Ethics of Human Enhancement Report

A study on the ethics of human enhancement has been completed.

Entitled “Ethics of Human Enhancement: 25 Questions & Answers,” the 50-page report serves as a convenient and accessible starting point for both public and classroom discussions, such as in bioethics seminars.

The 50 page pdf is here and is available for free download.

Some comments: Society will come up with multiple answers (or default lack of answers) and there will be different situations and rules by state, region and country.

From the introduction:

Forget about Pocket PCs, mobile phones, GPS devices, and other portable gadgets; we might soon be able to communicate and access those capabilities without having to carry any external device, thus raising our productivity, efficiency, response time, and other desirable measures—in short, enabling us to even better survive our world.

I disagree with that aspect. How convenient, powerful and easy the wearable, portable or just usable/commandable machines, services and technology that is at someones disposal does matter as does the context of technological society at the time. If there non-harmful to health of the user steroids that were ten times more effective, would not make that big a difference for 99% of the jobs in the developed world. Labor-related work has already been mostly replaced with people driving and using machines.
– Physically enhanced lumberjack versus tree clearing machines
– exoskeletons versus physical enhancement
– Physically enhanced supersoldier versus rapid fire recoilless rifle firing grenade rounds, wide area taser devices, tanks, planes, UAVs etc…

The more powerful technology and the one which will have a larger impact on society and control are early adopter/developers of molecular nanotechnology and nuclear fusion [or breakthrough energy technology that is over 20 times cheaper – both also provide access and control of space based resources] and the best supercomputers and AI. It will be similar to position of the earlier explorers and colonist of North America, except there is the potential for far greater advantages to those with advanced technology. Control of space has massive military and security implications as asteroid bombardment is more powerful than nuclear weapons.

There is world and solar system shaping technology. An early situation of this is the ability for a billionaire or large company to develop and deploy climate engineering technology. This already has been happening for decades via those who operate coal plants. Particulates and air pollution (smog) and CO2 effect the health of millions around coal plants. The weather is effected. Soon those who would deploy technology to create articificial volcano cooling effects will be performing reverse climate alteration.

However, the questions and answers in the report are still interesting within the scope of what they are addressing.

These are the 25 questions addressed in the report:

Definition & Distinctions
1. What is human enhancement?
2. Is the natural/artificial distinction morally significant in this debate?
3. Is the internal/external distinction morally significant in this debate?
4. Is the therapy/enhancement distinction morally significant in this debate?

Contexts & Scenarios
5. Why would contexts matter in the ethics of human enhancement?
6. What are some examples of enhancement for cognitive performance?
7. What are some examples of enhancement for physical performance?
8. Should a non-therapeutic procedure that provides no net benefit be called an “enhancement”?

Freedom & Autonomy
9. Could we justify human enhancement technologies by appealing to our right to be free?
10. Could we justify enhancing humans if it harms no one other than perhaps the individual?

Fairness & Equity
11. Does human enhancement raise issues of fairness, access, and equity?
12. Will it matter if there is an “enhancement divide”?

Societal Disruptions
13. What kind of societal disruptions might arise from human enhancement?
14. Are societal disruptions reason enough to restrict human enhancement?
15. If individuals are enhanced differently, will communication be more difficult or impossible?

Human Dignity & The Good Life
16. Does the notion of human dignity suffer with human enhancements?
17. Will we need to rethink the notion of a “good life”?

Rights & Obligations
18. Is there a right to be enhanced?
19. Could human enhancement give us greater or fewer rights?
20. Is there an obligation in some circumstance to be enhanced?
21. Should children be enhanced?

Policy & Law
22. What are the policy implications of human enhancement?
23. Should there be limits on enhancements allowed, e.g., for military purposes?
24. Might enhanced humans count as someone’s intellectual property?
25. Will we need to rethink ethics itself?