed about in discourse on science, technology and society. In discussions about HET, it is often assumed that the convergence of nano-, bio-, neuro- and information technologies will lead to a massive transformation of human corporeality and human-technology interrelations. Some tools are already tested in animals, based on the widespread reduction of living beings to their biological properties. So-called 'animal enhancement' is thus crucial to the understanding also of HET. Assumptions and approaches of HET proponents, and enhancement cultures (such as so-called "cosmetic surgery") more generally, are criticised from various philosophical, sociological and other perspectives (e.g. phenomenology, feminism, ANT, philosophical anthropology, disability/ableism studies). At the same time, practices of body modification performed outside enhancement cultures (e.g. elements of the new cyborgism) are reflected in studies building on feminist cyborg and related studies. Heterogeneous practices and interpretations in different cultural or societal settings thus shape our understandings of bodies in a wide variety of ways. Against this backdrop, we invite papers dealing with (i) medical or non-medical body modifications through established, new or emerging technologies in specific cultural (e.g. religious) or societal settings, (ii) imaginaries of future bodies (e.g. 'enhanced bodies' or advanced cyborgs), (iii) the blurring of boundaries between therapy / disability compensation / enhancement, or (iv) anthropological, gender, human-animal and intercultural aspects of the techno-social developments in question.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Bioprinting, beauty, and future longevity

Author: Stefan Reschke (Fraunhofer INT)  email

Short Abstract

This contribution summarises recent progress of and highlights in bioprinting (3-dimensional printing with biomaterials) with respect to restaurative and regenerative medicine. It contextualises with converging technologies and sketches future enhanced bodies, purely biological as well as 'cyborgs'.

Long Abstract

The use of 3-dimensional printing, more correctly "additive manufacturing", for medical purpose is already quite established in the domain of providing 3D models of body parts. These are in use for medical education and training, and increasingly also printed on demand for short term preoperative surgical planning of high-risk operations. For the latter, rapid prototyping of exact 3D patient models next to the operation theatre is viable, to date with a speed up to 300 mm/h at a resolution of 100µ.

More recently, bioprinting involving living cells, decellularised structures, growth factors and other natural materials has seen major breakthroughs. Over the last 10 years, various patient-specific soft and hard tissues have been successfully bioprinted and implanted. Examples range from synthetic trachea to autologous vaginal organs to heart valves and various bone replacements.

Ongoing research is close to prove first fully functional autologous organs. In combination with 4th generation biomaterials and cell-specific micro-nano support structures for electrical or chemical nerve-technology interfacing, future enhanced super bodies, purely biological as well as 'cyborgs', come into reach.

Cultural and political reasons for the gap between South-Eastern and Western European ethico-political discourse on 'human enhancement'

Author: Franc Mali (Ljubljana University)  email

Short Abstract

The paper focuses on ethical discourse on 'human enhancement' (HE) in the specific cultural and political setting of South-Eastern Europe. The lack of interest of ethics expert groups of this region in more far-reaching perspectives of the HE topic is ascribed to certain cultural and political factors.

Long Abstract

The paper analyses and discusses theoretical and practical issues related with intercultural differences concerning the progress of so-called 'human enhancement technologies' (HET), taking South-Eastern European discourse (and Slovenian discourse in particular) as example to be compared with Western European discourse on 'human enhancement' (HE). In light of advances in 'converging technologies' (nano, bio, info, cogno/neuro; NBIC) and rising expectations concerning 'human enhancement' (HE), encompassing approaches to the analysis of ethical, legal and societal aspects (ELSA) of HE have been widely recommended (see, for example, Coenen et al., 2009; Savulescu et al., 2011), also in order to help create a solid knowledge base for anticipatory governance of HET. How did institutionalised ethical discourse in South-Eastern Europe react to the prospects of progress in HET and Western European discourse? Earlier sociological studies had already pointed out significant differences between bioethics institutions in Western and South-Eastern Europe (Mali et al., 2012; Ahvenharju et al., 2006; Fuchs, 2005), such as the dominance of traditional, medical (bio)ethics in the latter region. Institutionalised ethico-political discourse in South-Eastern Europe evidently also lacks capacities to appropriately deal with broader ELSA of the future progress of HET. The paper analyses and discusses various (historically grounded) socio-cultural and (more recent) political reasons for this situation.

Does, who says 'disability compensation', imply 'Aristotelian loss'? Five Ways to conceptualize 'disability' and its 'compensation'

Author: Katja M. Stoppenbrink (University of Münster)  email

Short Abstract

While species-typical functioning may still constitute an adequate point of reference for our practices of disability compensation, in our quest for what it means to be human we will have to get used to humans with atypical capacities (‘disabilities’ or else) – and still recognize them as equals.

Long Abstract

In a 2009 paper Jonathan Wolff distinguishes four forms of disability compensation, i.e. cash compensation, personal enhancement, status enhancement and targeted resource enhancement. He argues for the latter, cash benefits to be used for certain specified purposes, avoiding the intricacies of cash compensation in luck egalitarian theories on equality of welfare (see, e.g. Ronald Dworkin 2000). However, speaking about 'disability compensation' implies a normative understanding of the human body and its 'normal' or 'species-typical' functioning. Disability compensation thus operates against the backdrop of the 'medical model' of disability and presupposes an idea of 'Aristotelian loss' (Kathleen V. Wilkes 1988). We have to consider the un(der)developed capacity or the 'missing' potential to even develop a species-typical capacity as a deficit if we call for its 'compensation'. Considering possible or conceivable future technological developments such as the use and implantation of prostheses by people with disabilities a further strategy may be bodily compensation whereby the boundaries of 'disability compensation' and 'human enhancement' are becoming increasingly blurred. On conceptual grounds both expressions refer back to the deficit model of disability. Yet, as Margrit Shildrick (2015) has recently argued, "rehabilitation to normative practice or appearance is no longer the point". It is claimed that such an assertion is too underdetermined. While species-typical functioning may still constitute an adequate point of reference for our legally relevant practices such as competitive sports, health care payments, etc., in our quest for what it means to be human we will have to get used to humans with atypical 'human' capacities - and still recognize them as equals.

Removing animal bodies in the post-animal bioeconomy

Author: Arianna Ferrari (ITAS/KIT)  email

Short Abstract

The post-animal bio-economy has recently emerged as a label to indicate the use of tissue engineering and synthetic biology to produce animal food products such as meat or egg without animals. In this paper I would like to explore the ethical dimensions of removing animal bodies in the visions of this field.

Long Abstract

The post-animal bio-economy has recently emerged as a label to indicate the use of recent developments in life sciences, in particular in the fields of tissue engineering and synthetic biology, to produce animal food products such as meat, egg and milk proteins, shark fin, and gelatin without animals, to overcome the negative environmental impacts of the production and consumption of animal proteins. Using plants or via processes of fermentation start-up companies, mostly located in the Silicon Valley, promise to deliver safe, good and sustainable food such as cultured meat (meat grown from stem cells in a petri dish using tissue engineering technologies) or animal-free egg white (developed from proteins in the test-tube) without having to kill animals and with a significant reduced impact on the environment.

The vision of the post-animal bioeconomy is not only dominated by efficiency as the core response to sustainability in the food domain, but is also based on a deep re-conceptualization and material transformation of the animal bodies: the goal is still to produce parts of animal bodies (meat, eggs, milk and so on), going through different modification of some parts of these bodies (cells) or using parts of other beings (plants), but without involving entire animal bodies. In this paper I would like to explore the ethical dimensions of removing animals in the visions of the post-animal bioeconomy and how we can think about uses and commodification of life beyond what has traditionally been viewed as an "animal" at all.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.