I’ve been interested in transhumanism since I began to understand the decisions about human enhancement that will face future generations. If you’re wondering what human enhancement means – the Wikipedia definition is “any attempt to temporarily or permanently overcome the current limitations of the human body through natural or artificial means. It is the use of technological means to select or alter human characteristics and capacities, whether or not the alteration results in characteristics and capacities that lie beyond the existing human range.”
I used to think that it was all about the technology, but now I realise it’s as much, if not more, about moral and hence legal choices. There will be decisions around who should have the enhancements – are they free to anyone that needs them, free to anyone that wants them or only available to those that can pay? If they’re free for anyone that wants them, then who pays for the research and development and who do we test them on? It’s not dissimilar to our current situation with health care and the pharmaceutical industry, except the potential inequality between those with enhancements and those without is even greater.
There are also questions about what type of enhancements should be allowed – should they only be for the disabled (which of course opens up a massive debate on what we deem to be ‘abled’), should they be targeted at people whose ability to do their job would benefit from a mental or physical enhancement or should there be no limits on what is allowed?
We need to start the public debate so we’re not rushed or forced into decisions without being able to think them through carefully; we don’t want to sleepwalk into a situation that favours the rich and the powerful.