From the vaunted academic community that brought us post-natal abortions, here's the latest batch of Earth-friendly ideas in the world of "bioethics". Dr. S. Matthew Liao is a professor of philosophy and bioethics at New York University. You need only to read the questions from the interviewer to get a taste of the utter depravity of what he's proposing in the cause of, what else, "saving" the "planet".
One human engineering strategy you mention is a kind of pharmacologically induced meat intolerance. You suggest that humans could be given meat alongside a medication that triggers extreme nausea, which would then cause a long-lasting aversion to meat eating.
How about this idea:
Your paper also discusses the use of human engineering to make humans smaller. ... What are the various ways humans could be engineered to be smaller?
Liao: Well one of the things that we noticed is that human ecological footprints are partly correlated with size. Each kilogram of body mass requires a certain amount of food and nutrients and so, other things being equal, the larger person is the more food and energy they are going to soak up over the course of a lifetime. There are also other, less obvious ways in which larger people consume more energy than smaller people---for example a car uses more fuel per mile to carry a heavier person, more fabric is needed to clothe larger people, and heavier people wear out shoes, carpets and furniture at a quicker rate than lighter people, and so on.
It is little comfort that the author assures us he's only recommending these as voluntary measures. There's no way governments would abuse something like, say, chemical-induced behavior modification:
In the paper you also discuss the pharmacological enhancement of empathy and altruism, because empathy and altruism tend to be highly correlated with positive attitudes toward the environment. To me this one seems like it might be the most troubling. Isn't it more problematic to do biological tinkering to produce a belief, rather than simply engineering humans so that they are better equipped to implement their beliefs?
Liao: Yes. It's certainly ethically problematic to insert beliefs into people, and so we want to be clear that's not something we're proposing. What we have in mind has more to do with weakness of will. For example, I might know that I ought to send a check to Oxfam, but because of a weakness of will I might never write that check. But if we increase my empathetic capacities with drugs, then maybe I might overcome my weakness of will and write that check.
Of course, this is no threat to freedom. Quite to the contrary.
In your paper you suggest that some human engineering solutions may actually be liberty enhancing. How so?
Liao: It's been suggested that, given the seriousness of climate change, we ought to adopt something like China's one child policy. ... But at the end of the day those are crude prescriptions---what we really care about is some kind of fixed allocation of greenhouse gas emissions per family. ... human engineering could give families the choice between two medium sized children, or three small sized children. From our perspective that would be more liberty enhancing than a policy that says "you can only have one or two children."
They weren't just publishing any lousy thing that came to mind, but only the safest and most well-thought out ideas. Among the rejected proposals:
Your paper focuses on human engineering techniques that are relatively safe. Did your research lead you to any interesting techniques that were unsafe?
Liao: Actually, yes, although unfortunately the science is not there yet---we looked into cat eyes, the technique of giving humans cat eyes or of making their eyes more catlike. The reason is, cat eyes see nearly as well as human eyes during the day, but much better at night. We figured that if everyone had cat eyes, you wouldn't need so much lighting, and so you could reduce global energy usage considerably.
And of course, they were not willing to do anything risky with Mother, thank heavens.
With respect to geoengineering, the worry is that it's just too risky---many of the technologies involved have never been attempted on such a large scale, and so you have to worry that by implementing these techniques we could endanger ourselves or future generations.
Yes, too risky. We don't want any unintended consequences.