The Case for Enhancing People

Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey argues for using biotech, nanotech, and infotech to enhance human physical, intellectual, and emotional capabilities

Editor's Note: As part of a symposium at the "Stuck with Virtue" conference at Berry College in Georgia earlier this year, Reason Science Correpondent Ronald Bailey argued for using biotech, infotech, and nanotech to enhance human intellectual, phyiscal, and emotional capabilities. His essay, along with responses, has now been published in the current issue of The New Atlantis. An excerpt begins below:

Does the enhancement of human physical and intellectual capacities undermine virtue?

In answering this question, we must first make a distinction between therapy and enhancement. Therapeutic technologies are meant to restore impaired or degraded human capacities to some more normal level. By contrast, any enhancements would alter human functioning beyond the normal.

We must also keep in mind that, whatever we think about them, enhancements are going to happen. Age-retardation or even age-reversal are prime targets for research, but other techniques aimed at preventing disease and boosting memory, intelligence, and physical strength will also be developed.

Much worried attention is focused particularly on the possibility of achieving these and other enhancements through genetic engineering; that will indeed one day happen. But the fastest advances in enhancement will occur using pharmaceutical and biomedical interventions to modulate and direct the activity of existing genes in the bodies of people who are already alive. These will happen alongside the development of human-machine interfaces that will extend and boost human capacities.

Contrary to oft-expressed concerns, we will find, first, that enhancements will better enable people to flourish; second, that enhancements will not dissolve whatever existential worries people have; third, that enhancements will enable people to become more virtuous; fourth, that people who don’t want enhancement for themselves should allow those of us who do to go forward without hindrance; fifth, that concerns over an “enhancement divide” are largely illusory; and sixth, that we already have at hand the social “technology,” in the form of protective social and political institutions, that will enable the enhanced and the unenhanced to dwell together in peace. ...

Go here to read the whole essay.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Woo Deus Ex.

  • Gamboling is an enhancement||

    unless you like the zoo cage of the city-State

  • H man||

    The only bad thing about life enhancement. Immortal Castro and a regime based on getting the life extension treatments for your loyalty and/or closeness to the ruling elites.

  • Juice||

    That's why I used to love listening to Alex Jones. He would come up with the best stuff about the Bilderberg/Illuminati elite types all striving toward life extending enhancements so they could kill off 80% of the population and live like overlords, ruling the mortals. Damn. He could take the most mundane shit and spin it into the most epic saga of human struggle against the supermen of the hidden ruling class. The show's gone downhill in the past few years, but for a while there it was awesome.

  • chris||

    Yeah, but The Chase at 1 A.M. is the loneliest fucking sound on the planet.

  • CE||

    Just wait until all the cops have enhanced physical strength from taking steroids, and we live in a police state where even American citizens can be detained indefinitely, and busy-body liberals want to outlaw everything.

    Oh, wait.

  • o3||

    MLB's trying to get rid of enhanced people w enhanced records. >61 & 755.

  • ­||

    They're trying? At all?

  • Cliché Bandit||

    FTL neutrinos FTL neutrinos FTL neutrinos FTL neutrinos FTL neutrinos FTL neutrinos FTL neutrinos FTL neutrinos FTL neutrinos FTL neutrinos

  • A Serious Man||

    And Higgs boson. Incredible how such monumental discoveries can ocurr within such a short time span.

  • ||

    It's funny how transhumanism has become a pop culture sort of phenom. ...er, certainly a gamer meme anyway.

    Deus Ex, Crysis, Bioshock...

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    For example, Leon Kass, the former chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics (PCBE) under President Bush, has asserted, “the finitude of human life is a blessing for every individual, whether he knows it or not.” And Daniel Callahan, co-founder of the Hastings Center, has declared, “There is no known social good coming from the conquest of death.” Callahan added, “The worst possible way to resolve [the question of life extension] is to leave it up to individual choice.” When asked if the government has a right to tell its citizens that they have to die, Johns Hopkins University political scientist Francis Fukuyama answered, “Absolutely.”

    Such. Fucking. Cunts.

  • T||

    When asked if the government has a right to tell its citizens that they have to die, Johns Hopkins University political scientist Francis Fukuyama answered, “Absolutely.”

    You first, Francis. Fuck it, if the .gov can tell you you have to die, why can't they just pick a time for you?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    What does anyone listen to what Francis Fukuyama has to say? He fuckin' wrote The End of History and the Last Man, for crying out loud!

    He deserves nothing but ridicule and opprobrium.

  • Gamboling Lockdown||

    Libertarian gambol lockdown tyrants deserve nothing but ridicule and opprobrium.

  • CE||

    The mind of a tyrant:

    When asked if the government has a right to tell its citizens that they have to die, Johns Hopkins University political scientist Francis Fukuyama answered, “Absolutely.”

  • Gamboling Lockdown||

    The mind of a libertarian tyrant:

    When asked if the government has a right to tell its citizens that they cannot gambol about plain and forest in a Non-State society lifeway, Reason Foundation political whore to the Koch Bros. answered, “Absolutely.”

  • Agriculture Lockdown||

    Officer, am I free to plant? May I plant a seed about the plain and eat of its fruit?

    When asked if I can plant a seed in a Non-Nomad society lifeway, Fatass Indian answered, "No way, Jose."

  • CE||

    There's no such thing as a libertarian tyrant. If you want to gambol across plain and forest, no one is stopping you. There's plenty of unclaimed wilderness left. Go enjoy it.

  • first||

    With breasts that seem to defy gravity Gabriella was surely destined to be a nude model. One hundred percent natural, Gabriella tells us she inherited her incredible assets from her mother. Although mum’s are apparently twice the size!

    This Brazilian beauty is as passionate and temperamental as they come and has lots of life experience for her age. She loves to dance, can mix the best cocktails and at the end of a long day likes to relax by sucking on a fine cigar! The only problem for Gabriella appears to be that she is unlucky in love...

    Although established as a popular model for car shows around the world this was her first time ever doing full nudes. Gabriella however took it all in her stride - as the results show!

    And you won’t want to miss her videos, when the camera started rolling Gabriella turned into a wild cat in the springtime.

  • Realist||

    Any thing that increases the intelligence of humans is good. Increasing intelligence and integrity = excellent.

  • ||

    I've been trying to enhance my mind and think beyond my normal ability and outside of a normal perspective for years but the government keeps telling me it's illegal. I think they're afraid I'll out think them. I think I already have.

  • دردشة العراق||

    Thank you

  • Bryce Mcminn, Meriden||

    Editor's Note: As part of a symposium at the "Stuck with Virtue" conference at Berry College in Georgia earlier this year, Reason Science Correpondent Ronald Bailey argued for using biotech, infotech, and nanotech to enhance human intellectual, phyiscal, and emotional capabilities.

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement