Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mastery and Gift

We continue tracking the quest for bio-perfection in our “real” and Richard Powers’ alternative “mutant”-fictional universe. 

(And we begin final report presentations today. I trust everyone made constructive use of Monday's study day.)

In the “Mastery and Gift” chapter of his Case Against Perfection, Michael Sandel says
A Gattaca-like world, in which parents became accustomed to specifying the sex and genetic traits of their children, would be a world inhospitable to the unbidden, a gated community writ large.
The awareness that our talents and abilities are not wholly our own doing restrains our tendency toward hubris. If bio-engineering made the myth of the “self-made man” come true, it would be difficult to view our talents as gifts for which we are indebted rather than as achievements for which we are responsible.

When “choice, not chance” becomes our way, we’ll slip into an attitude of contempt for others and excessive regard for ourselves. Prometheus Ascendant will harden our hearts, and shrink them to grinch-size. We’ll be left with “nothing to affirm or behold outside our own will.”

Continues at Up@dawn
"The Next First Page" highlights-

The genome seethes with extragenetic inherited mechanisms, environmentally altered chemical switches. The gene-centric view looks increasingly like the domain of fifty-seven-year-olds still in the grip of obsolete paradigms. Nurture can directly affect germ cells. Old-style gene-association studies like Kurton's may be not even irrelevant. Temperament may be in the water, food, and air, as much as in the chromosomes...

They're a private company after all, accountable to no one but their investors. Write off the loss, manage the resulting publicity, and stake a new claim. 

If Jen truly is without sadness, then she's missing out on something profound, mysterious, and essentially human. That's my feeling, and I'll go on saying as much, at least until I get the Paxil tuned...

The secret of happiness is meaningful work.

The process [IVF] is nothing now, and the real show is only getting started... Tonia Schiff will bet her return ticket that some billionaire, somewhere, is already paying to have his offspring screened for good traits.

Everyone alive should feel richly content, ridiculously ahead of the game, a million times luckier than the unborn... [But] she says she'd never presume to say how happy anyone else might be.

"They're after me!" ...-"Who?" "Very Christian people with too much free time."

He's weakened by his recent bout with joy. Joy does little to increase one's judgment.

Oona has always insisted that anyone can escape any fate by a daily application of near-religious will.

A predisposition to disposition: it's exactly the kind of fatalism [Oona] is determined not to be determined by.

His message: We're incapable of predicting what will make us happy. Consequently, it's best to stay loose and keep revising the plan. Socialize, volunteer, listen to music, and get out of the house. The man's witty pragmatism makes Russell want to bunker down with the shades pulled.

Is knowing my happiness quotient going to make me any happier?

...another twenty years of grace before the species splits into Ordinary and Enhanced.

Why are you looking for our spirits in molecules?

Candace Weld sat and watched as the future stripped her of meaningful work.

No one would write a word, if he remembered how much fiction eventually comes true.

...fiction's perpetual mistaking of correlation for causation drives Kurton nuts. Even Camus can't help deploying bits of his characters' histories as if they explained all subsequent behaviors and beliefs. The trick smacks of an environmental determinism more reductive than anything that has ever come out of Kurton's labs. My upbringing made me do it...

...choices are coming that we all simply have to hammer out.

...this is when the story is at its most desperate: when techne and sophia are still kin, when the distant climax is still ambiguous, the outcome a dead heat between salvation and ruin.

I think I must sell these eggs of mine.... you don't believe my genes are key to anything... The more they pay for this, the happier it will make them... So you do think these genes are the secret real me!
Also of interest:

TED: Andres Lozano: Parkinson's, depression and the switch that might turn them off - Andres Lozano (2013)Listen

Deep brain stimulation is becoming very precise. This technique allows surgeons to place electrodes in almost any area of the brain, and turn them up or down -- like a radio dial or thermostat -- to correct dysfunction. Andres Lozano offers a dramatic look at emerging techniques, in which a woman with Parkinson's instantly stops shaking and brain areas eroded by Alzheimer's are brought back to life.

The Impossible Workload for Doctors in Training

Two years after the 16-hour mandate was established for doctors in training, studies on the outcomes are being published, and the results reveal one thing: Maybe we should have thought a little harder about the arithmetic.


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