It’s time to consider restricting human breeding (Wired UK)


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Given the number of children that starve each day,
dwindling planetary resources and the coming transhumanist era, it
might be time to consider restricting human breeding, argues
futurist Zoltan Istvan in
this guest post

A few years ago, I was at a doctor party, the kind where tired
residents drop by in their scrubs, everyone drinks red wine, and
discussion centres around medical industry gripes. I wandered over
to a group of obstetricians and
listened in. One tall blonde woman said something that caught my
attention: with 10,000 kids dying everyday around the world
from starvation, you’d think we’d put birth control in the
water.

The controversial idea to restrict or control human breeding is
not new. In 1980, Hugh LaFollette, Ethics professor at the
University of South Florida, wrote a seminal essay on the topic
titled Licensing
Parents
. Since then, philosophers and even some politicians
have considered the idea, especially in light of China, the most
populated country in the world, implementing a one-child policy
that is in effect today.

For most people in the 21st Century, however, the idea of
restricting the right to have offspring for any reason whatsoever
seems blatantly authoritarian. Telling a person when and how many
children they can have violates just about every core value we
possess in a free society. It’s a thorny issue made even more
complicated by the coming transhumanist era, which is almost upon
us.

The transhumanist age — where radical science and technology
will revolutionise the human being and experience — will
eventually bring us indefinite lifespans, cyborgization, cloning,
and even ectogenesis, where
people use artificial wombs outside of their bodies to raise
foetuses.

Breeding controls and measures make more sense when you consider
that some leading life extensionist scientists believe we will
conquer human mortality in the next 20 years. Already, in 2010,
scientists had some success with stopping and  reversing ageing in mice. The obvious question is: In this
transhumanist future, should everyone still be allowed to have
unlimited children whenever they want?


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The philosophical conundrum of controlling human procreation
rests mostly on whether all human beings are actually responsible
enough to be good parents and can provide properly for their
offspring. Clearly, untold numbers of children — for example,
those millions that are slaves in the illegal human trafficking
industry — are born to unfit parents.

In an attempt to solve this problem and give hundreds of
millions of future kids a better life, I cautiously endorse the
idea of licensing parents, a process that would be little different
than getting a driver’s licence. Parents who pass a series of basic
tests qualify and get the green light to get pregnant and raise
children. Those applicants who are deemed unworthy — perhaps
because they are homeless, or have drug problems, or are violent
criminals, or have no resources to raise a child properly and keep
it from going hungry — would not be allowed until they could
demonstrate they were suitable parents.

Transhumanist Hank Pellissier, founder of the Brighter Brains
Institute, also supports the idea, insisting on humanitarian
grounds that it would bring a measured sense of responsibility to
raising kids. In an essay, he
notes professor and bioethics pioneer Joseph
Fletcher
 saying that “many births are
accidental”. Accidentally getting pregnant often leaves
women unable to pursue their careers and lives as they might’ve
hoped for and wanted.

Naturally, some environmentalists, such as American
educator Paul L
Ehrlich,
 author of landmark book The Population Bomb,
also advocate for government intervention to control human
population, which would be one sure way to help the planet’s
fragile and depleted ecosystems.

One of the most comprehensive works about the idea of
restricting breeding is Peg Tittle’s book Should
Parents be Licensed? Debating the Issues.
 It’s a balanced
collection of essays by experts with various views on the
subject.

There’s no question that some of the ideas of licensing parents
make sense. After all, we don’t allow people to drive cars on crack
cocaine. Why would we allow them to procreate if they want while on
it? The goal with licensing parents is not so much to restrict
freedoms, but to guarantee the maximum resources to those children
that exist and will exist in the future.

Of course, the problem is always in the details. How could
society monitor such a licensing process? Would governments force
abortion upon mothers if they were found to be pregnant without
permission? These things seem unimaginable in most societies around
the world. Besides, who wants the government handling human
breeding when it can’t do basic things like balance its own budgets
and stay out of wars? Perhaps a nonprofit entity like the World
Health Organisation might be able to step in and offer more
confidence.

I see near-term hope in what can be called a new
transhuman-inspired  birth control device  originally developed at MIT and now
backed by funding from Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The implanted
microchip lasts for up to 16 years — three times current
implantable devices, including IUDs — and can deliver hormones
into the body via an on-off switch on your mobile phone. It’s not a
huge jump to imagine governments seeing opportunity in using this.
Many children born into poverty end up costing taxpayers billions.
Sadly, a high percentage of those same kids will end up on the
streets, in gangs, or in prison after they become adults. Just as
legalisation of abortion has helped drive down crime rates,
licensing parents would likely have the same effect.

The approximate  10,000  starving child deaths a day that that the
aforementioned doctor cited come from various reports and studies,
all of which point to the fact that well over 50 million kids have
died due to hunger and malnutrition in the last 30 years. That’s a
lot of kids.

What’s more, 15
percent 
of kids in the US — the supposed wealthiest
country in the world — suffer from hunger. A large portion of them
are born to families that don’t have the resources to properly
raise a child. After all, if you can’t feed a child, you probably
shouldn’t have one. Licensing would’ve restricted many of those
births until the parents were more able to deal with the challenges
of procreation, which is undoubtedly the most intense and
serious long term responsibility most human beings will face in
their lives.

As a liberty-loving person, I have always eschewed giving up any
freedoms. However, in some cases, the statistics are so
overwhelming, that at the very least, given the coming era of
indefinite lifespans and transhumanist technology, we must remain
open-minded to consider how best to move the species forward to
produce the happiest and healthiest children for the planet.
Anything less will leave us with millions more preventable deaths
and incalculable suffering of innocent kids.

Zoltan Istvan is a futurist,
philosopher, journalist, and transhumanist. He is the author of the
bestselling novel The Transhumanist Wager

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14 August 2014 | 3:44 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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