Ben McCann

Accountant, Brian E Nizette & Co

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At what point in modifying our bodies are we no longer human and when does it become taboo?

In a culture of body modification and surgical improvement at what point are we no longer human?

This covers not only thinks like having ears plugged and horns implanted under our skin but also plastic surgery, implanted RFID chips and modifying existing medical technology to improve our life in a non medical way!

What about the replacement of our limbs with robotic parts for non medical purposes? Would this create a separation in society between people with theses augmentations and those without?

Where does changing your body become taboo and when is it wrong to transgress the taboos?

How do you change the views of society to believe this taboo is correct and move them on to the path of progress?

Consider gaining a sixth sense (read link below) when you discuss this!


The magnet technology has been updated and there are now two forms of it being implanted without issues.

  • May 6 2011: I believe that the extreme taboo begins the moment you start changing the body beyond piercing and tattoos. I still feel that breast implants are wrong and shouldn't be done for anyone other than those who have lost their breasts to surgery or have deformed breasts.

    The overall taboo begins when you change your body beyond what gods ideal was. The path of progress will come in the form of other fields and we don't need to progress in the field of the human body anymore!

    As for that link on gaining a sixth sense I do believe that anyone who implants something like that is just sick. You don't need to know about where electromagnetic fields are.

    It doesn't serve any purpose!
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      May 13 2011: James, I read your answer with interest. If you started a relationship with a woman you really liked only to discover later that she had cosmetic surgery woud you end the relationship? What does it mean to you when someone augments their body?
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    May 4 2011: What if people started getting things for non medical reasons? For example, if in the future you can get a prosthetic arm that is stronger and more capable than your normal human arm, would removing your arm to replace it with machine alter peoples view on you as a human?

    Lets assume your someone of "normal" social ideals and aren't extreme about any ideas or ways of life but you decided (for non medical reasons) to replace a limb/s with a prosthetic more superior limb. Would this repel you from people and change the way the view you as a person? Would this change the way that they talk to you? Would it impose a view that says "He wouldn't understand because...."

    Im going beyond people getting horns and scribbles and looking at people actually trying to make a better body not just a "more ideal" body image for themselves.

    My topic seems to branch over the taboo's a little more than what i first thought...
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      May 4 2011: My best insight into this would be Cyborgs from Star Trek and there was the assumption that it would be evil but not so much in the physical but in the 'hive mind' concept as though we would all link and not be able to think independently.
      My own concern , though, would be continuing to value all people and no one feeling pressured into altering themselves for reasons of 'keeping up'. I do not want to promote the natural human being as an underclass.
      I cannot imagine thnking that some one who needed augmentation for going into space would be considered inhuman or someone who could perform greater deep sea work. If they were doing it to compete in the humanchine olympics they would become future Xtreme athletes.

      We have people now who are experimenting with all sorts of implants in their own bodies. I might be worried if they were my own kids (but worrying never kept some of them from getting tattos or piercings anyway.)
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        May 4 2011: Fair enough i they needed it for work, but im talking about you and I and not captain america. I am talking about people "keeping up" in a certain sense. What happens if the average Joe starts getting this done? Wouldn't they unintentionally separate themselves from us as those with extreme body mods do?

        Socialising with people of the similar view that "this is the way forwards", creating their own exclusion from society and pushing us away from them making those without the augmentation the outcasts.

        BTW i loved that video on the printed kidneys :)
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      May 5 2011: Hi Ben, thinking about these things is just fun.
      I am in alignment with your thinking about the pressures that will arise in human competition etc. That's why I talked about natural humans not becoming an underclass. I do not know how to stop it though. I do already have friends with implants in their eyes so that they can see without glasses, and if I am honest some of the girls I know upped their anti with a bit of enhancement if you catch my drift. Isn't that in essence a primitive form of what we're talking about?
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        May 5 2011: While it may cause the guys to stare and drool a bit it wasn't the direction i was headed. I'm talking about going above and beyond what the human body can do. I guess I'm leaning more towards the cyborg sort of area. Things like eye and breast implants are done so that people can fit into the norm or feek that their bodies are more normal. If you were to augment your body so it was beyond normal and verging on super human then how would people react to this?
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          May 5 2011: I've seen a few super human girls like that!
          Of course I know that wasn't what you were intending but a little levity is a good thing. I acknowledge that the we will likely face the problems you suggest. It will come first in designer babies, I think where the rich will have the smartest, most beautiful, tallest, strongest by genetics. Later, ego driven people like warriors will want mechanical or robotic enhancements. Why wear night vision goggles when you could just have an extra lens in your eyes?
          I hope that you will be able to give discerning leadership on this because I will likely not be around for the biggest problems.
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        May 5 2011: Of course i will :)
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    May 4 2011: Fascinating topic Ben!
    In my opinion, as long as we have our thought processes and are stil 'me' inside - we are human. The core of our humanity is in our figurative hearts and literal minds.This sort of debate has happened all through history in varying forms. When the idea of cloning first came up- people asked if clones would have 'souls' because they were not created by God. To justify the treatment of different groups -especially slaves- religious people said they had no 'souls'. No souls is just another way of saying not fully human or less than. If a person has a hand transplant- they are not less- they are restored. If a person has a prosthesis- they are not less. In a world that highly values appearances rather than substance we could err on the side of the conventional. I am all for giving people the best possible lives with artificial kidneys made from 3D printers, with robotics or with stem cells.- and I will call them by their name and recognize them.To your point about cosmetic changes- i am pretty laise faire on that one. It is their body and their money so if they choose to scribble on it or add horns who am I to even have an opinion?
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    May 4 2011: Thats a great talk but im talking about physically adding things to our body such as robotic implants. Does implanting an artificial heart or a robotic limb make us any less human or detach us from our normal human condition?
  • May 4 2011: Someone is going to have to have a go at defining 'human' (lol, to have to have.... english, right?)
    What kind of human characteristics are you talking about? Mental capacity? physical appearance?

    Personally I think that anything done by humans to themselves is still human (that extends to robotic surgery and the like as well, as the robots were designed by humans, for humans).
    I recently watched a talk on TED by a man by the name of Harvey Fineberg detailing what he thinks the next step of human evolution is. It's definitely worth watching if you're interested in that sort of stuff.