Human Enhancement. What’s human enhancement? What is the definition? What’s wrong with improving yourself, whether with technology or supplements? This is because of the impact that the actions of an individual can have on society. This offers opportunities, but also risks and dangers.

What is human enhancement?

The definition of ‘human enhancement’ is the use of biomedical technologies that have purposes other than the cure or prevention of diseases. Consider, for example, bionic components such as in the movie Ghost in the Shell (image at the top). It is to enhance the human capabilities and functions.

Researchers Almeida and Diogo analyzed the word enhance in their paper [link at the bottom]:

  • The noun ‘enhancement’ comes from the verb ‘enhance’, meaning ‘to increase or improve’. The verb enhance can be traced back to the vulgar Latin inaltiare and late Latin inaltare (‘raise, exalt’), from ‘altare’ (‘make high’) and altus (‘high’), literally ‘grown tall’.

In this article you can read a couple of more definitions of the term human enhancement, for example by Etag, Savaluscu and more.

By the way, I have written other articles about this topic: technologies (like genetic modification and drugs), ethics, use in military, research, and movies.


Video Human enhancement

I made a video about human enhancement: what is human enhancement, what are technologies, criteria and the arguments of proponents and critics. The video is published on my YouTube Channel:

Video: What is human enhancement?

Summary

Below is a summary with the most important points.

#1 Human enhancement involves the use of technological means to improve people. Unlike the use of technology in healthcare, these methods are applied to healthy individuals.

#2 Improvement technologies where I currently see the most potential are genetic modification and mechanical adaptations (in the form of bionic limbs). Pharmaceutical enhancers are currently used the most.

#3 Proponents believe that the use of technologies for improvement is something that makes us human. Opponents believe that it damages our autonomy and humanity. Our defects and mistakes make us human.

#4 Human enhancement has an enormous impact on all kinds of domains, including geopolitical relations, warfare, legislation and sport. For that reason it is complex to make independent assessments here as an individual or country.

#5 As far as I am concerned, the discussion about human enhancement remains separate from dogmas, such as “technology is by definition good or bad.” My vision is that we consider whether each technological application is in line with our principles.

In the remainder of this article these points will be discussed, with substantiation and other insights.

Overview

This is the structure of the rest of the article:

  • Explanation (with a mindmap)
  • Definitions (yes, there are more)
  • Concepts (like biohacking, NBIC convergence and cybernetic enhancement)
  • Effect (to boost cognition, physical capabilities and more)
  • Technologies (from bionics to brain implants)
  • Criteria (when is a technology meant for enhancement?)
  • Impact (commercial opportunities, sports, geopolitics and even the climate crisis)
  • Debate (arguments and critics)
  • Ethics (philosophy)
  • Action (what can and should we do now?)
  • Conclusion

At the end I share bonuses (like books, movies, and research) and a list with resources, like articles and more.

While playing the computer game Deus Ex, I first encountered human enhancement.

How to explain human enhancement?

Human Enhancement explanation

There are a lot of concepts and ideas surrounding human enhancement. The basic idea is that human enhancement aims to increase human capacities and functions above normal levels. Think of pharmaceuticals to improve your cognition, genetic interventions to increase your muscle-mass and exoskeleton to aid your stamina.

As a summary I share an up-to-date mindmap with related concepts, examples, concerns, impact and principles. Some of the points (and their elaboration) are in this article. Some are in other articles on my blog, like human enhancement drugs, ethics, and movies.

Take a look at the mindmap:


What are definitions of human enhancement?

Definition Human enhancement

Here you can find the best definitions of the term human enhancement. All the links to the articles and books are at the bottom of this article.

A study by Jensen and others in project SIENNA in 2018: A modification aimed at improving human performance and brought about by science-based and/or technology-based interventions in or on the human body.

A 2008 report by Etag, a collaboration of a number of European research institutes, defines human enhancement as follows: ‘modification aimed at improving individual human performance and brought about by science-based or technology-based interventions in the human body.’

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has the following definition: ‘biomedical interventions that are used to improve human form or functioning beyond what is necessary to restore or sustain health.’

Scholar Thomas Douglas writes about ‘biomedical enhancements’ which resembles the concept of human enhancement [link at the bottom]. ‘The use of biomedical technologies to alter the characteristics of already healthy persons.’

Allan Buchanan describes human enhancement as follows: ‘any attempt to temporarily or permanently overcome the current limitations of the human body through natural or artificial means.’

Bostrom and Savalescu write in their book that ‘human enhancement aims to increase human capacities above normal levels.’

In a paper by Dov Fox: ‘Enhancements are distinct from other biomedical products in that they are put to uses which extend beyond the goal of preventing disease, repairing disability, and restoring physiological wholeness.’

Overview definitions:

Here is a comprehensive overview of all the definitions mentioned in the previous part:

  • A modification aimed at improving human performance and brought about by science-based and/or technology-based interventions in or on the human body (Jensen, 2018).
  • Modification aimed at improving individual human performance and brought about by science-based or technology-based interventions in the human body (Etag, 2008);
  • Biomedical interventions that are used to improve human form or functioning beyond what is necessary to restore or sustain health (Stanford, 2015);
  • The use of biomedical technologies to alter the characteristics of already healthy persons (Douglas, 2008);
  • Any attempt to temporarily or permanently overcome the current limitations of the human body through natural or artificial means (Buchanan, 2008)
  • Human enhancement aims to increase human capacities above normal levels (Bostrom and Savalescu, 2009)
  • Enhancements are distinct from other biomedical products in that they are put to uses which extend beyond the goal of preventing disease, repairing disability, and restoring physiological wholeness (Fox, 2012).

In my article about science you can read more about the different approaches:


What are related concepts?

Human enhancement concepts

For clarification, I provide a brief description of other terms that overlap with human enhancement:

  • Biohacking is the self-improvement of the human body with (experimental) technology. This includes unconventional methods such as DIY grinders that put electronics into their bodies or bio-hackers who want to genetically modify themselves [more on biohacking];
  • Transhumanism is a philosophical movement that strives to break through biological boundaries, including aging [more on transhumanism];
  • Human augmentation is adding or expanding functions to the human body [more on human augmentation].

I will certainly not deny that other authors and experts interpret the terms differently, but this is the distinction that I use.

I myself notice that the difference between biohacking and human enhancement is the most diffuse. The difference that I understand is that human enhancement can also be offered by a (commercial) organization, such as the brain chips from Neuralink. Biohacking has an emphatic experimental context, which can be traced back to the ideas of computer hackers and the open source movement.

The term “human enhancement” is often used in scientific literature on human enhancement, even more so than the term “biohacking”.

NBIC convergence

The book Managing Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno Innovations: Converging Technologies in Society [link at the bottom] was published in 2006 under the editorship of William Sims Bainbridge. As the title suggests, this book introduces the concept of NBIC convergence. By this they mean the coming together of a number of technological developments that mutually reinforce each other.

One of the objectives of NBIC is to maintain and improve human performance. The authors and researchers are thinking, among other things, of improving sensory capacity in aging, the use of implants and brain-computer interfaces.

Their defined objective is essentially human enhancement, which means that I see NBIC as a vision or method to achieve human improvement.

The acronym in ‘NBIC convergence’ stands for the convergence of developments in the neuro-, bio-, information and cognitive sciences. I first came across this term after reading a publication by the Rathenau Institute [link at the bottom]. The consequences of the convergence of these different fields are difficult to estimate, but it is exactly in the (re)combination of technology where the power lies.

Definition NBIC convergence

The NBIC convergence follows a similar pattern to previous ICT convergences:

  1. Robotics: combination of mechanics and electronics;
  2. ICT: combination of information and communication technologies;
  3. Internet of Things: combination of Internet and physical reality;
  4. NBIC: combination of information and biotechnology.

It’s usually not just one technology that brings about a major change, but a combination of several technological developments. A good example of this can be found in the section on prostheses and exoskeletons, where we saw the combination of electronics together with biotechnology and neurotechnology (the connection to the brain and/or nerve endings).

Examples NBIC

What are some examples of NBIC convergence? In his book, Michael Bess talks about a number of so-called ‘wild cards’. These are technological developments that, at first sight, are not directly applicable to humans or of which the application/implementation lies a bit further in the future:

  • Nanotechnology is technology at the smallest possible scale, that of atoms and molecules. Futurist Ray Kurzweil believes that in the future, we will be able to send small robots through our bloodstream, right towards an infection or a specific organ [link at the bottom]. This may seem like a very long-term idea, but researchers in Zurich demonstrated at the beginning of 2019 that they could program small elastic robots that adapt their shape to the environment they’re in [link at the bottom].
  • Artificial intelligence is a driving force behind the developments described above. Take genetics: algorithms can analyze an incredible number of datasets to examine DNA for connections and correlations. One possible scenario to which I referred in the section on bio-electronics, is that in the future, we will be able to link the human brain to artificial intelligence.
  • At the moment, synthetic biology is the highlight of the convergence between information and biotechnology. This entails, for instance, modifying, constructing and redesigning living matter such as cells, tissues and organisms.

I also wrote a separate article on all the developments in this list [link at the bottom]. With regard to literature on this topic, the novel Nexus by Ramez Naam is an interesting read. In the book, a synthetic drug is used as a nanotechnology that acts on the brain and allows the protagonists to communicate with each other.

Cybernetic enhancements

A term that is often used in English as a synonym of human enhancement is “cybernetic enhancements.” Cybernetics stands for science that deals with the control of biological and mechanical systems with the help of feedback.

The term is also used to indicate the physical fusion between man and machine. The human body is enriched or replaced with electronic or mechanical components.

From that description, which is shared by Alex Pearlman, I list cybernetic improvement under human augmentation [link at the bottom].


What are possible effects of human enhancement? Including: the history (with cosmetic surgery) and The Jetson Fallacy.

Human Enhancement effects

Human Enhancement is the use of technology to make a healthy person even healthier, a fit person even fitter and a smart person even smarter. This is the definition that Thomas Douglas has given to this in his article from 2008 [link at the bottom].

The use of technology to make sick people better is socially acceptable. That is not a human improvement and is not part of human enhancement.

What benefits can it bring? In my mind map there is a categorization that I briefly describe below:

  • Cognition: more intelligence;
  • Physical: more strength, speed, agility, etc.
  • Emotional: better recognizing and expressing emotions;
  • Health: better physical condition, longer life;
  • Spiritual: transcendental and spiritual improvement;
  • Moral: improving character and acting ethically;
  • Sensory: expansion or improvement of senses such as vision, hearing, etc.
  • Hive mind: mutual connection in a larger context, such as telepathy.
  • Longevity

Increased longevity

Aubrey de Gray is a British gerontologist and director of Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS). SENS focuses on stimulating scientific research into aging and the methods to combat aging. At the bottom of this article is an interview that I had with Aubrey de Gray during the EHA congress in 2018 in Brussels.

According to him, it will be possible in the future, with biomedical technology, to achieve the so-called longevity escape velocity. This is the concept that the pace at which technology is evolving will be so high that with each passing year, the average life expectancy of humans increases by more than a year.

Silicon Valley

Many companies and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley invest in SENS and life research. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has set up the Calico company. The goal of Calico is to prevent aging [link below].

Entrepreneur, venture capitalist and libertarian Peter Thiel is a wealthy private individual who invests in research. Given his political preference, it is not surprising that he sees no risk that only the wealthy will soon have the means for life extension. In an interview with the New York Times from 2011, he reacts laconically: ‘The biggest inequality is between people who live and who are dead.’

More about this topic on my blog:

History: cosmetic surgery

As you may have been able to deduce from the described methods , many human enhancement methods come from medicine. I think plastic surgery is the most striking historical example.

Jacques Joseph (1865-1934)

Jacques Joseph (1865-1934) was a Jewish orthopedic surgeon from Berlin. He was not interested in conventional orthopedics, according to Theo Mulder’s contribution in the book The Makeable Man [link at the bottom]. Surgeon Joseph was particularly interested in the possibilities of changing the human body through medical means.

Empty vanity

When he carried out an operation on a Jewish child with wide ears, which flattened his ears, he was fired. According to his employer, this was not real surgery, but cosmetic surgery.

According to his employer, this was the same as the use of surgical knowledge for empty vanity. Apparently it didn’t matter that the child was constantly being teased because of his ears.

Don’t stand out

Jacques Joseph then started his own clinic and became the founder of modern cosmetic rhinoplasty (nose change). He was so successful that he was called Nasen-Joseph in Berlin. After noses, he also went on to work with ears and other body parts.

The main purpose for his patients was that they could hide unobtrusively into the masses after the operation. After all, that was what they wanted: to no longer stand out as a Jew, but be part of the anonymous, unsupported urban mass. So at the time it was not about the desire of beauty, but about the wish to not stand out, at least not to be a Jew who was refused or abused.

First World War

For a long time, Jacques Joseph’s professional existence took place in the margins of the surgical establishment. This came to an end during the First World War. Then he was able to use his knowledge of cosmetic operations for the thousands of soldiers who came back from the trenches with damaged faces.

This was the case with all parties from the battlefront. In 1916, after the Battle of Somme, two thousand horribly mutilated soldiers of the English troops in France were brought into the surgical center for face and jaw surgery, where Varaztad Kazanjian was the dentist. The reputation of Kazanjian, Joseph and their other colleagues rose to a great height, as did their field of cosmetic surgery.

Lessons

The example of plastic surgery is often cited because it clearly shows the transition from cure to improvement. Of course, plastic surgery is still used to help patients, but much more often it is used as a form of human enhancement.

The most famous contemporary example is South Korea. There, on average, residents spend the most money on plastic surgery per person [link at the bottom]. A study by the Pew Research Center shows that 14% of women have undergone plastic surgery. This percentage is 30% for women around twenty years old. For comparison: in the United States this is 7%.

Remarkably, inconspicuousness, as in the time of Jacques Joseph, is not the primary motive for clients undergoing treatment. Researcher So Yeon Leen indicates that the goal of most patients is progress, combating the signs of aging and “standing above other Koreans.”

Jetson Fallacy

An important concept, before we move along, is the ‘Jetson Fallcy’.

In the beginning of Michael Bess’ book Make way for the superhumans, he mentions something called the ‘Jetson fallacy’. This refers to an American cartoon show called The Jetsons, which was created in 1967. In the Jetsons’ world, which is set in 2067, everything has changed: there are flying cars, printers that can print our food, and there are robots everywhere.

Technology is changing what it means to be human.

Professor Michael Bess

The only thing that hasn’t changed, are humans themselves. Essentially, the fictional characters living in 2067 are completely similar to how people lived in 1967. Not just physically, but also in terms of cognitive, emotional and cultural traits.The father of the family is clumsy and awkward at dealing with his family, and the mother is still the one who does the housekeeping.

In a way, it makes sense. We tend to expect that we humans won’t really change all that much in the future. But in fact, the technological developments that I wrote about at the beginning of this article, are going to have a gigantic impact on our human traits as well. Technology is going to change our understanding of what it means to be human.

Inevitable

The biggest mistake we could make, is to think that the inevitable technological developments that are taking place regarding the medical sector, electronic devices, genetics and the pharmaceutical sector, will not change us as humans. Because all of those developments will change us one way or the other: be it in a physical, cognitive, emotional or social capacity.

Even if we won’t live to experience these changes ourselves, they will definitely play a role in the lives of the next generations to come. I personally have no idea how those changes and developments will play out. Will our children (generally speaking – I personally don’t have any kids yet) and grandchildren live in a world like in Brave New World? In this book, all humans are genetically and pharmaceutically customized to such an extent, that they live in a fully controllable and containable environment.

Would that make our lives as human beings boring? Or would it be the other way around: can the existence of superhumans make our lives more exciting? Because they can use their infinite cognitive capabilities, physical strength and perfect health to the fullest?

Which option would you prefer? And do we actually still have a choice? More on this question in the part about ethics.

human enhancement definition
One of the technologies in the next part are electronics to augment our senses

What are human enhancement technologies?

Human Enhancement Technologies

The pursuit of superhuman capacities is something that has intrigued us in humanity for centuries. In ancient times this was reserved for myths, legends and fantasies. A few examples:

  • King Gilgamesh who goes in search of immortality [link at the bottom];
  • Achilles: the Greek myth of the invulnerable soldier in the Trojan War;
  • Icarus and Daedalus: the myth in which humans want to fly;
  • Spiderman: a human with the abilities of a spider.

The difference compared to these examples is that scientific and technological progress has made a number of superhuman abilities increasingly realistic. I describe the following methods and applications:

  1. Bioelectronics;
  2. Senses
  3. Brain interventions
  4. Limbs: bionics and exoskeleton;
  5. Genetic modification;

I elaborate on the methods below.

1. Bioelectronics

Bioelectronics is about adding electronic devices or replacements to the body. I also have some personal experience with bioelectronics; I had a small NFC chip implanted in my hand. There are more people with implants.

My interview with Amal Graafstra (Dangerous Things) about implants and bio-electronics

2. Senses

These are methods and technologies to augment and enhance our senses, maybe even come up with new senses. Examples are implants in the retina for blind people, cochlear implants, the work of Neosensory, Cyborg Nest and Neil Harbisson (who can hear colors):

  • Human Enhancement technologies: senses 👁

3. Brain interventions

These are methods and technologies to upgrade our brain. You can think of artificial parts of the brain (like neural prosthesis), implants (like the work of Elon Musks Neuralink), or pharmaceuticals to change your brain (nootropics):

Video about enhancing pharmaceuticals

4. Limbs: bionic and exoskeleton

There are mainly two ways to assist the body with missing or dysfunctional limbs:

  • Artificial replacement: bionic arms or legs 🦿
  • Aid on the outside with an exoskeleton 🦵

5. Genetic modification

DNA strands are the building blocks of life. At the moment, we are already capable of using gene therapy to cure deadly diseases caused by a defect in one specific gene. In the future, we might also be able to analyze and edit genes in order to enhance ourselves.

My video about genetic engineering in humans

What are criteria for human enhancement?

Human enhancement criteria

This is a list of criteria which you can use to decide if a certain method or technology is human enhancement:

  1. Cure or improvement;
  2. Individual or collective;
  3. Time;
  4. Temporary or permanent;
  5. Context;
  6. Realistic or vision.

I further explain these criteria below.

1 Cure or improvement

This is the best known distinction within (biomedical) technology. Take the implantation of electronic equipment in the human body. In the case of a pacemaker, a patient is helped. But if you, as an individual, use technology to improve yourself, like if I had a chip put into myself, then it is seen as improvement [link at the bottom].

2 Individual versus collective

Is it a choice that you make yourself or that is made for you? In the current world view, methods from above are unlikely to be imposed. This was discussed with I, professor Maartje Schermer: ‘Can you also consider vaccinations to be human enhancement?’ After all, you are born without the resistance to certain viruses.

However, I don’t think this is human enhancement. The reason for this is that it is a method that is available to everyone and is generally accepted.

3 Time

In line with the previous point, our perspective of what is accepted may change over time. Where we now see some interventions as improvement, the new can be normal for future generations. Take coffee, for example. When this was introduced and the first drinkers had experienced the uplifting feeling, coffee was not as matter-of-course as it is now. In the context of that time, coffee would fall under human enhancement.

4 Temporary or permanent

This is the extent to which an improvement method is temporary or permanent. Take something like vision. Like a smart contact lens, as is currently being developed by Samsung [link at the bottom]. According to a patent application, the manufacturer wants you to take photos with the lens, information is projected onto the screen and connected to your smartphone.

You can argue whether this falls under human enhancement or not. If the technology were still experimental and not yet socially accepted, then according to the previous criteria it would fall under human enhancement. This is in contrast to regular glasses, contact lenses and clothing.

A bionic eye, such as in science-fiction films such as Terminator, can easily be classified as human enhancement in that regard. This is because it involves a permanent improvement with extra capacities such as night vision, zooming in and recording images.

5 Context

The context determines when something is accepted or not. In this article I come back to top sport quite often. The reason for this is that sport is a fantastic testing ground to think about. For example, Erythropoietin (EPO) promotes the growth of red blood cells from the bone marrow. In a sport such as cycling it is forbidden, while in healthcare it is sometimes used for patients who have difficulty producing red blood cells.

6 Realistic versus vision

This is the extent to which a technique or method for human improvement is real. Take the bionic eye. As far as I am concerned, it is not yet part of human enhancement, as it is not yet technically possible. There are certainly a number of visions of human improvement within the current movement of transhumanism that are now only fantasy or in a very primitive phase of research. As far as I am concerned, a technology falls under human enhancement if it is available, even if it is for a limited group.

Mary Shelly is one of the patriarchs of authors on this theme with her book Frankenstein. This image is from the film about her life.

What is the impact of human enhancement?

Human enhancement impact

What are the possible consequences of the increasing use of human enhancement technology. I will elaborate this further in this section.

  1. safety
  2. commercial and market opportunities
  3. social consequences, including power and morality
  4. climate crisis
  5. geopolitics and war
  6. laws and regulations
  7. institutions, such as religions
  8. sport

I have elaborated on a number of conceivable effects in these domains below.


1. Safety

When I give lectures on this subject, most participants express their concerns about safety. That is not without reason. Two examples:

  • Electronic implants
  • Breast implants

First, take electronic implants. In 2017, more than half a million patients in the United States were called on to update their pacemaker due to fear of hackers [link at the bottom]. For that reason, former vice-president Dick Cheney had turned off his pacemaker’s bluetooth connection, because he was afraid that the device would be hacked otherwise.

Secondly, safety can also be about the risks to the body. For example, it appeared in 2019 that certain types of silicone used for breast implants lead to an increased risk of lymph node cancer [link at the bottom].


2. Commercial opportunities

What are the commercial opportunities of human enhancement? Every year, research agency Gartner publishes a study containing the so-called hype cycle. Whereas “biohacking” first appeared in the list in 2018, in 2019 this applies to “human augmentation.” The definition that Gartner uses is that it concerns technologies that improve physical or cognitive performance [link at the bottom]. This is an explanation that overlaps with my definition of human enhancement.

In the aforementioned research by Witman into the opinion of the American public on human enhancement, she also examines the market potential of these technologies. Around 43% of the respondents were interested in improving their cognition with pharmaceuticals, of which 16% were very interested and 27% reasonably interested. This percentage drops to 34% where an implant is concerned.

Market forces

Related to the commercial opportunities of human enhancement is the possibility that the human body, or parts, will be exposed to market forces. At least, even more than we know now.

Professor Michael Bess (Vandebilt University) expresses his concerns about this in his book Make Way for the Superhumans [link at the bottom]. He states that human enhancement can ensure that we look at the human body in an instrumental way. This reduces a person to a sum of modified and (not yet) modified properties. ‘In this vision, humanity becomes a kind of platform, related to software or an operating system, the performance of which can be improved, expanded and manipulated at will.’

To expand on this:

  • Someone’s personality traits become features that you can upgrade;
  • Skills and talents become assets, for which you can buy new versions;
  • Shortcomings and struggles become disadvantages that can be solved with a quick fix.

In the Western world, the economic and therefore cultural system is based on capitalism. Are we going to treat parts of the human body or humanity in the same way as shoes or telephones?

Case study: Snapchat plastic surgery

The first signals that indicate this are already visible. In this way, appearance is increasingly regarded as something that you need to improve, certainly in the light of your image on social media.

In a 2018 study by the University of Boston (United States), the term “snapchat dysmorphy” is described for the first time. The researchers base themselves on a survey among plastic surgeons. The participants in the questionnaire saw that 55% of the patients indicated that they were undergoing treatment in order to better resemble selfies on Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms.


3. Social consequences

What are the possible social consequences of human enhancement? A striking statement is from the Belgian psychiatrist and philosopher Damiaan Denys. He is also a professor at the University of Amsterdam [link at the bottom].

In the aforementioned report from the Rathenau Institute, he says: ‘One could activate the aggression centers of soldiers and inhibit their moral awareness or decorum during battle, one could activate the pleasure center of prostitutes, strengthen the care and dedication of the cleaning lady. One can inhibit the religious beliefs of fundamentalists or foster unbelievers, make air traffic controllers and pilots more resistant to stress, make police and security services more cautious or reckless.’

He makes his statement based on the applications of deep brain stimulation (DBS), but you could also apply it to other forms of improvement technology.

Power

What strikes me about Denys’ statement is the power and control that it implies. The examples are about positive consequences for a group or society. They do not come from an individual who seems to be making a choice independently.

The most extreme example is to promote empathy in society. A team of philosophers and ethicists, namely Matthew Liao, Rebacca Roache and Anders Sandberg, presented this in 2012 [link at the bottom]. According to them, the administration of the hormone oxytocin leads to more empathy. More empathy in society can be useful when we try to solve problems such as the climate crisis.

Moral improvement

The aforementioned Julian Savalescu, with whom I recorded an interview, has written a book on moral improvement with Ingmar Persson. In 2014 they released Unfit for the Future: The Need for Moral Enhancement [link at the bottom].

In this book they write that the problems that we as humanity now have to deal with cannot be solved by physical or cognitive improvements. They work out the argument that with biomedical technology, such as pharmaceutical products, we must strive for moral improvement. If we are all stimulated to behave more morally through chemical interventions, this will lead to a better and finer world.


4. Climate crisis

The climate crisis is a speculative reason for human enhancement. In 2012, an interview with Matthew Liao, professor at New York University, led to a great deal of fuss [link at the bottom]. The interview followed a publication about the possibilities of human enhancement for solving the climate problem.

In addition to the aforementioned proposal to promote empathy, these were a few of the other striking proposals:

  • Use pharmaceuticals to encourage people to dislike eating meat;
  • Through IVF, ensure that people become less large;

Despite the philosophical and speculative approach of the interview, it led to much commotion and uproar. Not only are thinkers concerned with adapting people in relation to the climate problem, artists and designers also apply this in their work. For example, I held an interview with the British artist Agi Haines [link at the bottom].

Her best-known work in this area is Transfigurations. For this she made five babies with fictional adjustments, such as extra lobes to give off heat or larger cheeks to store food for longer [link at the bottom].


5. Geopolitics

What is the impact of human enhancement on power relations between countries and the geopolitical balance in the world? Owen Schaefer is a bioethicist at the University of Singapore. In an interview, he stated that most Western countries are wary or averse to human improvement [link at the bottom]. I have written more about this in the Opinion section.

He estimates that the population in Japan is also largely opposed to improvement, but this is different in China and India. According to him, this is partly culturally determined, but it requires more research to be able to measure and explain this difference.

Daryl Macer of the Eubios Ethics Institute expects that Asian countries will play a leading role in the research and application of improvement technology [link at the bottom]. Other arguments that he cites are the democratic system in these countries, the pressure of performance and the urge to manifest on the international geopolitical playing field.

Singapore 1983

Even in 1983, Lee Kuan Yew, the then president of Singapore, spoke out strongly about this. He believed that human capital, in terms of inheritable factors such as intelligence, is essential for the future of the city state. Critics, such as the scientist Chan, write that such comments can be a first step towards eugenic practices [link at the bottom]. This is where reproduction and the basic condition of its inhabitants are imposed by the state.

Military

What role does the military apparatus play in research into and application of improvement technology? And vice versa: What consequences can human enhancement have on warfare?

I expect the army to be at the forefront of this, along with top-level sport. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, performing their duties requires enormous physical and cognitive pressure. Secondly, the military apparatus, especially in powers such as the United States and China, has an extraordinary amount of financial resources.

I have written a separate article about human enhancement in the military:


6. Laws and regulations

After he had contributed to the development of the atomic bomb, the scientist Oppenheimer later regularly commented on his regret. This is also called “Oppenheimer’s regret”.

Does that also apply to the current time? Are we starting things in the context of improving people because we allow companies and scientists to take their course, unrestrained by laws and regulations and/or too few safety tests? This is a concern of respondents. In the American study, 70% say they expect technologies to come on the market before they are fully understood or tested.

Government role

Making adequate laws and regulations is complex. Making laws and rules in a (bio) technological world requires balancing between the caution and the driving force which a government has both. This is complex, because the purpose of the government is to protect its residents (caution), but also to stimulate innovation (boost).

This balance also makes international cooperation so complex. As I wrote about in the geopolitics section, human enhancement can also be an advantage over other countries. In the book series Nexus, Crux and Apex, author Ramez Naam describes a world in which emerging superpowers such as China and India allow more [link at the bottom]. For example, those in power in those countries want to stimulate the development of a certain neurotechnology to strengthen the intelligence and cooperation capacity of their inhabitants.

Technology versus rules

When it comes to regulation, the government soon falls behind, as the former vice-chairman of the Council of State of the Netherlands Piet Hein Donner said: “Technology is going faster than rules.”

This apparent contradiction regularly appears in sessions for which I am invited. For example, I was a guest at meetings of the Ministry of Security and Justice, the Health Council and the Public Prosecution Service to reflect on this topic.

Human rights

Another category of laws and regulations are human rights. How do they change as technology increasingly affects our bodies and lives? My opinion, which is colored by the social cultural model in which I grew up and in which I now live, is that as a person you must always have the choice to stay natural. I analyzed this upgraded human rights from the book Technology vs. Humanity by Gerd Leonhard.

He believes, for example, that it should not be mandatory to change yourself biologically or to add electronics to your body. This was also reflected in the American focus groups. A basic principle must be that an upgrade is not mandatory. Not from an employer, but also from an educational institution or government. Another principle that emerged in the research was that the technology does not harm others.

Although both principles (non-compulsory and non-harmful) now seem logical, it remains important to me to stay alert to this as a society.


7. Institutional factors

Technological developments never stand alone. Although I sometimes have that feeling, the development and application of a technology is always influenced by all sorts of other factors. Consider social factors, cultural factors, beliefs, politics and power. By mixing factors that influence each other, it is difficult to predict the final effect of a technology.

A number of historical examples:

  • The uprising of textile workers in England against machines in their factories was crushed by the government. The government saw the economic potential of this development. The textile workers were therefore not beaten by technology, but by government interests;
  • The introduction of the contraceptive pill led to a disconnection of sex and reproduction. This removed an argument against homosexuality, which led to a strongly growing acceptance of relationships between people of the same sex;

The role of institutions and other factors is beautifully expressed by Professor Majid Tehranian. Tehranian: “Technology is always developed from an institutional need and the impact is always mediated by institutional arrangements and social forces, of which they are part.”

Religion

Religions are among the institutions with a major influence on our world. According to author Yuval Noah Harari it depends partly on political and religious leaders how fast technological progress will progress [link at the bottom].

Religion gives meaning to life and formulates answers to essential issues such as the origin and end of life. But what if we can tinker with the origin of life with genetic modification? If we can intervene in our skills and possibilities with human enhancement? Or if we can use technology to postpone the end of our lives?

Technology versus religion

According to author Don LeLillo, technology takes over the role of religion: “In the past, religion was the answer to human inability to accept one’s own mortality. That place is now slowly but surely being taken up by technology. “

Professor Lennox (University of Oxford) makes a similar comparison. He sees the pursuit of super intelligence as the story of the Tower of Babel and the pursuit of immortality as the search for heaven [link at the bottom].

End of religions?

I myself was not brought up religiously. Yet I don’t think religions will disappear soon. As social forces, religions have previously survived major scientific discoveries and technological changes. Consider the heliocentric theory of Galileo, the theory of evolution, the introduction of printing and the rise of the internet.

In fact, you could argue that religions are adaptive enough to adapt themselves to these disruptions.


8. Sport

During keynotes I often say that top-level sport is an ideal testing ground for thinking about human enhancement. Top-level sport is constantly trying to find the physical limits of the athletes. Think of anabolic steroids in baseball players, blood doping in cyclists or unauthorized use of amphetamine by runners.

Schwarzenegger mice

A new direction in the constant arms race is so-called gene doping. To what extent can an athlete’s genes be changed, so that the body itself, for example, produces more EPA? Or take muscle growth. The American physiologist used gene therapy to change the DNA of muscle cells in mice. The media then called the mice “Schwarzenegger mice.” Their muscle mass increased by 15 percent and they became 27 percent stronger.

Marathon mice

In 2008, scientists at Case Western Reserve University modified the PEPCK-C gene in certain muscles [link at the bottom]. They became hyperactive, much more aggressive and also appeared to enter the menopause much later than the control group without adjustment. At the same time, their athletic ability also increased. They could run 20 times as far as mice in the control group and at a much higher speed.

Dick Cheney had his pacemaker’s Bluetooth connection turned off.

What are arguments in the debate?

Debate

How do we view human enhancement now? What is the opinion of proponents and opponents? Which theories can help us think about this?

Proponents (like Julian Savulescu and John Harriss):

  • Technology makes us human;
  • It can make us better;
  • Benefits for society (Savulescu).

Opponents (like Francis Fukuyama, Michael Sandel, and Jürgen Habermass):

  • Factor X (Fukuyama);
  • Giftedness (Sandel);
  • Decisions for next generations (Habermass).

In my article about ethics I elaborate on the arguments of proponents and opponents:

Society’s view

How do people view human enhancement? Debra Witman led a research in 2018 into the opinion of 2,000 Americans on this theme [link at the bottom]. What I found striking was that 76% of the respondents said they had never heard of human enhancement. In addition, less than 10% indicated that they used human enhancement techniques themselves.

I previously wrote about the difference between using technology to help patients and to help people perform better. This is also reflected in the opinion of the respondents in this study:

  • 96% is for restoring vision, while 44% is for improving it;
  • 95% is for the recovery of physical abilities, while 33% is for improving it;
  • 95% is for restoring cognitive abilities with pharmaceuticals, while 35% is for improving them;
  • 88% is for restoring cognitive abilities with implants, while 31% is for improving them;
  • 83% are for the use of genetic modification to help patients, while 46% are in favor of use for improvement and 31% for determining character traits;

Later in this article I will return to the market opportunities for human enhancement based on Witman’s research. Just like the aforementioned opponents, respondents are most concerned about the social consequences. Around 66% are afraid of this, citing all kinds of potential adverse effects, such as abuse of power, social separation and a decrease in diversity in society.

Progress and fatalism

In a general sense, the respondents experience a mix of optimism about the advances in science and technology, combined with a fatalistic feeling about social change.

Most participants think that it is good to help sick people, but that the use of biomedical technology to improve entails the risk of a “slippery slope”. In other words: where do we, as a society, lay down the boundaries of what we do and do not allow?

The greatest danger lies in the loss of individuality and humanity. One of the participants in the focus groups was afraid ‘that we would turn into robots.’ In the case of the insertion of brain implants in particular, the fear is that we will let go of control over our thinking and leave our emotional state to technology.

Argumentation (4x)

What do Dutch people think about improving people? The Rathenau Institute did research into this in 2012. After analyzing a number of focus groups, they came up with 4 types of argumentation:

  • individual choice: it is up to each individual to decide on this;
  • duty: everyone must use it, which contributes to the common good and happiness;
  • hard limits: do not use it, this threatens human dignity;
  • equality: prefer not to use it, for example, risk of inequality;

Just as in the study in the United States cited earlier, the Dutch respondents found reducing negative traits less bad than improving a trait that is already good.

Cleft lip case

This now also applies, for example, to plastic surgery: getting rid of a cleft lip is assessed differently than injecting Botox. Although the latter seems to be increasingly accepted. This also shows that acceptance with regard to forms of human improvement can shift over the years.

For example, during a lecture at the Fontys Hogeschool in Eindhoven, I had a discussion about this with professor Munnik (Tilburg University). He did give a fascinating example. In the Middle Ages we had a very different picture of privacy than we have now. Or rather: at that time privacy did not yet exist. This example shows social norms and values shifting over time.

Human enhancement acceptance

The researchers of the Rathenau Institute formulate five criteria in the report that influence the acceptance of a technology for human improvement.

  • the extent to which the use has already been established. This is in line with the comparison I made earlier with coffee. It used to be seen as experimental, where it is accepted nowadays.
  • how invasive the technology is. For example, respondents are more positive about supplements for improving cognition than a brain implant with the same effect.
  • the familiarity with a means of improvement. If they have experience with a substance themselves or in their immediate environment, they are usually more positive about it.
  • the information about operations and risks. The safer a substance appears to be, the more positive the respondents are towards their use.
  • the social weight of the reason why it is used. An example of this is that respondents judge more positively about a surgeon who can operate more accurately by taking pills than a soldier who can shoot more accurately through the same pills.

Social debate

It is in our nature to use technology for things that we cannot do ourselves. Yet it is worth a social debate about what we want to use when, why and in what way. Plus: what’s going on and perhaps the problem is not in the human body but outside it?

For example: if it becomes the norm among students to take pills that provide more focus, is the underlying problem not the pressure of performance at colleges and universities?


What about ethics?

Ethics

According to futurologist Gerd Leonard, we’re reaching an era where ethics and philosophy are becoming increasingly important. If technology opens up the possibility to engineer ourselves, does that automatically mean that we should?

Political philosopher Michael Sandel is one of the sharpest critics of human enhancement. Sandel called the recent breakthroughs in genetic engineering ‘promising and incredibly dangerous’. In his opinion, we need to be very cautious, as we could end up living in a world that only caters to the improved human beings.

Is that the kind of world we want to live in? Or are these technological breakthroughs inevitable anyway, and would we be selling ourselves short if we didn’t benefit from all the options out there? After all, wanting to enhance, augment and develop ourselves, is inherent to being human.

Yuval Noah Harari

It’s also important to realize that technological developments and innovation aren’t always driven by ‘objective’ incentives. In Sapiens, author Yuval Noah Harari explains that science always develops in relation to power dynamics, as well as economic, cultural and religious dynamics. In light of this observation, the current obsession with military technology – such as DARPA in the United States – is somewhat worrying [link below].

Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?

Yuval Noah Harari

When it comes to the desire to upgrade ourselves, it’s very important to know why we want to do so and what kind of consequences this might have. Right now, we actually know very little about either of those aspects. It’s not surprising, then, that Harari writes: ‘Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?’

Biological divide

Another warning Harari writes in his book Homo Deus is the biological divide. In the future, there will be a contrast between the ‘natural‘ humans and the ‘superhumans’. This will lead to social and political tensions. What if you don’t have the financial means to upgrade yourself? Or what if you simply don’t want to?

If you choose not to use a smartphone in today’s society, you’ll have a relative disadvantage compared to the rest of society (who are using one). But this is just a small discrepancy compared to the inequalities that could be generated by the technological upgrades of the future: what if you could suddenly become much smarter, stronger and healthier?

Book about this topic

The book Ethics of Human Enhancement gets into all the different aspects. I made a video about the insights I gained from this book:

Summary and review of the book Ethics of Human Enhancement

Equal opportunities

Emeritus professor Piet Borst explaines why he isn’t sold on the idea of a human enhancement: “The concept of an ‘engineerable’ Superhuman isn’t just nonsense from a biological point of view, but it’s also counterproductive on a political level – policymakers are so focused on creating equal opportunities for everyone, that they fail to take into account the huge differences in starting capital.’

Concerning ‘starting capital’, Borst is referring to the genes that we inherit from our parents and the environment that we grow up in. If we were to create a superhuman society, we would face the risk that these opportunities would be even more unfair and asymmetrical – enhancement opportunities might only be accessible to those who can afford them. So if you already have ‘good’ genes and a ‘good’ environment at your disposal, you’ll essentially be able to give yourself an extra, additional upgrade.

Why should anyone want to stop me from growing wings? Or a tail?

Josiah Zayner

How do we define which upgrades we consider ‘normal’ and which ones we perceive as ‘excessive’? In an interview biohacker Josiah Zayner shared his thoughts on that [link below]. Josiah is the founder and owner of a biohacking startup called The Odin.

He was featured in an episode that focused on genetic modification and CRISPR/Cas9. “This technology should be accessible to everyone, not just to scientists or the health sector. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to decide how I want to modify myself, like we do with piercings or tattoos? Why should anyone want to stop me from growing wings? Or a tail?’

Responsibility

Whose responsibility is it, ultimately, to determine whether a technology should or shouldn’t be used? Should such decisions be made by a person, a government, a doctor or someone else? Marli Huijer is a doctor and a philosopher. In an interview she expressed her concerns. ‘Governments don’t have a say in this anymore. […] Corporations will always promote new technologies, because that’s how they can make a lot of money.’

According to her, we can already see this when it comes to individuals who use apps and gadgets to track and monitor their health or lifestyle. ‘At the end of the day, money is the main motivation. It’s economic forces that determine which apps and gadgets are on the market. There aren’t enough social and political counterforces to balance that out.’

I do understand her point, but I personally have a more optimistic perspective on this. That’s because we’ve experienced unexpected, rapid technological progress before. Plus, we actually have commercial enterprises to thank for a lot of those innovative technological developments. The way Tesla disrupted the car industry is just one example.

I do agree with Marli that it’s important to have some social counterforces in place to preserve the balance. After all, it isn’t always clear yet what kind of impact a technology might have. No one can predict the consequences or implications of new technologies – I previously elaborated on this in an article about technology ethics as well.

I have written an extensive article about human enhancement ethics:

In addition to living longer, the Altered Carbon series is about improving cognitive and physical abilities.

What can we do now when it comes to human enhancement? How can we make wise choices that help ourselves and future generations?

Action

Although I am fascinated by the possibilities of human enhancement, it does not mean that I think we should allow all those improvement techniques without any restrictions. As I have written in previous related pieces, it seems to me the most ideal to compare new applications against principles and values that we consider important.

Principles

Below is a proposal of a number of principles. This list is loosely inspired by the ideas of Juan Enriquez, Steve Gullans, Yuval Noah Harari and other books that I have read on this subject [link at the bottom].

  • Responsibility. With the possibilities we have, we also realize as a society that we are liable for the consequences (on ourselves, others and the planet);
  • Diversity. If there is a difference between the improved and the natural or the mutually improved, it is important to respect this diversity. From an evolutionary perspective, diversity also makes us as humanity resilient and resilient.
  • Freedom of choice. In line with the previous point: everyone is free to choose whether they want to improve themselves and the way in which.
  • Evolution. Part of the world, for example 25%, continues to develop according to the evolution of Darwin with natural selection and random mutation. In this way we preserve the natural course and possibly serve as a back-up if we ruin human evolution.
  • Education. In line with the beginning of this part, it is important to educate ourselves and future generations and to train them with the possibilities, advantages and disadvantages of human enhancement.
  • Optimism. It is good that you sometimes felt anxious when reading this article, I have that too. Yet I am optimistic, especially if we are patient, creative, vigilant and tolerant as humanity.

The application and elaboration of these principles does not really have much to do with science and technology, but more with values, distribution issues and the choices of individuals and society. This is then reflected in policies, laws and regulations and in the behavior of citizens and companies.

No dogmas

The challenge for us as a society and the government is to develop a policy based on the right values and not to fall into dogmas such as “natural is good” and “human intervention is bad.”

What are the values? A number are obvious. For example, we should not improve or adjust people so that they harm others more. Or people change, increasing social problems and inequality.

However, these kind of doom scenarios usually appear quickly when it comes to human enhancement, such as the best viewed science fiction films. Nevertheless, I think, just like Raya Bidshari in her opinion article, that human enhancement can also ensure that we as a society make progress together.

Scientific progress

I may be an optimistic modernist, but on the net scientific progress has helped us as a humanity. As Hans Rosling has written in his book Factfullness, in recent decades humanity has made a huge amount of progress on all kinds of indicators [link at the bottom]. Consider the decrease in child mortality, the increase in access to sewers, clean drinking water and education.

That is why I am optimistic. Scientific insights and insights, particularly in areas such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, big data and solar energy, can make the planet a better net place for humans.

Then we can live longer, eradicate hunger, help the climate, improve prosperity on a global level and achieve other goals, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals [link at the bottom].

The outcome does not depend so much on technology, but rather on political and social distribution issues. How are we going to distribute and distribute those technologies? This is a question that always plays a role in technological progress. In the case of human enhancement, it is even more exciting because these techniques directly affect us as humans.

Criterion: Self-determination

Because human enhancement directly affects people, it seems to me that human well-being is the most important criterion for assessing new technologies.

In a publication, researchers at the University of Geneva (Switzerland) have explored the question of whether human enhancement leads to better people and better humanity [link at the bottom]. They state that both objectives are often under tension.

For example: you take doping to run faster in a race. Then you as an individual will benefit. For the collective it is a disadvantage, not everyone has access to it and also puts pressure on the autonomy of the other athletes. Next time they will probably decide faster to do doping.

Autonomy, together with competences and connectedness, are the three basic needs of self-determination theory. The core of this theory is that the satisfaction of the three basic needs leads to optimal functioning, well-being and growth of a person.

Case of nootropics

The researchers propose that governments test new improvement technologies against self-determination theory. Take the use of pharmaceuticals for better concentration and more focus, so-called nootropics.

If that is imposed by an employer, it will affect your autonomy. On the other hand, it can help you in your competencies. But if a side effect is that you shut yourself off emotionally from others, then the use of the nootropic limits your connectedness.

This short case shows that there is no ideal outcome. Or as Professor Annelien Bredenoord told me in a podcast interview: “Ethical dilemmas always leave a tragic edge” [link at the bottom].

Government role

The researchers from the University of Geneva already mentioned the role of the government when it comes to testing and allowing human enhancement applications.

A complicating factor for governments is the so-called “displacement of politics”. In the book The Makeable Man, the authors describe that ‘society in general and the development of science and technology in particular are increasingly shaped outside the political arena, for example in scientific research laboratories, in the free market of consumerism and in the activities of non-governmental organizations’.

The tricky part, at least for governments, is that technological development can therefore increasingly be steered or coordinated from one central location.

Geopolitical factor

In addition to the shifting of politics, another impeding factor is geopolitics, about which I have already written in the Impact section. Because what if the Netherlands or the European Union prohibits a certain improvement technology, is it allowed in another country?

The books Nexus, Crux and Apex by Ramez Naam further elaborate on this. In the trilogy it concerns a combination of neuro and nanotechnology. Despite a worldwide agreement (Copenhagen 2039), emerging superpowers China and India see it as a method to gain economic and military benefits, with all the consequences that that entails.

The non-fiction book Moneyland also does not promise much good [link at the bottom]. The book describes how countries respond to the global demand for channeling away, hiding and spending money without paying (a lot of) tax for it. Although it is a completely different theme, I still had the feeling that we as humans (and as nation states) want to cheat if we take advantage of it ourselves.

Government recommendations

Regardless of the complications, the role of the government is and remains essential with their legislation, enforcement and other policy measures. In their report Good, better, the Rathenau Instituut makes a number of recommendations to the Dutch government about their policy on human enhancement [link at the bottom].

The most interesting recommendation is that the government “seriously examines the social consequences of individual use and examines whether they can curb or counteract this with regulations”. The reason that I find this recommendation the most interesting is because it is extremely difficult to estimate social consequences.

In my article on technology ethics I give a number of examples of this [link at the bottom]. The introduction of the contraceptive pill, for example, led to an immense growth in the acceptance of homosexuality. The unforeseen effect was that reproduction became independent of sexuality, whereby opponents of homosexuality lost an important argument.

Accompany

I therefore think the best way is to educate technology. This is what Professor Peter-Paul Verbeek writes: “Instead of opposing technology, ethics should guide technological developments. Critical, but closely linked”.

In the last part of this article I mention a number of fiction books, series and films about human enhancement. Of course, the book Frankenstein cannot be missing in this. Peter-Paul Verbeek sees an important lesson in an interview with de Volkskrant.

I think it is symbolic that the monster mainly craves for freedom and equality, while his maker runs away for fear of him and takes no responsibility for his creation

Professor Peter-Paul Verbeek about Frankenstein

“I think it is symbolic that the monster mainly craves for freedom and equality, while his maker runs away for fear of him and takes no responsibility for his creation.” In other words, a creator cannot let go of his creation or walk away from it with impunity.

Just like with children or with human enhancement technologies: we as humans are responsible for what we make, how we behave accordingly, how we shape it and how it shapes us.

The series The Six Million Dollar Man was about improving people with technology.

What is my conclusion?

My conclusion

I think that using technology makes us human. Without scientific and technological progress, we as a species have come so far through our ability to work together in changing compositions and through our ingenuity to experiment, discover and make.

This is not limited to scientific discoveries and inventions outside our body. Earlier in this article I made it clear that many improvement technologies overflow from healthcare to human enhancement. It is precisely in the field of medical science and biomedical technology that developments are going extremely fast. For that reason, it is useless to close our eyes to this. If we get better, let’s use that improvement technology.

Beyond healthcare

Of course, as a society, we can decide to use those technologies only in healthcare with the aim of making sick people better. However, I do not expect this to happen soon.

Both internationally and nationally, there is increasing pressure on performance, manufacturability and success. I suspect that this trend is leading to more and more people wanting to use technologies to improve themselves or their children.

Although I personally have some difficulty with this, it entails all kinds of ethical dilemmas. Take the geopolitical interest, for example. Should another country decide to improve their inhabitants, then political and economic pressure in Europe will also increase to allow it here.

Humanity

Nevertheless, I believe that the geopolitical component does not mean that you must blindly follow others as an individual, as a group or as a country. No, as far as I am concerned, the considerations are of an individual, group

I think that human issues are becoming more important along with the emergence of improvement technologies. This then concerns themes such as:

  • Assessing the effects of a technology, both for yourself and others;
  • Identifying and weighing possible consequences;
  • Consider what the important things in life are;

There are no easy, unambiguous and/or technological solutions for these types of themes. This is more about elusive concepts that require self-insight, reflection, experience, emotional balance and time to think.

But still: answers to these questions lead to a better understanding of what human well-being means to you. After this you could decide whether an improvement technology fits your life.

My ideal

The line I sketch above is my ideal. That you decide on the basis of your own objectives and motives about whether you want to improve yourself as a person. In that case, human enhancement technologies serve human well-being.

I also realize that these are difficult questions. Your answers will change over time and as a person you also have shortcomings and blind spots. In addition, you do not make these types of choices as an individual. You live in a world with cultural developments, economic pressure and interpersonal relationships, in which choices may already be made for you.

Nevertheless, I hope that as a society we work as hard on these personal, political and ethical issues as we do on scientific and technological progress.

Only then can you really speak of human enhancement. Both on an individual level as well as an improvement of humanity and the planet.

The film Equals is about a society without emotions. Is that human enhancement? And: is that what we want?

Bonus: extra resources like research, books, and movies.

Movies, books & documentaries

In addition to reading blogs and books, there are other media that you can keep up with in this domain, such as documentaries and podcasts. In this part I will discuss fiction about this theme, such as books and films.

Research

As with other problems, such as the climate crisis or the development of artificial intelligence, it is good to keep an eye on events and context. For this you can of course follow the scientific literature in the field of human enhancement in the form of journals and conferences.

Read more about the work of scientists in this domain:

Books

These are my top 3 books about human enhancement:

  • Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Our Grandchildren Redesigned by Michael Bess
  • Evolving Ourselves by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans

Read more about these books, fiction, and my own book:

Movies

These are my top 3 movies about human enhancement:

  • Ghost in the Shell
  • Equals
  • Lucy

Read more about my favorite movies, series and documentaries:


Hire me!

Do you want to know more about this human enhancement?

Please contact me if you have any questions! Like if you want to invite me to give a lecture, presentation or webinar at your company, at your congress, symposium or meeting.

Or if you want to book a session with me as an expert consultant on this area.


Resources

I wrote these related articles about human enhancement:

These are other articles about improving humans with science and technology:

I made these videos on this subject:

I used these non-fiction books for this article.

PS This is an extensive article about human enhancement books 📖

  • Book Managing Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno Innovations
  • Book Unfit for the Future
  • Book Enhancing Evolution
  • Book To save everything click here
  • Book Technology versus Humanity
  • Book Homo Deus
  • Book Hacking Darwin
  • Book Next Nature
  • Book The Selfish Gene
  • Book Our Posthuman Future
  • Book Factfullness
  • Book Moneyland

These are fiction books about human enhancement:

These are external links that I used, subdivided by theme.

Definition and meaning section:

Definition and meaning section:

NBIC

Section – impact

Future section

Action section

These documentaries are about human enhancement

Films, series, books and art section


  • Film Ghost in the Shell
  • Series The 6 Million Dollar Man
  • Film Equals
  • Film Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein
  • Film Mary Shelly

How do you view the change and improvement of us as humans? Leave a comment!