Editor's Pick

Editor’s Pick, September 2015: Robert Sparrow

The editor’s pick for the September 2015 issue is  “Enhancement and Obsolescence: Avoiding an ‘Enhanced Rat Race’” by Robert Sparrow. Sparrow identifies a social concern about making enhancements that increase productivity (including cognitive and physical enhancements) widely available: if these enhancements are not “upgradable” or are only upgradable at extravagant cost, we might end up with a situation in which every few years, a new crop of young adults renders their elders literally obsolete. His portrayal of the technological possibility of obsolescent people is powerful. This “enhanced rat race” would, Sparrow argues, intensify the competitive, class-divided, socially stratified, stressful character of capitalist culture at its worst. An important philosophical byproduct of his argument is that there are significant ethical distinctions between upgradable and permanent enhancements, as well as previously unnoticed ethical issues that arise if we make enhancements available to those with sufficient personal resources.

Download a PDF of Sparrow’s fascinating paper here.