Doctor Who Trashes Transhumanism

[Commentary] | [Spoilers]

The first episode of the new season of Doctor Who was the last place I expected to see a rant against cloning, life extension, and transhumanism. In the new episode, written by Russell T. Davies, [spoiler alert] a race of feline nurses in the distant future has secretly grown and experimented on human clones to learn how to cure all diseases. By the end of the episode the Doctor has expressed his outrage, freed all of the imprisoned clones, and convinced a grotesque transhuman enemy that she must give up her pursuit of beauty and life extension and instead die like she is suppose to [end spoiler].

Clearly, popular fiction is the last place I should expect a thoughtful exploration of issues. Why popular fiction continues to depict scientists and transhumanists as villains and progress as “yucky” is unclear, but it is unfortunate that these fallacies also continue to play such a huge role in the ongoing debates over stem cell research, nanotechnology, life extension, cryonics, etc. Like Davies, critics create from their incorrect notions frightening futures of science gone awry to scare people into resisting new technologies.

It can easily be shown that these futures are simply not possible. For example, progress in stem cell research, organ tissue engineering, and artificial organ replacements have already rendered obsolete the human clone slaughterhouses envisioned by Davies and other critics. Why feed, store, clean, and otherwise maintain human clones when you can just grow or replace the required organs more cheaply and in much less time? Human clone farms, clone armies, clone basketball teams and all the other nonsense proposed as reasons for banning human cloning are neither economically feasible nor worthwhile to even the most despicable villain.

Science fiction has always been important for exploring the events and issues of the times. What we need are new archetypes that live within future worlds extrapolated from our own reality. Prose continues to offer just such fiction. I wonder if and television and movies will catch up.

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Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a writer and poet. His first published poem, "Roadside Freak Show," arrives on August 21, 2017 in Impossible Archetype.  His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey. Richard is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team at the University of Arizona. He monitors images of the Martian surface taken by the HiRISE camera located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars and helps ensure they process successfully and are validated for quick release to the science community and public. Once upon a time, Richard wrote and edited the science and technology news and commentary website Frontier Channel, hosted the RADIO Frontier Channel podcast, and organized transhumanist clubs. Follow Richard on his website (richardleis.com), on Goodreads (richardleis), Twitter (@richardleisjr), and Facebook (richardleisjr).