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November 22, 2011

My Students Discuss Seven Transhuman Experiments

Writing about web page http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/07/ff_swr/all/1

Last week, while I was in Moscow, I had two sets of students -- one undergraduate and one postgraduate discuss seven radical experiments proposed by Wired Magazine that, were they done, had the potential to revolutionise our understanding of the human condition. Like most of the important experiments on humans done before the 1970s, these would not be allowed most Institutional Review Boards today. But perhaps they should? I asked the students, whose national origins range across Europe, Asia and North America, to discuss the matter in the role of policy makers who have the power to allow such experiments -- and also as potential participants in them.

The seven experiments are described in more detail in the website above, and are summarised below:

EXPERIMENT
1. Split up twins after birth—and then control every aspect of their environments.
2. Remove brain cells from a live subject to analyze which genes are switched on and which are off.
3. Insert a tracking agent into a human embryo to monitor its development.
4. Use beams of light to control the activity of brain cells in conscious human beings.
5. Switch the embryos of obese women with those of thin women.
6. Test each new chemical on a wide range of human volunteers before it comes on the market.
7. Cross-breed a human with a chimpanzee.

Here are the undergraduates (mostly 2nd and 3rd years), who are enrolled in my Sociology of Knowledge class

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/14344203/Sociology%20Of%20Knowledge%20Week%207%20_0.m4a

Here are the postgraduates (mostly 1st years), who are enrolled in my Science, Media and Public Policy class

https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B9E7irPbtBw8Mjc1NTk5ZTYtYjFhNi00MDc2LWI2OTUtOWI0NTAwYzg3ZTNk

I was very impressed with the level of discussion in both cases, though there were some interesting differences in the style and emphases of the two cases.


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