The limits of what is and what is not human enhancement are hard to pin down. Enhancements can be regarded as those interventions aimed at overcoming natural limitations; these limitations may be inborn or acquired later in life. It can also mean interventions aimed at changing the biology or psychology of a person which increases the chances of leading a good life. Even in this seemingly benign area of human endeavors, human enhancement can raise a number of ethical, legal and social concerns. Enhancements can occur at any time, from before conception to death, and can be accomplished via genetic, pharmaceutical, mechanical, biomechanical and/or other methods. Enhancements can be permanent, semi-permanent or temporary. In some instances, such as with genetic enhancements, these are not only permanent but also can affect the germ line of the individual and thus pass on the enhancements their offspring. Enhancements can be invasive or not-invasive, superficial or truly radical. To some degree, there is often a visceral response to the general field of human enhancement technologies, often raising concerns related to playing God, not being natural or threatening an important aspect of the human condition. Ethically, enhancements tend to be easier to swallow when they are therapeutic in nature however many enhancements may not serve any particular therapeutic purposes. For instance the general public may be interested in enhancements to obtain an advantage or to level the playing field. In this regard, athletes are known to seek out ways to obtain enhancements, and in some instances, to cover up those enhancements. Additionally, militaries and industries are also interested in human enhancement for non-therapeutic purposes to better fight and compete against enemies and competitors respectively.
Enhancements are not only ethically suspect, but they raise social and legal concerns as well. Issues relating to social justice include societal concepts of ableness, fair play in sports and disability and concerns about a 24/7 working society, and dehumanizing enhanced soldiers. Legal issues relate to product liability, torts, employment law, agency law and health regulation.
Topics of interest can include:
• Gene doping
• Ethical and social differences between inborn and acquired genetic enhancements
• Enhancements in sports, the workplace, schools the military
• Therapeutic and military use of exoskeletons
• Non therapeutic prostheses, brain –stimulation devices
• Liability of semi-autonomous prostheses connected via neural connections to the individual
• Re-evaluating doping in sports as a result of new genomic knowledge relating to sports related genes and inborn unfairness
• Re-evaluating codes of conduct in a schools setting as a result of pharmacological use of cognitive enhancements
• Developing new rules of warfare and engagement when dealing with enhanced military personal
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