The HeLa cells discussed in class can be considered a movement towards transhumanism. Transhumanism can be considered “a new way of thinking that challenges the premiss that the human condition is and will remain essentially unalterable.” This is taken from transhumanism.org. These HeLa cells are a way of altering the human condition by growing human cells and sustaining these cells lives outside of the human body. This is truly remarkable and may be the gateway to this new life of transhumanism.
At first I was quite skeptical about the idea of these human cells being kept alive and multiplied and grown outside of the human body. I was not fond of the research being conducted on these woman’s cells. The idea of this one person now in hundreds of different laboratories being studied and analyzed just did not seem right or justified. When listening to the RadioLab talk on HeLa cells I could not help but think that it was wrong. What made these researchers so much better than Henrietta that they had the authority to manipulate and experiment with pieces of her. However, after considering the idea of transhumanism, these cells are remarkable.
Instead of looking at HeLa cells as dehumanizing Henrietta by essentially keeping parts of her in a petrie dish under a magnifying glass the cells should be praised and preserved as they can be the key to enhancing and expanding on the human condition. This very well could be the future after the human.
If this HeLa cell phenomenon was seen in other human cells as well I would be more accepting of this as a form of transhumanism. However, I feel as though this may be what we think is the future after the human but no one is really sure. It is very weird to think of the future after the human, or the next step after the human. Maybe this is just one form of what is to come after the human or merely a little piece in the puzzle to achieving the future after the human.
Is it really our place to alter the human though?
I do not think that we have been put here on Earth to play with human cells and grow them outside of the human body. As remarkable as this research is, one cannot help but think that this is dehumanizing, especially to Henrietta. She is essentially “living” in hundreds of places at once and I do not think humans are meant to do that.
This also runs into a morality or ethical issue. Is it really the right thing to do to even though Henrietta is not able to reap the benefits or see what is being done with her cells? Is this being respectful to Henrietta. These all may seem being selfish in regards to Henrietta, not the science behind these cells but it still needs to be considered.
Transhumanism is a weird concept to grasp and I do not feel as though anyone truly knows what it means to alter, or progress, the human.
This website is where I read some more information on transhumanism.