Anticipating the ultimate innovation, volitional evolution: can it not be promoted or attempted responsibly?

Journal of Responsible Innovation 2 (3):280-300 (2015)
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The aspiration for volitional evolution, or human evolution directed by humans themselves,has increased in philosophical, scientific, technical, and commercial literature. The prospect of shaping the very being who is the consumer of all other innovations offers great commercial potential, one to which all other innovations would in effect be subservient. Actually an amalgam of projected technical/commercial developments, this prospective innovation has practical and ethical ramifications. However, because it is often discussed in a scientific way (specifically that of evolutionary theory), it first calls for examination in terms of common scientific approaches to evolution. Yet, as evolutionary-theory controversies point up, evolution may be considered as neither a directed nor a directable process – a problem for the ontology of volitional evolution. One challenge for theories and programs aiming to implement the proposed innovation is then whether it is theoretically coherent. While I offer responses to the challenge in the form of objections, these in turn remain problematic. Two central issues of responsible innovation arise: (1) If this prospect were feasible, would it be responsible to implement it, and (2) if it is not even theoretically coherent, is it responsible for innovators, even this early-on, to keep promoting it as if it were?

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Lantz Fleming Miller
University of Twente


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