056. Artificial life

A discussion on new forms.

Due to the pandemic, we will meet remotely on February 23 at 7 PM EST (Zoom link here)

Questions to ponder

  1. Who are you and what makes your life “real”?
  2. On May 20, 2010, Science published an article on the Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome (Gibson et. al 2010) the first known instance of humans creating “new cells […] capable of continuous self-replication”. In comparison to the creation of any other “artificial” thing, was the moral significance of this act any greater? If so, what lends it such weight? If not, what then is the significance of “life” ceteris paribus?
  3. Much of “life” on this earth is “artificial”. Animals bred only for food, animals domesticated as pets, animals kept at zoos. By what degrees does the imposition of this sort of artificiality on the lives of animals constitute an im/moral act?
  4. Humans, by their very nature (these days) radically alter the nature around them. Leveling forests, damming up rivers, paving roads, building bridges, heating the atmosphere, the environments humans “need” affect the environments others must live in. What is the bare moral minimum we owe to “preserve” “nature” and who among us meets that minimum?
  5. Is living in a skyscraper an artificial way of life for humans? Is living in an RV? A McMansion? 
  6. Should corporations be thought of as “artificial persons”? 
  7. Does the creation of life come with a specific set of consequences?
  8. Let’s go back to that artificiality v. im/morality spectrum. Surely, we can all agree that animal experimentation to the extent done now by “modern science” is very artificial. Organisms bred to spec, ravaged by the curiosity of the well-funded, and euthanized for data, models, results cannot be said to have lived any sort of “natural” life. And those lives were lived for the scientific enterprise. Tens of millions of lives created, altered, observed, and ended for another species’ investigations. Is this fair?
  9. Are our lives These Days™ “artificial”? Is this “real” life?

Readings to consider