Genetic Engineering, AI, and Star Trek

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by LostBegonia, Mar 9, 2023.

  1. So I just watched an episode while stoned, from season 7 of Voyager. Torres is pregnant and wants to genetically engineer the Klingon out of her baby. Naturally the episode discusses the ethics of genetic engineering and brings up arguments on both sides. What makes it all a bit uncomfortable is Torres is a self-hating racist. She was bullied for being her race and now she is ashamed of it and wants to take it away form her child.

    Anyway, about the ethics of it, she is trying to fundamentally change who her child will be, altering not only her appearance but her personality. In a way it effectively kills the child she is destined to have and makes a new one. The idea of this becoming commonplace in the future is terrifying because it could prevent anyone outside the social norm from even being born, everyone being born to agree with the social order. Is it depriving people of free will? is it a violation of free will to determine what choices someone will make? genetically engineered people make the decisions they do on their "free will" but their will is pre-programmed so is it free? The person Torres child was destined to be at conception would make different choices in life than the genetically engineered one. but child 1 and child 2 are effectively different people, so is child 2 acting on free will or has that been taken from her? It is a matter of perspective. In a way, we're all genetically engineered anyway by people mating with those whose genetic traits they want for their children. In theory, even when that isn't a conscious process, your will of who you fall in love with is influenced by genetics. The episode brings up the slippery slope; if we're willing to alter genes before birth to cure birth defects, where does it end? As an autistic person I am very terrified of autism being seen as a defect and being bred out of the population. Then again, some people with autism want that and, if you catch see while depressed, I might say that too. People who are blind or deaf at birth have the same inner conflict I have about autism: would we change it if we could? would we sacrifice the person we are to have a more typical life and equal opportunities to others? Basically, the thought of being able to is scary because it brings up uncomfortable choices. How much should we prevent defects and differences if we can? When does it stop being a defect and start being an acceptable difference? When does it go from preventing defects to forced conformity and deletion of individuality? Where is the line?

    Changing the subject slightly, Torres changes the Doctor's programming such that he professionally agrees with her and doesn't even know he is acting outside his normal ways. It is frightening, from the perspective of an AI, that the Doctor's will can be reprogrammed so easily. Has she robbed him of free will? but all of his will was ultimately programmed in the first place. So is he really an individual with a will of his own? In the end he easily forgives her because he reads her behaviour as a result of biochemistry, meaning he thinks she is also ultimately programmed by factors outside her control. If the Doctor is to be respected as a person with will, then it is terrifying that he can just be reprogrammed into a different person. He and Data both have been reprogrammed before. Data's sense of morals was just turned off like a switch. Can they be considered people with wills of their own? When we genetically tamper with a child, are we programming them like AI? And what does it say about their personhood that we can? Are we, when it all comes down to it, any more free or less programmed than an AI?

    I think that's what gives people a bad feeling about genetic engineering. The premise that it is wrong relies on the idea that it is wrong to override free will and control people. but it also presupposes that it can be done. if we can have our wills programmed were we ever free at all? I think that's the root of why genetic engineering feels wrong, we fear what it says about us. we decry it as wrong for tampering with free will, yet the fact that it can do that challenges the idea free will even exists. we're terrified of illuminating and having to acknowledge that we are little more than AI. so we're afraid of the truth more than we are that it is wrong. it is wrong to do because we don't want to know that it can be done, we want to pretend our will is unprogrammable. so we forbid doing it on the grounds we don't want to acknowledge we can. I don't want to support genetic engineering but I am realizing that maybe the reason I'm against it is illogical...and that scares me
  2. What happened with Covid is what scares me about genetic engineering. If it was actually safe and effective to genetically enhance humans I wouldn't have a problem with it. Curing birth defects, increasing resistance to disease, and turning off whatever mechanism causes age related changes all sound like winners to me right now. If we could genetically reprogram those afflicted with antisocial personality disorder wouldn't we be better off as a species?

    I like the way you referred to Torres' fetus as a baby and are concerned about the person it will become. I take it you're pro-life? Can you relate the way some teachers program children into becoming little clones of themselves to your revelations regarding genetic programming? Aren't they in effect the same thing?
  3. I am legally pro-choice but morally pro-life. I believe that legally women should have a right to choose abortion in all circumstances, lest they be subject to some board of people deciding if they have a good enough moral reason or not. But morally, I think abortion should be avoided and only used as a last resort. Similar to how I believe adultery is immoral but shouldn't be illegal. Genetic engineering to cure certain birth defects is actually a good way to reduce the need for abortion. Instead of aborting a baby who isn't able to grow bones, genetically engineer so they can have bones. In the episode, they use genetic engineering to fix the spine so the child doesn't need surgery later in life. This is good in theory, but yet I fear the slippery slope. Should I, as an autistic person, have had my autism genetically engineered out of me to fit society's standards? Some argue there is nothing wrong with autism except society has decided it doesn't fit the mould. Others argue it is a defect that should be corrected. To me eliminating autism is akin to genocide. I feel I would effectively be a different person and the person I am now would effectively be killed before birth.

    Notice that I refer to the fetus as a baby but I also treated it as one of two "potential children", feeling that genetic tampering effectively makes her a different person. It is almost aborting the original baby. From my perspective anyway, I can understand that it is a grey area and not everyone will agree.

    Teachers do, in some ways, "program" children to behave a certain way. It can be argued that behaviour modification tactics are a form of social engineering and genetic programming. To some extent it is necessary to socialize people, but where do we draw the line between proper socialization and elimination of individuality?
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  4. We agree on a lot but not everything. Since we both understand that abortion kills a human and killing innocent humans shouldn't be legal I don't understand your opinion that abortion should be legal. If we can legally kill our unborn child, why can't we legally kill any of our children? Before the age of 18, if course. I don't understand why I also feel abortion should be legal but I don't really want to turn your thread into a debate on abortion so back to genetic engineering....

    There may be some genetic defects that should be left alone but I can't think of any. If we could repair defects before birth then why shouldn't we? Perhaps genetic defects fuel evolution but how many people are born with defects that improve their lives? Even if there are blind or deaf people who wouldn't choose to have their senses made intact if they had that option, how many of us would choose to have our sight or hearing removed? I'd guess not that many since being blind is a choice we all have but no one takes. If Torres wants to change her mixed species child into a human, assuming Torres is human, then she should have that choice. Requiring her to do it is where I'd see a problem.

    You asked where we draw the line between proper socialization and elimination of individuality. I don't see schools as the place for socialization, that should be left for parents who have the responsibility to teach their kids the values they find most appropriate. If parents teach their own values to their kids then individuality will thrive but if a bureaucracy such as public education teaches values then individuality is doomed.
  5. There are many people born with genetic enhancements, however I have to believe that the majority of them purposefully stay out of the limelight for obvious reasons. I agree with you about the possibillity of certain gentic defects being the result of the evolutionary adaptation process ( I think cancers fall into this category as well). My whole take on humans modifying genomes is this: we don't know what the fuck we are doing yet, therefore any experiments involving DNA, RNA, MRNA, or gene editing will most likely end badly (most people know how to use a hammer, but I wouldn't want to live in a house they built (unless they do it for a living)).
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  6. Regarding correction of defects before birth, my concern is how we define defects. For instance, autism is viewed as a defect from some perspectives but an advantage from other perspectives. There is also valid perspective that there is nothing wrong with autism and that it is just society's lack of acceptance that makes it a hindrance in life. If we make it possible to edit it out of our genes, some might want it to be required to get rid of this defect society deems unacceptable. Some parents might start thinking it cruel to subject their children to prejudices that can be avoided.

    And then we come to the issue of race. In the episode in question, Torres is half-Klingon, She is trying to edit her own traits she is ashamed of out of her child. Her human husband is the one who is against genetically altering their child. He wants a child like Torres, he doesn't want her Klingon traits removed. It is revealed by the end of the episode the real reason she wants to do it is because her human father left her and her mother, not being able to handle living with two Klingons, and she fears her husband will do the same. The reason Torres wants to do this is ultimately self-hatred and being shamed for her race. A real life equivalent would be a black person who has faced racism trying to edit their child's blackness out of them. It is a tragedy she feels a need to do this. Society pressuring people to edit their culture away and everyone be the same. On the other hand, the show itself presents the racist idea that Klingons inherently have behaviour problems, so a more apt comparison is arguably someone with a mental disorder or neurodivergent condition editing those traits out of their child, and that is a grey area.

    You say schools shouldn't socialize children but that is what they do by nature. Kids go to school to learn to function in society and in professional situations like a workplace. They learn what is socially acceptable to get along with people. Even if schools don't try to teach morality, the rules and behaviour expectations they set up inherently teach something about socially acceptable behaviour. The only way to avoid this is to not have schools and just do homeschooling.

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