Against Unrestricted Human Enhancement

Journal of Evolution and Technology 18 (1):35-41 (2008)
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Abstract

The defining debate in this new century will be about technology and human enhancement, according to many across the political spectrum.[1] Our ability to use science to enhance our bodies and minds – as opposed to its application for therapeutic purposes – is one of the most personal and therefore passionate issues in an era where emerging technologies seduce us with new and fantastic possibilities for our future. But in the process, we are forced to rethink what it means to be human or, essentially, our own identity. For some, technology holds the promise of making us superhuman; for others, it offers a darker path toward becoming Frankenstein’s monster. This paper will look at a growing chorus of calls for human enhancement to be embraced and unrestricted. Specifically, we will critically examine recent “pro-enhancement” arguments – articulated in More Than Human by Ramez Naam,[2] as one of the most visible works on the subject today – and conclude that they ultimately need to be strengthened, if they are to be convincing. Our overarching motive here is not so much that we are against human enhancement technologies; that seems to be too premature a conclusion given the state of research and debate, and such technologies may be inevitable anyway. However, we believe that a skeptical eye should be applied to claims that there should be no restrictions on any particular action. Even our most cherished human rights are bounded by reason or societal norms, for whatever they are worth. For instance, our right to free speech still does not allow us to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater or to slander others. Our right to fall in love and to make love with whom we want does not extend to children. And for all the talk about the virtues of a “free market” or “free trade”, the invisible hand of our economy is still occasionally slapped by anti-trust lawsuits, which would not be an issue if the market were truly free. So even if human enhancement seems to be a reasonable practice and even a right, restrictions may still be required to mitigate undesirable circumstances or unintended consequences – which would be consistent with how functioning societies treat other liberties, values and rights.

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Patrick Lin
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

References found in this work

Can Enhancement Be Distinguished from Prevention in Genetic Medicine?Eric T. Juengst - 1997 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 22 (2):125-142.

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