When is a Human not a Human


Very few of the questions that we have to answer in drafting a constitution are new, but here’s one that is.


In the C21st, technology is making it possible to change what it means to be human.


Recently, there’s been a controversy about creating embryos with three parents – two mothers and a father. The 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act allowed researchers to create hybrid human-animal embryos provided that they were destroyed within fourteen days of conception.


Genes are regularly transplanted between different species. Machines are connected directly to the human brain – prosthetic limbs, light-sensitive cells that enable a blind person to perceive shapes and so on.


Google along with other technology companies is investing hundreds of millions of pounds in developing Artificial Intelligence.


So far, all these new technologies are at a fairly early stage. But our economic system is awfully good an incremental improvement - only twenty years passed between the Wright brothers’ first flight and the first schedule airline.


Even if technology never comes up with alternative forms of intelligence comparable let alone superior to that of humans, there remains the possibility that one group or another might use technology to enhance their capabilities and exclude others from power (much as some people here have suggested that politics in Britain today, are skewed to the advantage of those rich enough to buy a private education for their children).


So could I suggest that we give some thought as to whether or not a C21st constitution needs to pre-empt such threats to the common good.


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