Human Enhancement (HE) is a modification of human physical and mental capacities using science or technology-based enhancers in or on the body. A simple example is cosmetic surgery. Enhancements can be innocuous (coffee for increasing alertness) or considered unethical (doping in sports). Some schools of thought consider human enhancement as directed evolution, and others, as a reworked extension of eugenics. To supporters of HE – transhumanists – these are springboards to healing people and to changing and improving humanity .Enhancements (as imagined in the present time) could be:
Physical: performance enhancers / prosthetics / wearables and in the future, genetic engineering
Cosmetic: Plastic surgery; in the future, safe, easy access, non-invasive technologies
Longevity: Skin replacements, anti-aging drugs
Affective: drugs for maintaining happiness, for fear reduction, and anti-boredom
Cognitive: Neurosimulation and modulation for cognition disorders instead of drugs – memory enhancers (Nootropics)
Moral: Chemical castration / drugs to treat recidivism / truth serums / cooperation medications .
Many of us have had at least one modification that accounts for an enhancement. In the past decade, nanotechnology has made data storage faster and cheaper (a cheaper brain? Uploading your memories onto the cloud for making space for new memories in the physical brain?), CRISPR has revolutionized gene editing (what color eyes do you want? no more birth defects in children), prosthetics exist for limb disabilities, lasik treatments, cochlear and artificial retina implants have restored hearing and sight – the list continues. Core groups that could benefit from advanced enhancements – in the immediate future – are soldiers and individuals with disabilities. Cognitive and physical enhancements can potentially extend the working life of many, particularly in aging societies like in Japan, as early as 2030, drastically changing the future of work. Given that the APAC region is estimated to show the maximum growth in this segment, tech and electronics giants are moving into this space rapidly . While some HE applications are decidedly earth-bound and may be considered optional, HE is increasingly being recommended as a serious and necessary option for long-term explorations of space missions . The TIME magazine, in 2011, had optimistically declared 2045 as the year when humans become immortal . While this is an impressively short time frame (just 25 years away, as of 2021), there is every chance of failure. A certain virus has brought the entire world to its knees – there is much we still don’t understand about the human body, aging and consciousness to make a super-enhanced human being.Even if we have technologies, questions abound. While the promise of being a long-lived, disease-free and cognitively superior human is tantalising, the bigger issue is access to these enhancements. Clearly, many of these are not cheap, and accessibility is tied to affordability. Will these be regulated like registered medications, under the purview of doctors and hospitals and eligible for insurance? Will user eligibility be decided by the user’s potential benefit or harm to society? What if one decides to exercise one’s right to remain “imperfect”? What if there is pressure to use enhancements, say in an office, for enhanced productivity? Thus, questions on human enhancements centre around authenticity and autonomy, human nature, justice and fairness, freedom and coercion, (im)perfection and accessibility [2, 6]. Despite the questions, as these technologies become more mainstream, acceptance will increase. Who wants to give up a chance at a longer, more perfect life? After all, this is the closest we can get to Immortality.
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