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Human enhancement

Human enhancement (HE) can be described as the natural, artificial, or technological alteration of the human body in order to enhance physical or mental capabilities.[1]


Existing technologiesEdit

Gene therapy using an adenovirus vector.

Three forms of human enhancement currently exist: reproductive, physical, and mental. Reproductive enhancements include embryo selection by preimplantation genetic diagnosis, cytoplasmic transfer, and in vitro-generated gametes. Physical enhancements include cosmetics (plastic surgery & orthodontics), Drug-induced (doping & performance-enhancing drugs), functional (prosthetics & powered exoskeletons), Medical (implants (e.g. pacemaker) & organ replacements ( e.g. bionic lenses)), and strength training (weights (e.g. barbells) & dietary supplement)). Examples of mental enhancements are nootropics, neuro-stimulation, and supplements that improve mental functions.[2][3]Computers, mobile phones, and Internet[4] can also be used to enhance cognitive efficiency. Notable efforts in human augmentation are driven by the interconnected Internet of Things (IoT) devices[5], including wearable electronics (e.g., augmented reality glasses, smart watches, smart textile), personal drones, on-body and in-body nanonetworks[6].

Emerging technologiesEdit

Many different forms of human enhancing technologies are either on the way or are currently being tested and trialed. A few of these emerging technologies include: human genetic engineering (gene therapy), neurotechnology (neural implants and brain–computer interfaces), cyberware, Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, nanomedicine, and 3D bioprinting.

Speculative technologiesEdit

A few hypothetical human enhancement technologies are under speculation, such as: Mind uploading, Exocortex, and endogenous artificial nutrition. Mind uploading is the hypothetical process of "transferring"/"uploading" or copying a conscious mind from a brain to a non-biological substrate by scanning and mapping a biological brain in detail and copying its state into a computer system or another computational device. Exocortex can be defined as a theoretical artificial external information processing system that would augment a brain's biological high-level cognitive processes. Endogenous artificial nutrition can be similar to having a radioisotope generator that resynthesizes glucose (similarly to photosynthesis), amino acids and vitamins from their degradation products, theoretically availing for weeks without food if necessary.


There are many substances that are purported to have promise in augmenting human cognition by various means. These substances are called nootropics and can potentially benefit individuals with cognitive decline and many different disorders, but may also be capable of yielding results in cognitively healthy persons. Some examples of these include Huperzine A, Phosphatidylserine, Bacopa monnieri,[7] Gotu Kola,[8] Acetyl-L-carnitine,[9] Uridine monophosphate, L-theanine,[10][11][12] Rhodiola rosea, and Pycnogenol which are all forms of dietary supplement. There are also nootropic drugs such as the common racetams Piracetam and Noopept (Omberacetam) [13][14][15] along with the neuroprotective Semax, and N-Acetyl Semax.[16] There are also nootropics related to naturally occurring substances but that are either modified in a lab or are analogs such as Vinpocetine and Sulbutiamine. Additionally, some substances can be inhaled for a potential nootropic benefit such as Rosemary essential oil[17] which shows potential for aiding memory and affecting mood.[18]


Much debate surrounds the topic of human enhancement and the means used to achieve one's enhancement goals.[19] An ethical agenda of human enhancement can depend on many factors such as religious affiliation, age, gender, ethnicity, a culture of origin, and nationality. [20]

In some circles the expression "human enhancement" is roughly synonymous with human genetic engineering,[21][22] but most often it is referred to the general application of the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science (NBIC) to improve human performance.[23]

Since the 1990s, several academics (such as some of the fellows of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies[24]) have risen to become advocates of the case for human enhancement while other academics (such as the members of President Bush's Council on Bioethics[25]) have become outspoken critics.[26]

Advocacy of the case for human enhancement is increasingly becoming synonymous with "transhumanism", a controversial ideology and movement which has emerged to support the recognition and protection of the right of citizens to either maintain or modify their own minds and bodies; so as to guarantee them the freedom of choice and informed consent of using human enhancement technologies on themselves and their children.[27] Their common understanding of the world can be seen from a physicist perspective rather than a biological perspective.[28] Based on the idea of technological singularity, human enhancement is merging with technological innovation that will advance post humanism.[28]

Neuromarketing consultant Zack Lynch argues that neurotechnologies will have a more immediate effect on society than gene therapy and will face less resistance as a pathway of radical human enhancement. He also argues that the concept of "enablement" needs to be added to the debate over "therapy" versus "enhancement".[29]

Although many proposals of human enhancement rely on fringe science, the very notion and prospect of human enhancement has sparked public controversy.[30][31][32] The main question to the ethical debate on human enhancement mainly involves whether there should be no restriction, some restrictions or a full ban to the entire concept.[33]

Dale Carrico wrote that "human enhancement" is a loaded term which has eugenic overtones because it may imply the improvement of human hereditary traits to attain a universally accepted norm of biological fitness (at the possible expense of human biodiversity and neurodiversity), and therefore can evoke negative reactions far beyond the specific meaning of the term.[34] Michael Selgelid terms this as a phase of "neugenics" suggesting that gene enhancements occurring now have already revived the idea of eugenics in our society. Practices of prenatal diagnosis, selective abortion and in-vitro fertilization aims to improve human life allowing for parents to decide via genetic information if they want to continue or terminate the pregnancy.[35] Even though these practices hold eugenic connotations, most are already deemed morally acceptable in today's society. "Neugenics" deems to alter the focus of what eugenics was termed to be in society due to devastating historical events in order to understand that current advancements of enhancement are more of a benefit rather than a form of destruction from a moral perspective.[35]

However, the most common criticism of human enhancement is that it is or will often be practiced with a reckless and selfish short-term perspective that is ignorant of the long-term consequences on individuals and the rest of society, such as the fear that some enhancements will create unfair physical or mental advantages to those who can and will use them, or unequal access to such enhancements can and will further the gulf between the "haves" and "have-nots".[36][37][38][39] Futurist Ray Kurzweil has shown some concern that, within the century, humans may be required to merge with this technology in order to compete in the marketplace.[28] Enhanced individuals have a better chance of being chosen for better opportunities in careers, entertainment and resources.[40] For example, life extending technologies can increase the average individual life span affecting the distribution of pension throughout the society. Increasing lifespan will affect human population further dividing limited resources such as food, energy, monetary resources and habitat.[40] Other critics of human enhancement fear that such capabilities would change, for the worse, the dynamic relations within a family. Given the choices of superior qualities, parents make their child as opposed to merely birthing it, and the newborn becomes a product of their will rather than a gift of nature to be loved unconditionally.[41]

Effects on IdentityEdit

Human enhancement technologies can impact human identity by affecting one's self-conception.[42] The argument does not necessarily come from the idea of improving the individual but rather changing who they are and becoming someone new. Altering an individual identity affects their personal story, development and mental capabilities. The basis of this argument comes from two main points : the charge of inauthenticity and the charge of violating an individual's core characteristics.[42] Gene therapy has the ability to alter one mental capacity and through this argument, has the ability to affect their narrative identity.[42] An individual's core characteristics may include internal psychological style, personality, general intelligence, necessity to sleep, normal aging, gender and being homo sapiens. Technologies threaten to alter the self fundamentally to the point where the result is a different person.[42] For example, extreme changes in personality may affect the individual's relationships because others can no longer relate to the new person.[39]

The capability approach focuses on a normative framework that can be applied to how human enhancement technologies affects human capabilities.[43] The ethics of this does not necessarily focus on the make up of the individual but rather what it allows individuals to do in today's society. This approach was first termed by Amartya Sen, where he mainly focused on the objectives of the approach rather than the aim for those objectives which entail resources, technological processes, and economic arrangement.[43] The central human capabilities include life, bodily health, bodily integrity, sense, emotions, practical reason, affiliation, other species, play, and control over one's environment. This normative framework recognizes that human capabilities are always changing and technology has already played a part in this.[43]

Enhancement Rhetoric (HER)Edit

In his essay "Mapping human enhancement rhetoric", Thayer (2014) states that the growth of Human Enhancement Technology (HET) means a corresponding growth in the discourse of HET, so he suggests inventing a new classification called Human Enhancement Rhetoric (HER). To establish this classification, Thayer focuses on answering four existential questions: (1) what is HER?, (2) how can HER be mapped?, (3) what does this project of mapping HER accomplish?, and (4) what global issues or ethical concerns are raised, or can be further understood, by mapping HER? These foundational questions serve to introduce Thayer's newly conceived boundaries, definitions, nomenclature, and ethical arguments as he works to create a discourse that industry professionals and academics can study, navigate, and grow.[44]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Buchanan, Allen. "Ethical Issues of Human Enhancement". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
  2. ^ "Dorlands Medical Dictionary". Archived from the original on 2008-01-30.
  3. ^ Lanni C, Lenzken SC, Pascale A, et al. (March 2008). "Cognition enhancers between treating and doping the mind". Pharmacol. Res. 57 (3): 196–213. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2008.02.004. PMID 18353672.
  4. ^ "So you're a cyborg – now what?". CNN. 2012-05-07. Retrieved 2013-03-22.
  5. ^ Pirmagomedov, Rustam; Koucheryavy, Yevgeni (2019-09-27). "IoT Technologies for Augmented Human: a Survey". Internet of Things: 100120. arXiv:1909.11191. Bibcode:2019arXiv190911191P. doi:10.1016/j.iot.2019.100120. ISSN 2542-6605.
  6. ^ Akyildiz, Ian F.; Brunetti, Fernando; Blázquez, Cristina (2008-08-22). "Nanonetworks: A new communication paradigm". Computer Networks. 52 (12): 2260–2279. doi:10.1016/j.comnet.2008.04.001. ISSN 1389-1286.
  7. ^ Aguiar, Sebastian; Borowski, Thomas (2013). "Neuropharmacological Review of the Nootropic Herb Bacopa monnieri". Rejuvenation Research. 16 (4): 313–326. doi:10.1089/rej.2013.1431. PMC 3746283. PMID 23772955.
  8. ^ Gohil, Kashmira J.; Patel, Jagruti A.; Gajjar, Anuradha K. (2010). "Pharmacological Review on Centella asiatica: A Potential Herbal Cure-all". Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 72 (5): 546–556. doi:10.4103/0250-474X.78519. PMC 3116297. PMID 21694984.
  9. ^ Smeland, Olav B.; Meisingset, Tore W.; Borges, Karin; Sonnewald, Ursula (2012). "Chronic acetyl-l-carnitine alters brain energy metabolism and increases noradrenaline and serotonin content in healthy mice". Neurochemistry International. 61 (1): 100–7. doi:10.1016/j.neuint.2012.04.008. PMID 22549035.
  10. ^ Owen, Gail N.; Parnell, Holly; De Bruin, Eveline A.; Rycroft, Jane A. (2008). "The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood". Nutritional Neuroscience. 11 (4): 193–8. doi:10.1179/147683008X301513. PMID 18681988.
  11. ^ Giesbrecht, T.; Rycroft, J.A.; Rowson, M.J.; De Bruin, E.A. (2010). "The combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves cognitive performance and increases subjective alertness". Nutritional Neuroscience. 13 (6): 283–90. doi:10.1179/147683010X12611460764840. PMID 21040626.
  12. ^ Nobre, Anna C.; Rao, Anling; Owen, Gail N. (2008). "L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state". Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 17 Suppl 1: 167–8. PMID 18296328.
  13. ^ Bobkova, NV; Gruden, MA; Samokhin, AN; Medvinskaia, NI; Morozova-Roch, L; Uudasheva, TA; Ostrovskaia, RU; Seredinin, SB (2005). "Noopept improves the spatial memory and stimulates prefibrillar beta-amyloid(25-35) antibody production in mice". Eksperimental'naia I Klinicheskaia Farmakologiia. 68 (5): 11–5. PMID 16277202.
  14. ^ Radionova, K. S.; Belnik, A. P.; Ostrovskaya, R. U. (2008). "Original nootropic drug Noopept prevents memory deficit in rats with muscarinic and nicotinic receptor blockade". Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine. 146 (1): 59–62. doi:10.1007/s10517-008-0209-0. PMID 19145351.
  15. ^ Amelin, AV; Iliukhina, AIu; Shmonin, AA (2011). "Noopept in the treatment of mild cognitive impairment in patients with stroke". Zhurnal Nevrologii I Psikhiatrii Imeni S.s. Korsakova. 111 (10 Pt 1): 44–6. PMID 22500312.
  16. ^ Dolotov, O. V.; Seredenina, T. S; Levitskaya, N. G; Kamensky, A. A.; Andreeva, L. A.; Alfeeva, L. Yu.; Nagaev, I. Yu.; Zolotarev, Yu. A.; Grivennikov, I. A.; Engele, Yu.; Myasoedov, N. F. (2003). "The Heptapeptide SEMAX stimulates BDNF Expression in Different Areas of the Rat Brain in vivo". Doklady Biological Sciences. 391: 292–295. doi:10.1023/A:1025177812262. PMID 14556513.
  17. ^ Moss, Mark; Cook, J.; Wesnes, K.; Duckett, P. (2003). "Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults". The International Journal of Neuroscience. 113 (1): 15–38. doi:10.1080/00207450390161903. PMID 12690999.
  18. ^ Moss, Mark; Oliver, Lorraine (2012). "Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma". Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology. 2 (3): 103–113. doi:10.1177/2045125312436573. PMC 3736918. PMID 23983963.
  19. ^ Miah, Andy (September 2016). "The Ethics of Human Enhancement". MIT Technology Review.
  20. ^ Koucheryavy, Yevgeni; Kirichek, Ruslan; Glushakov, Ruslan; Pirmagomedov, Rustam (2017-09-02). "Quo vadis, humanity? Ethics on the last mile toward cybernetic organism". Russian Journal of Communication. 9 (3): 287–293. doi:10.1080/19409419.2017.1376561. ISSN 1940-9419.
  21. ^ Agar, Nicholas (2004). Liberal Eugenics: In Defence of Human Enhancement. ISBN 978-1-4051-2390-7.
  22. ^ Parens, Erik (2000). Enhancing Human Traits: Ethical and Social Implications. Georgetown University Press. ISBN 978-0-87840-780-4.
  23. ^ Roco, Mihail C. & Bainbridge, William Sims, eds. (2004). Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance. Springer. ISBN 978-1-4020-1254-9.
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  25. ^ Members of the President's Council on Bioethics (2003). Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness. President's Council on Bioethics. Archived from the original on 2007-02-02.
  26. ^ Hughes, James (2004). Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future. Westview Press. ISBN 978-0-8133-4198-9.
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  28. ^ a b c Iuga, Ion (March 16, 2019). "Transhumanism Between Human Enhancement and Technological Innovation". Symposion. 3: 79–88. doi:10.5840/symposion2016315.
  29. ^ R. U. Sirius (2005). "The NeuroAge: Zack Lynch In Conversation With R.U. Sirius". Life Enhancement Products.
  30. ^ The Royal Society & The Royal Academy of Engineering (2004). "Nanoscience and nanotechnologies (Ch. 6)" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-12-05. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  31. ^ European Parliament (2006). "Technology Assessment on Converging Technologies" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-01-12. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  32. ^ European Parliament (2009). "Human Enhancement" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-01-12. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  33. ^ Lin, Patrick; Allhoff, Fritz (March 16, 2019). "Untangling the Debate: The Ethics of Human Enhancement". NanoEthics. 2 (3): 251–264. doi:10.1007/s11569-008-0046-7.
  34. ^ Carrico, Dale (2007). "Modification, Consent, and Prosthetic Self-Determination". Retrieved 2007-04-03. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  35. ^ a b Selgelid, Michael (March 16, 2019). "Moderate Eugenics and Human Enhancement". Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy. 1 (1): 3–12. doi:10.1007/s11019-013-9485-1. PMID 23728949.
  36. ^ Mooney, Pat Roy (2002). "Beyond Cloning: Making Well People "Better"". Retrieved 2007-02-02. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  37. ^ Fukuyama, Francis (2002). Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-23643-4.
  38. ^ Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future. "Human "Enhancement"". Archived from the original on 2007-02-09. Retrieved 2007-02-02. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  39. ^ a b Michael Hauskeller, Better Humans?: Understanding the Enhancement Project, Acumen, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84465-557-1.
  40. ^ a b Allhoff, Fritz; Lin, Patrick (2011). Jesse Steinberg. "Ethics of Human Enhancement: An Executive Summary". Science and Engineering Ethics. 17 (2): 201–212. doi:10.1007/s11948-009-9191-9. PMID 20094921.
  41. ^ Sandel, Michael J. (2004). "The Case Against Perfection". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
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  44. ^ Thayer, K.A. (2014). "Mapping human enhancement rhetoric." Global issues and ethical considerations in human enhancement technologies. IGI Global. pp. 30–53.

Further readingEdit

  • Michael Bess (2015). Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Life in the Bioengineered Society of the Near Future. Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0807052174.

External linksEdit