It’s a nightmare scenario straight out of a primetime drama: a child-seeking couple visits a fertility clinic to try their luck with in-vitro fertilization, only to wind up accidentally impregnated by the wrong sperm.In a fascinating legal case out of Singapore, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that this situation doesn’t just constitute medical malpractice. The fertility clinic, the court recently ruled, must pay the parents 30% of upkeep costs for the child for a loss of ‘genetic affinity.’ In other words, the clinic must pay the parents’ child support not only because they made a terrible medical mistake, but because the child didn’t wind up with the right genes.At a time when rapidly advancing science and technology puts things like genetically engineering embryos to prevent disease in the realm of reality, the case sets an intriguing precedent. First, it places a monetary value on the amount of DNA that a child shares with their parents. And it suggests that the base genetic makeup of a child can actually be ‘wrong.’
Daily Archives: April 30, 2017
Perhaps the most potent argument against suicide in modern secular societies is that it constitutes wastage of the agent’s own life and commits at the very least indirect harm to the lives of others who in various ways have depended on the agent. However, the force of this argument could be mitigated if the suicide occurred in the context of experimentation, including self-experimentation, with very risky treatments that aim to extend the human condition. Suicides in these cases could be quite informative and hence significantly advance the prospects of the rest of humanity. The suicide agent’s life would most certainly not have been in vain.Much if not most of the cutting edge ‘enhancement’ research is currently conducted on non-humans and/or simulated on computers. Regardless of the promise of such research, it is generally agreed that the real epistemic step change will come from monitoring human usage of the relevant enhancement treatments. But as long as research ethics codes for human subjects continue to dwell in the shadow of the Nuremberg Trials, a very high bar will be set on what counts as ‘informed consent’. Nowadays, more than seventy years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, the only obvious reason for such a high bar is the insurance premiums that universities and other research institutes would need to bear if they liberalized the terms on which subjects could offer themselves in service of risky enhancement research.Of course, the actual outcomes of such experiments need not be death, just as the actual outcomes of suicide attempts are often not death. Nevertheless, the agent would be treating the prospect of suicide in the spirit of self-sacrifice, not so very different from citizens who volunteer to join military service, knowing full well that they may need to give up their life at some point. In this way, the moral stigma surrounding suicide would be removed. Indeed, in a truly progressive society, this route to suicide may come to be seen as a legitimate lifestyle choice – one that might even become popular if/when death comes to be medically reversible.
According to sustainability campaign Ban The Bottle, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles last year, only recycling 38. Just manufacturing those bottles, the campaign writes on its website, requires more than 17 million barrels of oil — or enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year. It’s clear that using disposable bottles create waste and inefficiency on an enormous scale not limited to landfills, but, according to National Geographic, sales of water bottles are increasing, even as people become more and more environmentally aware. To address this problem, three design students from Spain have come up with a simple, sustainable solution: edible water bottles. Or, potentially more accurately, edible water blobs.
In turbulent times there is something emotionally powerful about reliability in and of itself. Facebook, for all its faults, is reliable. I can bet on Facebook being up and available more often than the Internet connection I rely on to access it. Hell, it works more reliably than my toilet. Changes to the site trigger cascades of stories and opinions about user experience which, really, goes to show how infrequently Facebook makes major alterations to core functions. You don’t have to like Facebook as a company or as a product to acknowledge that it is stable and works as intended more often that most other things. This transcendent reliability—a steadfast infrastructure of emotive communication and identity construction—has become Facebook’s core service. You may not like what you see in your timeline, but the timeline will be there.Watching an organization embed itself into the lives of nearly a third of the global population is a strange thing. To be a common tread across all of those lives is to be as unthreatening or uncontroversial as possible. Conversely, it was only a matter of time before Facebook played host to something deeply disturbing like a murder, or even world-changing like a reactionary election. This tension between striving for unassuming background service and inevitable host to calamity goes a long way towards explaining why Mark Zuckerberg is traveling across the U.S and writing 6,000-word manifestos about community, despite the fact that most Facebook users aren’t Americans and Facebook is not a community. Shoring up good will in the most powerful nation on the planet is not only good business, it is tapping into a tradition of American progressivism that is so embedded in our daily lives we can’t recognize it when we see it enacted. It is the water we swim in and Mark Zuckerberg wants to tint it Facebook blue.