Using Technology to Shape “The Self”

Recently, the daughter of family friends traveled across the country to a high level Special Olympics swim meet. She herself has Down Syndrome, but has dedicated herself to become a talented swimmer. As her mother told my family about the experience, she mentioned how her daughter very much admired another skilled swimmer who had lost both her legs. What was interesting to me was how her daughter, who is close in age to myself, would continually asked what made her qualify to swim in the same meet as the girl with no legs. After her mother explained she had Down Syndrome and how it limited her, the daughter had said she rather have whatever she does than lose her legs.

I have thought about this comment for a while in regards to our constant discussions of the self. To me it seems that the daughter has a pretty set view of who she is without even processing the label of Down Syndrome into that. The fact that she would choose her self over the life of another also brings me to think she is happy the way she is and her Down Syndrome is simply part of her self-definition. While I’m sure she feels limited times, I’m merely trying to suggest that a neurodevelopment disorder, a brain injury, or some type of amnesia all have potential to help shape defining the self based on her words.

After reading an article on how a more effective means of determining a fetus’ genome is on the horizon, I had an interesting perspective on the control it may allow for in determining your child’s “self”. Researchers in Hong Kong and California are now working to making an inexpensive and safe way of determining the genome so you can know anything from your child’s mental health to their eye color. Where do we draw the line at what we should and should not control about an individuals formation of the self? Although nurture contributes to defining who you are, nature is still the framework of what you have to work with. I think physical features would be an unjust reason to abort a child, but I’m not sure where to draw the line when it comes to neurological disorders? This is obviously a very controversial subject, but I only meant to bring it up to further discuss how we define the self.

One thought on “Using Technology to Shape “The Self”

  1. Very thought-provoking entry, Jess. I guess if you have the view that the genome itself is going to modified by experience and the epigenome is probably more telling than I think people selecting on the genetic tests might be sorely disappointed when their child is nothing like they ordered –happens all the time without knowing genes!… as in who’s kid is this? 🙂 The story of the Down syndrome girl was also interesting and calls into question (again) what we think the critical prerequisites are for self. It also makes me think of our almost discussion about when the fetus is a ‘person’….


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