Improving Humans in the 21st Century: A Public Forum
Author: Angela D. Abel, Office of Marketing and Communications, 503-725-8763
Posted: February 1, 2006

The convergence of genetics, robotics, information and nano-technologies will improve human performance and capabilities like never before. What kind of society will this new phase of technological development bring about?

Business leaders in Oregon have made many of these technologies a priority for the state and see them as a way to grow Oregon’s economy. In 2003 Oregon took a major step toward becoming a national leader in the development of “small tech” by establishing the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI), of which Portland State University is a member.

Portland State University and Geneforum, a Portland-based non-profit that educates, engages, and consults the public on bioethical issues, have invited James Hughes, executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies at Trinity College and author of Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future to discuss the science, ethics and ramifications of improving humans through technology. James Hughes will speak on Monday, February 6, from 10 – 11:30 a.m. at Portland State’s Smith Memorial Student Union, 1825 SW Broadway, Room 294.

“An integral part of Geneforum’s mission is to encourage public dialogue and collect public values as these technologies develop rather than after they are already established,” said Greg Fowler, adjunct professor of Biology at Portland State University and executive director of Geneforum. “This is a rare opportunity for Oregonians to share their values while these new technologies are still in the early stages.”

Hughes will also meet with Portland State faculty and chairs of the Hatfield School and the Department of Engineering and Technology Management to stress how universities can guide the future direction and impact of new technologies through the creation of specialized interdisciplinary policy centers or institutes.

“Technological progress is happening much faster than most of the public and most public policy makers are aware,” said Hughes. “Issues such as neo-eugenics, genetic enhancement, cloning, and gene doping in sports are now pressing and imminent concerns. Multidisciplinary groups dedicated to pulling together the economic, philosophical and democratic concerns that these emerging technologies raise are absolutely critical today.”

The public forum is sponsored by Geneforum and the following Portland State University organizations: University Studies Capstone Course; Center for Public Participation, National Policy Consensus Center, Hatfield School of Government; Department of Engineering and Technology Management; and the Center for Academic Excellence.

For more information (press only): Greg Fowler, Geneforum executive director, 503-636-3627, or Andrew Fowler, 503-866-2464.

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Greg Fowler (503-636-3627)
Executive Director, Geneforum

For Immediate Release (#06-017)