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Posted: August 31, 2009

Ethics of human enhancement: 25 questions and answers

(Nanowerk News) The Human Enhancement Ethics Group today released a new report funded by the US National Science Foundation, addressing such topics as: definitions, possible scenarios, freedom & autonomy, fairness & equity, societal disruptions, human dignity, rights & obligations, and policy & law.
Entitled “Ethics of Human Enhancement: 25 Questions & Answers,” the 50-page report serves as a convenient and accessible starting point for both public and classroom discussions, such as in bioethics seminars. Some of the questions addressed include:
  • What is human enhancement?
  • Does human enhancement raise issues of fairness, access, and equity?
  • What kind of societal disruptions might arise from human enhancement?
  • If individuals are enhanced differently, will communication be more difficult or impossible?
  • Will we need to rethink the notion of a “good life”?
  • Should children be enhanced?
  • What are the policy implications of human enhancement?
  • Authored by the NSF-funded research team—Dr. Fritz Allhoff (Western Michigan University), Dr. Patrick Lin (California Polytechnic State University), Prof. James Moor (Dartmouth College), and Prof. John Weckert (Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics/Charles Sturt University, Australia)—the report is part of a three-year ethics study on human enhancement and emerging technologies, especially nanotechnology.
    “No matter where one is aligned on this issue, it is clear that the human enhancement debate is a deeply passionate and personal one, striking at the heart of what it means to be human,” explained Dr. Lin in the report. “Some see it as a way to fulfill or even transcend our potential; others see it as a darker path towards becoming Frankenstein’s monster.”
    The study is supported by US National Science Foundation, under grant numbers 0620694 and 0621021. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in the report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.
    The report can be accessed without charge at The Human Enhancement Ethics Group is a sub-group of the Ethics + Emerging Technologies Group, located online at
    About Ethics + Emerging Technologies Group
    Based at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, the Ethics + Emerging Technologies Group is a non-partisan research and educational organization focused on the risk, ethical, and social impacts of emerging technologies. The group’s members and collaborators include experts from respected academic institutions worldwide. Current projects and interests are related to issues in robotics, human enhancement, nanotechnology, space development, and other areas.
    Source: Ethics + Emerging Technologies Group
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