Advances across a broad front in biology, cognitive psychology, and information technology are challenging our traditional notions of human nature and calling into question the terms of self-description that define our distinctive place and purpose within the order of creation. Blurring the boundaries between humans, animals, and machines, these advances raise theoretical and practical challenges of profound importance for the future of humanity.
We propose a comprehensive project of interdisciplinary dialogue, scientific and scholarly research, and public education and engagement to address the important issues at the intersection of biotechnology and human identity.
These activities will be organized around several important questions central to human self-understanding: What are the unique and defining features of human nature? What biological composition, social conditions, and spiritual concepts support the fullest flourishing of these distinguishing dimensions of human life? And, most perplexing, what role will our emerging technologies, and the cultural ideas that guide them, play in shaping the human future?
Over the past several years, during the planning phase of this project, we have convened an active community of leading Stanford and Bay Area scholars, scientists, and Silicon Valley engineers and entrepreneurs in an extended exploration and dialogue about human nature and the potential impact of advancing biotechnology. This Interdisciplinary Faculty Seminar will form the central axis of our ongoing project, through which we will explore, synthesize, and distill the insights of our inquiry. At the same time, we will run a sub-grant program of up to twenty-four scientific and scholarly projects aligned to address key questions related to our considerations.
Along with a series of public lectures, annual conferences, and publications, we will conduct a major program of educational outreach within academia and more broadly to the general public. With this effort we will aim to increase depth of awareness, correct widespread misunderstandings, and engage a broad and diverse audience in dialogue about the challenges and opportunities of our advancing biotechnology.
Throughout these conversations, inquiries, and activities we will seek a coherent physical, cultural, and philosophical anthropology—an understanding of the 'boundaries of humanity’ that defends human dignity and promotes the personal, social, and spiritual flourishing of human life.