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    The ideas, the analysis, the predictions, everything fills the pages of Carvalko’s mind

    and his latest book, “Conserving Humanity at the Dawn of Posthuman

    Technology,” is a provocative case study in this conflict between man and machine—

    and their inevitable melding. And their inevitable misgivings.



    B Y B R I A N KO O N Z
    P H O T O AU T UM N D R I S C O L L


    Imagine a time when the human brain is connected to a
    computer network, downloading data quite literally in the
    blink of an eye. The potential gain for knowledge is the stuff
    of science fiction.

    The potential loss for humanity is just as profound, writes
    Joseph Carvalko, JD ’80, in a new book, “Conserving Humanity
    at the Dawn of Posthuman Technology,” published earlier this
    year by Palgrave Macmillan.

    Digital brain implants, biometric chips, artificial intelligence,
    electronic tattoos with circuits and sensors—at what point is
    humanity sacrificed for technology’s gain?

    Carvalko, an adjunct professor in the School of Law with 16
    patents and nine books to his credit, addresses the finer points
    and the broader implications of this complex intersection in
    his “Law, Science and Technology” class. He teaches students
    to think beyond these silos of individual disciplines.

    “I want to pass on the idea that when confronted by technology
    and science—for example, when dealing with crimes,
    personal injury or intellectual property—that these are not
    simply elements existing in a vacuum,” Carvalko said, “but
    within a framework of justice and equity.”

    The technology throttle is already locked into high gear,
    he insists. The pace will only grow more frenetic in the future,
    so it’s important now to consider the ethical implications of
    these advancements.

    “We have to be careful not to let technology go uncontrolled
    and unchallenged,” said Carvalko, who frames his interdisci-
    plinary arguments as a bioethicist, professor, patent attorney,
    electrical engineer, jazz musician and author, all rolled into one.
    “Who knows what the next modification will affect?” he
    said. “Once we start changing genes that alter intelligence, it
    will create two disparate classes.”

    In other words, those with access to this technology and
    those without.

    Carvalko classifies this next evolution as Homo futuro, a
    human being in transition from a living, breathing organism
    to someone born from a digital petri dish.

    “Our shared anatomical identity with Homo sapiens will
    begin to move into other directions, driving structural
    changes,” Carvalko writes. “The computer and its life blood—
    software—will create hybrid beings with superior sensory
    access and intellect.”

    As a member of Yale’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics
    and chair of its Technology and Ethics study group, Carvalko
    rejects a monochromatic take on the technology versus humanity
    debate. He understands the laws of tomorrow won’t
    fit neatly into black-and-white arguments. There will be gray
    areas influenced by science, property rights, ethics and morality.

    “Who actually owns your body?” Carvalko asked, leaning
    forward for emphasis. “For example, the placenta and the
    umbilical cord have stem cells. Do those stem cells belong to
    the mother, the child or whom? What if the newborn’s older
    sibling has a genetic disease? Can the mother or anyone else
    say the stem cells legally belong to the sibling for therapy?”

    These are the questions that require humanity’s attention.
    On this particular day, Carvalko is working at his home in
    coastal Connecticut surrounded by shelves of books, a baby
    grand piano and a sweeping desk facing Long Island Sound.

    The ideas, the analysis, the predictions, everything fills the
    pages of his mind and his latest book, a provocative case study
    in this conflict between man and machine—and their inevitable
    melding. And their inevitable misgivings.

    But will these new hybrid beings laugh, cry and love, qualities
    that have defined humanity for thousands of years?
    John Powers, an adjunct professor in the School of Communications,
    teaches “Bioethical Issues in the 21st Century.”

    He suggests the answer is not so clear. “When we talk about
    genetics and designer babies and manipulating genes with
    technology, it’s not always coming from a dark place,” Powers
    said. “What if we manipulate genes to prevent a hereditary
    disease? Think of all the good you could do.”

    At the same time, Powers understands gene manipulation
    comes with moral and ethical dilemmas, from the augmented
    cognition that Carvalko addresses to Garrison Keillor’s fictional
    Lake Wobegon, “where all the women are strong, all the men
    are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

    The diversity of thought and the diversity of humanity are
    at stake when science and technology go unchecked. “Someone
    could come along and say they want their child to be athletic
    and smart to gain certain social advantages,” he said. “Think
    about that for a minute. We already talk about class structure
    and access to health care and medicine. Just imagine what it
    would be like if some people could afford this technology and
    others couldn’t. You’d develop a class of super humans.”

    Ultimately, Carvalko and Powers agree, society becomes
    the arbiter of how technology is used. “It’s human nature to
    explore and advance—we’ve done it since the beginning of
    time—but you have to be really thoughtful about the benefits
    and the consequences,” Powers said. “The decisions we make
    today matter. They’ll impact what happens to us in the future.”


    Joseph Carvalko, JD ’80, recently completed his ninth book,

    “Conserving Humanity at the Dawn of Posthuman Technology.”

    When he’s not writing, Carvalko teaches a class at the School of Law.



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