Truly Human Enhancement
A Philosophical Defense of Limits
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: The MIT Press
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I am pleased to present the forty-first book in the Basic Bioethics series. The series makes innovative works in bioethics available to a broad audience and introduces seminal scholarly manuscripts, state-of-the-art reference works, and textbooks. Topics engaged include the philosophy of medicine, advancing genetics...
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Our humanity marks the point of convergence of increasingly powerful transformative technologies. Some of these technologies will modify human genetic material. Others will attach cybernetic implants and prostheses to human brains and bodies. This book is a philosophical exploration of the moral and prudential limits on the use of these technologies...
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I owe thanks to many people who provided intellectual and emotional support during the writing of this book. Stuart Brock, Felice Marshall, and Cesar Palacios read the entire manuscript and offered very many philosophically valuable suggestions. Edwin Mares and John Matthewson helped enormously with chapter 5, greatly enhancing my understanding...
1. Radical Human Enhancement as a Transformative Change
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This is the age of human enhancement. Students and pilots swallow pills to enhance their powers of concentration while preparing for exams or operating stealth bombers. Cosmetic surgeons enhance people’s appearances. Olympians use artificial means to enhance their sporting performances. These are but a few ways by which human beings signal our dissatisfaction...
2. Two Ideals of Human Enhancement
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This chapter presents two ideals that compete to direct the enhancement of human beings. According to the objective ideal, an enhancement has prudential value commensurate with the degree to which it objectively enhances a human capacity. Technologies that produce enhancements of greater objective magnitude are, all else equal...
3. What Interest Do We Have in Superhuman Feats?
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The first years of the twenty-first century have seen a resurgence of the Hollywood superhero movie. A spate of big-grossing movies celebrates humans or humanlike beings with superhuman abilities. For example, the 2012 movie The Avengers features flying humans, humans with super-strength, humans sufficiently robust to survive skyscraper collapses, humans with the physical...
4. The Threat to Human Identities from Too Much Enhancement
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In chapter 3, I argued that radical enhancement is likely to replace very valuable experiences and achievements with less valuable experiences and achievements. This reduction in value is a consequence of an estrangement from the experiences and achievements of radically enhanced beings. In this chapter, I switch the focus of discussion to a problem that is effectively...
5. Should We Enhance Our Cognitive Powers to Better Understand the Universe and Our Place in It?
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This chapter addresses the value we place on improving our capacity to do science by enhancing our cognitive powers. The search for new scientific explanations is certainly not the only motivation for enhancing our cognitive powers—one might pursue cognitive enhancement for its effects on the writing of poetry or the playing of chess, for example. But it has a special...
6. The Moral Case against Radical Life Extension
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The longest verified human life span is that of the smoking, drinking Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who lived for 122 years and 164 days. Calment died in 1997. She had vivid memories of meeting Vincent Van Gogh—“a dirty, badly dressed, disagreeable” man. Calment put her extreme longevity down to a diet rich in olive oil, port wine, and chocolates.1 Radical life extension...
7. A Defense of Truly Human Enhancement
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The chief focus of the book so far has been on the dangers of too much enhancement. The intrinsic value of human enhancement conforms to an anthropocentric ideal. Beyond a certain point, greater degrees of enhancement sever the connection with internal goods and therefore reduce the intrinsic value of enhanced capacities. Note that this is a statement about our present...
8. Why Radical Cognitive Enhancement Will (Probably) Enhance Moral Status
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The chief focus of the book’s discussion so far has been on the individuals who have undergone radical enhancement. Radical enhancement is prudentially irrational—it is predictably bad for those who undergo it. Lesser degrees of enhancement—moderate enhancement—can promote the interests of those who undergo them. It can be prudentially...
9. Why Moral Status Enhancement Is a Morally Bad Thing
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In what follows, I present a moral argument for avoiding the creation of post-persons. Degrees of cognitive enhancement that risk moral status enhancement should, by implication, also be avoided. This argument points to bad consequences of moral status enhancement. These consequences are not certain. They are, however, sufficiently probable and bad to justify limiting cognitive...
10. A Technological Yet Truly Human Future—as Depicted in Star Trek
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This book has presented an ideal of truly human enhancement that combines an endorsement of moderate enhancement with a rejection of radical enhancement. Chapter 7 contained an argument in favor of moderate human enhancement— the improvement of significant attributes and abilities to levels within or close to what is currently...
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Basic Bioethics Series
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Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2013