The right not to be a cyborg

The futurist Gerd Leonhard asks some important ethical questions in his book “Technology vs. Humanity”:

This article (in German) gives a summary:

Here is an interesting excerpt (my translation):

Probably the most interesting chapter is the one on digital ethics. Leonhard postulates five new Human Rights for the digital age:

  1. The right to remain a natural, non-augmented human being. “We must have the choice to remain biologically and genetically unaugmented, thus not having to become cyborgs in order to be able to keep up.”
  2. The right to be inefficient if our humanity depends on this. “We absolutely need the option to be allowed to be slower than technology—efficiency cannot become more important than humanity.”
  3. The right to switch off. “Being offline will be the next big luxury, but it should generally remain a digital fundamental right.”
  4. The right to remain anonymous. “In this upcoming world of constant connectivity we should still have the option not to be identified and followed, for instance when using a digital application or platform or when commenting on or criticising something.”
  5. The right to employ people instead of machines. “We should not allow that companies or employers are discriminated against if they prefer to employ people instead of machines, even if they are more expensive and less efficient.”

This is an important issue. I think technology and particularly AI and Robotics are advancing far faster than we humans let alone our society and government are capable of dealing with and perhaps even comprehending. It could be a rough ride.

1 Like

Thanks, that’s a great perspective. It seems we lose these things before we even notice. Try telling kids that they have a “right” to not use a phone!

1 Like

My favourite one is Nr. 2: The right to be inefficient and slow :snail:


These enumerated ‘rights’ illustrates discordant visions of a good society that we face today. For instance:

The right to refuse augmentation is a special case of a broader right to refuse medical treatment. But the idea of “not having to become cyborgs in order to keep up” is quite problematical IMO.

An argument of the form “not having to ______ in order to _____” implies
’rights’ such as:

  • I have the ‘right’ to refuse all medical treatment yet to be as healthy as those who do.
  • I have the right to ride a motorcycle without a helmet or protective gear yet be as safe as the driver of the safest car.
  • In the case of serious injury I have to right to refuse life saving treatment and yet live.
  • In the case of injury to bones or joints I have the right to refuse treatment or restorative surgery but be as able-bodied as those who do.

In addition the idea of “being able to keep up” is vague, plastic and historically has been the justification for gross oppression even genocide. (USSR, Cambodia’s ‘killing fields’, some forms of anti-Semitism etc)
What would be needed are a safe guard for the rights of cyborgs? A civil and just society would ensure that cyborgs have the right of being able to enjoy some kind of advantages because of their status.

One wonders how or if the author of the book accounts for such considerations.

1 Like