Human enhancement is a hotly debated issue among scholars, the media and policymakers about its ethical and social ramifications. It also presents social systems with new challenges such as how people are judged, societies structured and health care delivered in an innovative manner.
Understanding human enhancement is critical in order to fully grasp its implications for society as a whole and, specifically, how the current ethical debate can be reframed. Doing this will enable us to determine which approaches to development and use of enhancement technologies are more practical, politically feasible and responsible than others.
First and foremost, it is essential to define what human enhancement actually means and to question whether therapy and enhancement are mutually exclusive concepts. For instance, assistive technology for disabled people, reproductive medicine and pharmacology have more potential for human ‘enhancement’ than previously considered.
Second, it is necessary to identify three levels of ethical concern regarding human enhancement. These concerns can be broadly classified as individual ethical issues, professional ethical issues and societal considerations.
Underlying these concerns is the idea that human enhancement should be pursued with the goal of improving everyone’s lives, not just elite individuals as has been done for decades. In such a society, an individual enhancement would only be worthwhile if it made them better equipped to lead the life they desired or otherwise significantly enhanced through the process.
In this context, cosmetic surgery could be seen as an example of enhancement that could be justified from an ethical perspective, since it aims to improve physical appearance and self-esteem. Similarly, fluoridated tap water in numerous countries to promote dental hygiene among children can also be seen as a form of enhancement with potential social benefit.
The topic of human enhancement is a complex one that raises ethical and practical concerns alike – such as whether these changes can be reversed. Therefore, it’s essential to address these concerns and limit their use if technology doesn’t deliver on its promises.
Thirdly, it is necessary to consider the wider effects of human enhancement on society as a whole and their influence on global economies. For instance, an increase in people using advanced technologies to drastically alter their bodies could exacerbate existing disparities in wealth and prosperity around the world.
It is especially pertinent in a society where many people cannot currently afford the lifestyles they aspire to lead. In such an environment, there is the potential for advancement to lead to a zero-sum game – something which should be taken seriously.