With one strand of the festival exploring Alternative You and how our identities may be shaped in the future, one panel addressed how the wealthy’s obsession with optimisation could lead to new, biological inequalities in the future.
Kate Pickett, an epidemiologist at the University of York, discussed the importance of reducing inequality in order to promote better health and wellbeing among the lower classes, who are suffering the most as a result of low social capital. With the UK’s infant mortality rate rising and life expectancy rates lagging, she argued that we need to priortise our most basic issues before we start enhancing ourselves: ‘We need to learn to become human humans first.’
However, sociologist Steve Fuller, who writes about the benefits of transhumanism in his book Humanity 2.0, believes society needs to balance fixing these current issues with a long-term plan for biological optimisation. While currently transhumanism remains the purview of Silicon Valley elites, Fuller predicted that these controversial procedures will eventually be available on the National Health Service, reducing wealth-based inequalities. As soon as governments realise that these enhancements could improve the human capital of the country, an established, legal market may bring down costs and allow equal access for everyone.
Watch out for an upcoming Q&A with Steve Fuller in our Big Ideas.