Bioethics Blogs

Peer review: Enhancing Human Capacities

The world’s first cyborg, artist Neil Harbission wears an eyeborg as an extension of himself rather than as part of his performance. NeilHarbisson

Human enhancement is one of the most controversial and exciting areas in bioethics: advances in science promise a future world where we can radically alter our basic capabilities.

This future may include technologies that allow us to make ourselves not only stronger and smarter, but also happier, kinder and morally better.

And this prospect raises a wide range of ethical questions.

Enhancing Human Capacities

Enhancing Human Capacities provides an excellent overview of the latest scientific developments in human enhancement and the ethical and policy issues they raise.

It is a collection of 37 articles on five central forms of enhancement –

  • Cognitive: improvement of mental capacities, such as memory;

  • Mood: improvements in our emotional experiences;

  • Physical: increases in our physical abilities, such us strength;

  • Moral: making our motivations more ethical.

  • Lifespan: interventions slowing or stoping the ageing process.

But enhancement is not something we need only concern ourselves with in the distant future.

Drugs that improve working memory and reduce mental fatigue are already on the market. The book reports that at some US universities 16% of the student body have reported using cognitive enhancers such as the drug modafinil, which improves working memory.

Already available cochlear implants and bionic eyes could mark the beginning of increasingly powerful computer-brain interfaces that improve our senses.

Medications such as antidepressants are beginning to be used by people who are not clinically diagnosed as depressed, but who just want to feel better.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.