Bioethics News

X-Men: fine in the movies but not in real life

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Don’t say we didn’t warn you: the latest instalment has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 48% 

Despite the popularity of superhumans in the X-Men series and growing interest in transhumanism, the American public is wary of even mild forms of human enhancement, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. 

In the survey people were asked about three scenarios: gene editing to protect babies from disease, chips in the brain to improve people’s ability to think, and synthetic blood which would enhance performance by increasing speed, strength and endurance.

None of these are currently possible. Even so, people were “cautious and often resistant”. Most would be “very” or “somewhat” worried about gene editing (68%), brain chips (69%) and synthetic blood (63%). By a margin of 2 to 1, people would not want to be enhanced themselves and only half would want it for their children.

As an index of how much the public trusts scientists, “At least seven-in-ten adults predict each of these new technologies will become available before they have been fully tested or understood.” Most believe that enhancement technology will increase social differences because only the rich will be able to afford it. A majority also believes that enhanced humans will feel superior to those who do not have them. People with a deep religious commitment and women tend to be more skeptical of enhancement.

The survey also detected skepticism about cosmetic surgery, which is the closest legal enhancement available at the moment.

For example, 61% of Americans say people are too quick to undergo cosmetic procedures to change their appearance in ways that are not really important.

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.