What Sort of People Should There Be? (1984)

This was the first philosophical book on the ethics of genetic choices, and (in its second half) the first book on what is now called “neuroethics”: questions about mood-changing drugs, about inhabiting virtual realities, and about the use of brain-scanning techniques to access the contents of people’s minds. It all seemed very futuristic then, and I had to convince readers that the issues might one day become practical. Discussing genetic choices, I had to invent thought experiments rather than, as now, discussing actual cases. It is striking how the genetic issues became real so much faster than the neuroethics issues, which even now for the most part seem a bit ahead of what we can actually do. Perhaps the book was too futuristic for its time. It sold less well than Causing Death and Saving Lives and the publisher let it go out of print. One reason for making it available here is that in most years several people ask me how they can get hold of it. I spend time photocopying it and will be happy to give this up. Another is that, although I now think the book’s title sounds arrogant, this does not reflect the contents. I hope the underlying ideas and values, particularly the emphasis on self-creation, are still important for thinking about these issues.

"This book is about some questions to do with the future of mankind. The questions have been selected on two grounds. They arise out of scientific developments whose beginnings we can already see, such as genetic engineering and behaviour control. And they involve fundamental values: these technologies may change the central framework of human life. The book is intended as a contribution, not to prediction, but to a discussion of what sort of future we should try to bring about...  The intention is to describe possibilities in ways that separate out different values, and to say, "these values, rather than those, are what matter, aren't they?" Of course, in a way I hope for the answer "yes". But, because people have different outlooks, the answer will quite often be "no". My hope is that those who answer "no" will have been helped to see more clearly what it is they do not believe, and perhaps as a result to work out more fully what they do believe."

What Sort Of People Should There Be? (14mb)

This is quite a large file, so it will need some time to download!