Monday, March 12, 2012

Do NOT miss this article: Global warming solutions include drugs to help you write checks to Oxfam, drugs to help you avoid eating meat, genetically engineered cat-like eyes, and "human engineering" to make people smaller

How Human Engineering Could Be the Solution to Climate Change - Ross Andersen - Technology - The Atlantic

From drugs to help you avoid eating meat to genetically engineered cat-like eyes to reduce the need for lighting, a wild interview about changes humans could make to themselves to battle climate change....For instance, many people wish to give up meat for ecological reasons, but lack the willpower to do so on their own. The paper suggests that such individuals could take a pill that would trigger mild nausea upon the ingestion of meat, which would then lead to a lasting aversion to meat-eating. Other techniques are bound to be more controversial. For instance, the paper suggests that parents could make use of genetic engineering or hormone therapy in order to birth smaller, less resource-intensive children. 

The lead author of the paper, S. Matthew Liao, is a professor of philosophy and bioethics at New York University.
[Liao] 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. 
And so size reduction could be one way to reduce a person's ecological footprint. For instance if you reduce the average U.S. height by just 15cm, you could reduce body mass by 21% for men and 25% for women, with a corresponding reduction in metabolic rates by some 15% to 18%, because less tissue means lower energy and nutrient needs.
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. 
In your paper you suggest that some human engineering solutions may actually be liberty enhancing. How so?

Liao: That's right. It's been suggested that, given the seriousness of climate change, we ought to adopt something like China's one child policy. There was a group of doctors in Britain who recently advocated a two-child maximum. 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. If that's the case, given certain fixed allocations of greenhouse gas emissions, 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." A family might want a really good basketball player, and so they could use human engineering to have one really large child. 
...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. Maybe even by a shocking percentage.


Anonymous said...

Why not start engineering these green parasites to become altruist and beneficial?

Anonymous said...

Rather than spending money on drugs, and consequences of the drugs, etc., let's keep it simple. Just shoot anyone the day they exceed 90 lbs.
Don't need cattle, pets, elephants, lions, tigers. Maybe in the true liberal mentality we just exterminate mankind, or maybe just men?

William Teach said...

Double facepalm.

TDK said...

Let's be real. A drug that increased my empathic capacity would just reduce the likelihood of my giving money to anti-development NGOs like Oxfam. I want them to escape poverty.

Alex Cull said...

The future of humanity - vegan hobbits on drugs, who can see in the dark... There have been some good discussions about the Liao paper over at Climate Resistance:

Anonymous said...

Liao needs to go to Africa and lecture the Watusi tribe about them being too tall.