In her 80s, though, Grace is diagnosed with an incurable form of neurological deterioration, which makes her organic brain slowly shut down. No problem, though, since Grace's computer self has kept her mentally sharp, and has preserved her memories, emotions and personality via computer a process known as uploading. As her organic brain deteriorates, Grace asks to have her computer self removed from her dying body and attached to the World Wide Web, or whatever the Web has morphed into by then. She builds herself a virtual body "with virtual simulations of neurochemistry, hormonal ebbs and flows, and a sense of embodiment," writes Hughes. "She edits her body image back to a vigorous 20-year-old, and jacks up her self-confidence and becomes a successful politician campaigning for cheaper electricity and cyborg rights."
Is Grace still human? "So long as we continue to talk with her and we feel the presence of another mind with which we can empathize, we are compelled to grant her the rights and responsibilities of membership in society regardless of whether she is still 'human,' " says Hughes.
And what about machine minds that aren't uploads of human brains? Do they have rights? And what about creatures that are part animal, part human?
"There is no intrinsic value in being human, just as there is no intrinsic value in being a rock, a frog or a posthuman," say the founding documents of the World Transhumanist Association. "The value resides in who we are as individuals and what we do with our lives."
"Bio-Luddites," Hughes argues, "advocate human-racism." Instead he focuses on what he calls "personhood."
All of which makes U. student Jones understand people who say "Whoa!" to technological progress. But the good news, he says, is that "we're not there yet . . . . We have a little bit of time to figure it out." We shouldn't try to institutionalize restrictions on enhancement technologies yet, he says, "or try to create a society that doesn't stop to think about the ethics. We can't let the capitalist market rule or the conservative drive to restrict everything." The solution, likely, is somewhere in the middle."We just don't know now what it is."