Historian Roger Launius’s talk at this week’s Space Technology and Applications International Forum (STAIF 2007) in Albuquerque is summarized here on Space.com. It’s brief: I’d recommend a peek to familiarize yourself with the three developments he discusses: biological evolution/adaptation, electronics, and cyborgs.
Launius addresses human births on the moon and Mars. It doesn’t seem realistic that such people would be able to return to Earth. Of course, by the time that settlement happens, we may be able to stabilize the human genome and prevent natural or radiation-induced adaptations. Sort of like the early lungfish hitting the beach with skinsuits full of water.
Then he treats the issue of Cybernetic Organisms, or cyborgs.
“We may already be Cyborgs,” Launius pointed out, looking out into an audience filled with people wearing glasses, hearing aids and sporting hip and knee replacements—not to mention those clinging to their hand-held mobile phones and other communication devices.
Projecting hundreds of years into the future, Launius said he believed that it is likely humans will evolve in ways that cannot be fathomed today, into a form of species perhaps tagged Homo sapiens Astro. “Will our movement to places like the Moon and Mars hasten this evolutionary process? … I don’t know the answer,” he said.
What are the moral implications of such changes? Would we be able to assert that natural adaptation and evolution on the moon, Mars, and in space habitats is part of a natural progression for human beings? Does the introduction of cybernetic components somehow demean or desecrate a human being? If contact lenses and artificial hips are okay, what more can be added or replaced in the human physical form before we reach a moral limit? Or is our spiritual side, our soul what makes us truly and authentically human, and therefore a free will change or alteration morally acceptable?