Perfecting the Mechanical Heart
Chapter 3, “Artificial Life: Perfecting the Mechanical Heart,” focuses on the second ethnographic domain: bioengineering. Of special concern is how inventors seek to transform the human form, perfecting the flaws of the natal (and, thus, fallible and fleshy) body through biomechanical enhancements, a process often referred to as “tinkering.” This chapter interrogates what comprises moral or virtuous behavior in a field in which many scientists, if asked directly, assert that ethics is the domain of the clinician and not the engineer. As I will demonstrate, however, the often historicized discourse and behaviors of engineers reflect complex moral understandings of what it means to “tinker” with the body and alter its natural form. Those who venture beyond the laboratory and into the clinic also express profound shifts in moral reasoning about what they do, particularly if they encounter patients implanted with the very devices that they helped design.
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