English 165LB: Literature & Biotechnology (W11)

–> our course blog

Cloning discussion thread

Posted by rraley on January 26, 2011

// If you want to post about VAS, use one of the previous discussion threads. Let’s start the topic of cloning here.


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Second discussion thread for VAS

Posted by rraley on January 23, 2011

// You can post here or on the last thread; I’m dividing it up so it’s not a single conversation.

Note: the better posts begin not with ‘I found this confusing’ but rather with ‘Here is what I found when I read.’

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Body modification (by Kellyn & Hayley)

Posted by rraley on January 22, 2011

No one is the perfect specimen, but we have the fantasy that through body modification we can achieve perfection. Hence Heidi Montag’s 10 surgeries that took her from natural beauty to freakish cyborg.

[heidi montag image here]

Heidi may have her Barbie body, but what’s the next surgery for perfection? The ideal of beauty is mercurial, and even with body modification you may find yourself one procedure behind. Could the future of popular body modification be eye jewels, pointy ears, or animal features?

[ear image here]

When does body modification become necessary for you to function as a normal member of society? What if what once gave you distinction is now imperative to simply be normal? This is a particular concern in the field of cosmetic neurology:  “Some neurologists recently have wondered whether their field is the next frontier in elective medicine. The specialty now tries to protect ailing brains from conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or migraine headaches. But doctors’ efforts one day may extend to normal brains.” “As he envisions it, cosmetic neurology one day could mean not only sharpening intelligence, but also elevating other dictates of the brain — reflexes, attention, mood and memory. Studying for the SAT? Take this drug to retain more of those pesky facts. About to report for duty at the fire station? These pills will improve your reflexes. Here’s the 800 number. Ask your doctor.” “In his editorial, Chatterjee also raised questions about whether cosmetic neurology might lead to coercion in certain professions. If a drug improved the emergency reaction of pilots, would they then be forced to take it? Would you pay more for a flight knowing the pilots took the drug?”

We’ve been taught to trust in science and progress to improve our lives. But with each new technology for body modification comes new societal ideals. What are we leaving behind and striving towards? Is it ever reachable?

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Discussion: VAS

Posted by rraley on January 15, 2011

// Discussion thread for Steve Tomasula, VAS: An Opera in Flatland

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Advisory group suggests Pentagon map genes of all personnel

Posted by rraley on January 14, 2011

“The technology for sequencing human DNA is advancing so rapidly and the cost is dropping so quickly that the number of individuals whose DNA has been mapped is expected to grow “from hundreds of people (current) to millions of people (probably within three years),” according to a new report to the Pentagon (pdf) from the JASON defense science advisory panel.  The Defense Department should begin to take advantage of the advances in “personal genomics technology” by collecting genetic information on all military personnel, the panel advised….

For military purposes, it will be up to the Department of Defense “to determine which phenotypes… have special relevance to military performance and medical cost containment” and then presumably to select for those.  “These phenotypes might pertain to short- and long-term medical readiness, physical and medical performance, and response to drugs, vaccines, and various environmental exposures…. More specifically, one might wish to know about phenotypic responses to battlefield stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder, the ability to tolerate conditions of sleep deprivation, dehydration, or prolonged exposure to heat, cold, or high altitude, or the susceptibility to traumatic bone fracture, prolonged bleeding, or slow wound healing.”
[From Secrecy News; January 13, 2011]

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AI and the Singularity

Posted by rraley on January 13, 2011

The Singularity: Humanity’s Last Invention?” (NPR; January 11, 2011)

“It’s been called “the rapture of the nerds.” For some computer experts, the Singularity is the moment when an artificial intelligence learns how to improve itself in an exponential “intelligence explosion.” They say it’s a bigger threat to puny humans than global warming or nuclear war — and they’re trying to figure out how to stop it.”

–!> Open discussion

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Open thread

Posted by rraley on January 5, 2011

feel free to jump in and start discussion if you’d like…

Posted in discussion | 9 Comments »

First notice: class canceled Thurs, Jan 6

Posted by rraley on December 21, 2010

Please note that we will not be having class on Thursday, January 6. I will be attending the annual MLA convention on that day.

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