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Consumers Are Open to Superhuman Vision and Cognitive Enhancements. Are Regulators?

The first comprehensive survey on attitudes about human enhancement finds Americans are open to some crazy new technologies.

Body modifications that restore lost capabilities have existed since the invention of the prosthetic limb in the 11th century. But we are now several years into an era of technologies that do more than crudely mimic lost parts. The BiOM Ankle System, developed by double-amputee Hugh Herr at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the first prosthetic to achieve "biomechanical and physiological normalization." Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, meanwhile, have developed a bone-integrated prosthetic arm that operates using the same nerve signals that controlled the original human limb. In 2016 the Food and Drug Administration approved the first closed-loop insulin delivery system that effectively mimics the function of the pancreas for type-1 diabetics. And just two months ago, the agency approved the first therapy that can replace the defective gene that causes a rare form of inherited blindness.

Yet a new survey released by the AARP finds that most Americans are unfamiliar with advances in human enhancement technology, and upon learning of them are supportive only up to a point. "Most people agreed that these technologies would help the people who used them even if they're scared of what it might to do to society as a whole," says Debra Whitman, executive vice president and chief public policy officer for the AARP.

The AARP commissioned NORC to survey 2,000 Americans in August and September of last year. Respondents were asked about five generic categories: vision enhancement, joint enhancement, cognitive enhancement via medication, cognitive enhancement via implant, and gene therapy. NORC also polled respondents on three imaginary technologies dreamed up by the Dubai Future Foundation: the Endorphomatic, a device applied to the forehead that measures hormone levels and uses those readings to "improve mood and enable relaxation"; Autolingua, a brain implant that allows users to understand five common languages; and New Knees, a joint replacement technology that would grant users superhuman running, jumping, and lifting abilities.

Only 25 percent of respondents knew "some" or "a lot" about enhancement technology, a finding that Whitman attributes partly to the communication gap between researchers and the general public, partly the definition. Only nine percent of respondents said they had used an existing enhancement technology, a definition that includes organ transplants, pacemakers, prosthetics, joint replacements, and medications. A more expansive definition that included, say, reading glasses, corrective eye surgery, platelet-rich plasma injections, and orthopedic shoe inserts would have found a substantially larger group. Then again, we don't tend to think of ubiquitous technologies as technology at all. On the long spectrum of human accomplishment, microwaves and televisions are closer to the Enterprise's holodeck than to the horse and buggy, but by now we treat them as relatively pedestrian.

Perhaps because of the definition, only a minority of respondents expressed personal interest in enhancing their own abilities. Medication-assisted cognitive enhancement was the most popular at 43 percent, followed by vision enhancement at 35 percent, implant-assisted cognitive enhancement at 34 percent, and joint enhancement at 25 percent. Support for each was highest in scenarios where the technology would restore lost abilities, with support declining as the perceived necessity declined. The below chart is for both types of cognitive enhancement, but the results for vision and joints look pretty much the same:

AARPAARP

Concerns about enhancement revolved around socioeconomic access, surveillance, medical side effects, and social stratification by ability. Surprisingly, a majority of respondents agreed that these enhancements "should be available to everyone who wants them":

AARPAARP

Eighty percent of respondents think "ethics professionals" should be involved in decisions about enhanced technologies, while only 37 percent said that religious leaders should play a role:

AARPAARP

Support for the Dubai Future Foundation's concepts, meanwhile, skewed male, educated, and secular:

AARPAARP

AARPAARP

For the most part, support for enhancement was highest among people who are already familiar with, or using, existing enhancement technologies; who are male and under 50; and who identify as "non-believers." Basically, the Silicon Valley/nootropics/biohacking set. Protestant resistance to enhancement, which is consistent across the study, took me by surprise. I'd love to know whether the skepticism is socioeconomic (This will just make the rich richer) or theological (If God wanted me to have Go Go Gadget Arms, etc.); and also why followers of other religions are more sanguine about it.

While the generic cognitive enhancement survey question says that respondents are most worried about the "effects on society," the biggest two concerns expressed about Endorphomatic were unforeseen side effects (86 percent) and addiction (80 percent). That leads me to believe that as these technologies move from the realm of broad speculation to specific application, the concerns will be more immediate and visceral. When it came to New Knees, more people were worried about medical side effects than the effects on society, probably because it is easier to picture someone slicing open their knees and wacking at their connective tissue than it is to imagine how that procedure might change the world.

The least surprising aspect of the study was the overall support for drug-assisted cognitive enhancement. "When you look at the aging population, you see a lot of interest in cognition," Whitman tells me. "People want to know, 'How do we extend our health spans?'" The "health span" concept is exactly what it sounds like: the length of time for which we are not just alive, but healthy. With Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia hanging over the largest generation of elderly persons America has ever seen, we should expect boomer and (eventually) Gen X support for cognition-enhancing technologies to only increase.

But even support across the age spectrum won't necessarily pave the way for the most controversial category of enhancements—technologies that make us better than we are at our natural best. The hurdle for that category is purely philosophical, since we already have technologies that can produce supraphysiological results. Stimulants can help you focus better than you otherwise would; androgens can help you recover and gain muscle faster. But those and other drugs are regulated as therapies and are thus dispensable only for the treatment of specific diseases. And those two technologies aren't even all that new. How will regulators respond to the first prototype of a product like Autolingua? I can't imagine the Food and Drug Administration having nothing to say, but the agency also has no system for reviewing or approving medical technologies that don't serve a diagnostic or therapeutic purpose.

Whether the concept tech envisioned by the Dubai Future Foundation is five years from possible or 50, it feels more immediate than a U.S. regulatory body that won't try to strangle it in the crib.

Want to see more of the bionic man? Check out Freethink Media's documentary about Johnny Matheny, the test subject for the world's most advanced bionic prosthesis:

Photo Credit: Imagine China/Newscom

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  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    If god wanted you to have super butts, you'd come with a detachable one already!

    Keep your dirty government hands off my natty ass!

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    I am only familiar with the use of the term "natty" in reference to Rasta hair, as in this badass tune, and I really hope that's not what you meant.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I have more faith in the limits of technology as a bulwark against government abuse than I do in the law, and putting anything in myself that lets anybody program my brain . . .

    Because I wouldn't do something doesn't mean other people shoudn't be allowed to--but that doesn't mean I relish a future when progressives can program children's brains.

    Isn't that already bad enough?

    Wouldn't society be a better place if we could just take kid's racist, homophobic, and sexist biases out of them with root access straight from the source code?

    Maybe, but why stop there?

  • Kivlor||

    Wouldn't society be a better place if we could just take kid's racist, homophobic, and sexist biases out of them with root access straight from the source code?

    Wouldn't society be a better place if I could just take kid's personal and genetic inborn preferences, and cut them out of their brains? No. That would be a tyranny. Even if it stopped at racism.

    Wouldn't life be better if we forced race mixing, instead of letting people choose whom they will marry and have children with? Wouldn't it be better if we forced young boys to be sodomized so they won't view it in a negative light?

    The fact that you'd even consider it if it weren't for the fact that they might use it for other purposes is pretty frightening Ken.

  • SQRLSY One||

    The downside (according to some "bio-ethnic-cysts") is that there will be less diversity, 'cause less cripples and sick people...
    Strangely, I have never heard this argument being used against better communicable-disease technologies, and improved highway safety, among other things... Nor have I heard of "bio-ethnic-cysts" volunteering their bodies or brains (or of their children) to be deliberately crippled to add to our precious store of "diversity"…

    I know that I'm borrowing trouble here, but… Looking way on down the line, past the preventing of obvious diseases and defects… Which hopefully will go down smoothly with most sensible folks… How about that them thar "designer babies", of the bio-and-or-cyborg flavors?!

    All it will take is a pair of new-era 18-year-old hipsters, who think it would be way-cool to raise a man-bear-pig, or a vampire with "sharp, pointy teeth" and literal blood-lust… And then here come the ten billion regulations and regulators, just because of one or two pairs of idiots on a planet of 12 billion people!

  • silver.||

    I've been struggling with the philosophical implications of genetic modification of humans ever since I learned that we can already do it. DNA is much more pliant than we originally thought. It's essentially the hard drive of our bodies, and effective medications and even simple habituation and behavior can alter gene expression AKA change what's on the hard drive, and it'll correspondingly affect the same traits in offspring. The longer I go with my personality needle pointed at "pessimistic prick," the higher the probability that my future offspring will be born with the same inclinations.

    Basically we could have a whole planet of Crusties some day.

  • ||

    DNA is much more pliant than we originally thought.

    This isn't, exactly, the case. It might surprise/not surprise you to learn that we had a pretty good bead on how pliable it was until we had to start teaching about it in the public school system in an effort to master the genome. Then we had to dumb things down to make it more teachable.

    The longer I go with my personality needle pointed at "pessimistic prick," the higher the probability that my future offspring will be born with the same inclinations.

    Which has virtually nothing to do with the DNA that you passed on to them. Otherwise, we'd all still be tough-as-nails Nazi face-punchers instead of whining about our safe spaces. Happy-go-lucky, wealthy prick converts to jaded, bitter pauper and back well within the time anything could possibly be hard coded into or out of the genome on just about any scale.

  • silver.||

    ...bitter pauper and back well within the time anything could possibly be hard coded into or out of the genome on just about any scale...

    This is the what I was thinking had been discovered. I was under the impression that such things can only be changed through evolutionary means, which are in the timescale of millennia. It seems that's still the case, thanks for clarifying.

  • vek||

    There is evidence that our environment influences which genes are activated in our offspring. Things like famine, war, etc. Different genes are also activated during our childrens youth, which may alter what they were born with from our own experiences. For instance girls growing up in households without fathers around hit puberty sooner, and have sex younger. This is probably programmed in because in the past no father meant war, famine, ect probably killed him, and you need to find a man ASAP to provide for you. The switches for things like this were never thought to exist until the fairly recent past, but seem to be incredibly powerful in the real world.

    DNA is suuuper crazy nowadays with all the stuff we know... Which only makes me wonder what new madness we will find in the coming years.

  • Zeb||

    I assume you are talking about epigenetics. I don't think we understand that well enough yet to make the claims you are making about passing on personality traits that you develop in your lifetime. For all we know, you being a pessimistic prick could change the genetic expression in your offspring so they are more friendly and optimistic.

    I'm no expert, so I could be wrong. But that's my understanding of the state of that knowledge.

  • silver.||

    ...you are talking about epigenetics. I don't think we understand that well enough yet to make the claims you are making...

    I am indeed, and it's entirely possible that I'm completely full of shit, because I'm a layman talking about a field that nobody really understands.

  • Kivlor||

    Yup. With a few exceptions everyone is going to support curing the sick and repairing/restoring the deformed and disabled. The big issues are going to come later. Even "designer babies" will only be treated with a moderate skepticism when the day truly comes. Because It will start with "Hey, we can basically make your kid resistant to X disease" and in the end, if you can make sure your kid is 70% less likely to have heart disease just due to genetics, you will do so.

    But you're going to have people who start doing some very bad things, to their children, not themselves, and that is going to cause a hue and cry for regulation. Rightly so. It is always a dangerous minority that puts liberty in jeopardy. "I want you to design me a vampire baby that can't go out in the sun, has fangs and needs to drink blood." Ugh.

  • vek||

    It may be made illegal in the USA/Europe... But China is showing no signs of slowing down on this stuff. Frankly I don't think designer babies are a problem. Whey shouldn't everyone be 6'1", naturally thin and muscular, a good looking face, 9 inch wang (or double Ds!), and a 160 IQ?

    This is the only thing that may stop the earth from turning into a shit show when there are no more jobs for "mentally inferior people" with ONLY 115 IQs to do... Obviously I'm meaning to say that it is entirely possible that in the near future even people of only moderately above average intelligence may not be very useful, so raising the bar on future generations might save us from UBI and having 80% of the population just sitting around mooching.

  • Kivlor||

    SQRLSY

    There is an argument to be had about communicable diseases, on a long-term basis. It won't win out, because people are short-sighted and will be looking for any short-term advancement they can get.

    If you design people who just can't catch ABC diseases, the concern would be that their immune systems won't develop properly. Which seems like a moot point, if they can't get sick. Except many diseases mutate rapidly, and the historical pattern for those who don't ever get sick is that in time, their descendants do encounter a plague that they can contract and it wipes out entire societies. Look at the Native Americans for example.

    Now if you build a society on having enhanced immune systems, that still contract and just better manage/fight disease, that be robust and avoid this situation. Just depends on how it is implemented.

  • silver.||

    Beef it up too much and you get autoimmune diseases. You've got these well-trained elite soldiers with too little to do, so they start destroying their own facilities.

    Like Philadelphians.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Yes, comments to both Kivlor and Silver above... Ye are correct! If our immune systems do NOT have enough to beat up on, they start to beat up on US! Which is why "helminthic therapy" is a "thing"...
    On radioactive wastes, Google "radiation hormesis", and see USA government study of the Taiwan thing (accidental experiment on humans) at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm.....MC2477708/ … Low-dose radioactivity is actually GOOD for you! Seriously!!!
    On "helminthic therapy", AKA gut parasite worms are GOOD for you, too, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20054982 (USA government again) or others …
    Well anyway, WHAT is a summary of what I am saying? I thought I heard you asking about that, through my tri-cornered aluminum-foil hat, as I am sitting here…

    HERE is your summary: Holyweird is WAY off base, with their horror movies! A Giant Gut-Parasitical Radioactive Teenage Mutant Ninja Tapeworm would be GOOD for us!!! Bring it ON, ah says!!!

  • SQRLSY One||

    For my fellow geeks out there... The reason why "radiation hormesis" is relevant here is, just like infections (disease organisms), we seem to have evolved with the NEED for our immune systems to constantly have something to do (otherwise we get auto-immune diseases). Low-level radiation will constantly generate low levels of cancer, and keep our immune system "on its toes", in good practice, constantly fending off cancer.

    So bring ON (at least a low level of) ionizing radiation!

  • silver.||

    I learned a theory that background radiation could be the driving force for evolution. Essentially it's what causes the spontaneous mutations that could be beneficial or catastrophic for the survival of a particular individual.

    Also interesting is areas of the world that have very high levels of background radiation don't have cancer prevalence like one would expect. Certainly there's no linear correlation between radiation level and cancer incidence.

  • SQRLSY One||

    USA government study of the Taiwan thing (accidental experiment on humans) at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm.....MC2477708/ … Low-dose radioactivity is actually GOOD for you, by REDUCING the number of cancers actually seen in a population! As I recall from reading it a while ago, much of the observed result was in a younger population... Geezers may not benefit from it as much...

  • Kivlor||

    Yeah, I for some reason I hadn't considered that. You can end up with an immune system that attacks what it shouldn't.

    Makes me think of that Star Trek TNG episode with the engineered children whose autoimmune systems attacked the source of infection, reaching beyond their bodies, and ended up attacking every normal human they came in contact with.

  • silver.||

    Wouldn't society be a better place if we could just take kid's racist, homophobic, and sexist biases out of them with root access straight from the source code?

    This corresponds very well to fictional anti-conflict drug "The Pax" in Firefly.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I had to leave the theater halfway through Serenity because of an emergency. That worked out well, right?

  • silver.||

    Of course! The road to heaven is paved with good intentions!

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Was the emergency a text from a friend that said "Check out this cute kitten available for adoption just a few blocks from your house"?

  • ||

    Ken: Your "better society" was envisioned in "Anthem". Since that book the US society has moved closer to it.

    I'm not looking forward to dying but escaping the zombie-like political society I see all around me, that I wouldn't miss.

  • Mickey Rat||

    How much is scepticism that "superhuman" enhancements (as opposed to restoring function) are anything more than a new form of snake oil?

  • EscherEnigma||

    That's plausible. If you forget we *already* have performance-enhancing drugs.

  • Rhywun||

    Concerns about enhancement revolved around socioeconomic access

    *rolls genetically-inferior eyes*

    "If I can't have it, no one can. Wah!"

  • Leader Desslok||

    "If I can't have it, no one can. Wah!"

    Pretty much sums up progressive economic theory.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    No one wants the defective to be able to walk around like a normal.

    I know what it's like to be on the other side of that. Growing up I had to learn techniques to hide my own physical deformity and pass as someone who had two kidneys.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Yeah man,I can sympathize... Me and Steve Martin both... We have to pass ourselves off as having just ONE brain, instead of TWO!!!

    (PS, look on the bright side... Some of us find your one remaining kidney to be VERY shapely!)

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Don't make it weird.

  • Kivlor||

    No one that I know--and I'm a full-on reactionary--is opposed to using technology to grant cripples the ability to walk, or to give hands to amputees, or sight to the blind. No one has a problem with anything like that.

    There is some TREMENDOUS concern about things that go into / alter the brain. For good reason.

  • SQRLSY One||

    http://time.com/76154/deaf-cul.....-implants/ "Science Gave My Son the Gift of Sound"...

    We have deaf people arguing that it is "genocide" of the "deaf culture" to give corrective surgery to young children, so that they can hear, before their brain plasticity is lost, and they will NEVER be able to hear!!!!

    As I "tune in" or "channel" our distant descendants, with my tin-foil hat, from 1,459 years from now (give or take a few days), I hear them (with their IQs of 4,567) telling me, "turning down the coming advancements of science will be GENOCIDE on our people!"

  • Kivlor||

    These are a very tiny minority. And they will be overrun. Only a damaged person wants their kid to have a disease or disability. It's akin to the "Bug Chasing" portion of the gay community, intent on getting "The Gift" of AIDS and spreading it to everyone else. This kind of thinking requires a tremendous amount of emotional or flat-out brain damage to contemplate.

    The "genocide" against X phenotypte/genotype will not take hold so long as the idea that the negroes are committing genocide against their own race via abortion doesn't do the same. A few people will clamor, but they will be marginalized. There is hardly an argument for "genocide" here compared to the abortion case, because we're talking about choosing to have XYZ traits, not executing a fetus that has already been conceived.

  • vek||

    When I first heard of that thing with deaf people I just went "WTF is wrong with you yo!" So ridiculous. Those people are nuts.

  • EscherEnigma||

    A lot of that concern depends on how you contextualize it.

    Going to a party? Even on the vanilla side, you're going to get alcohol. Might also get smokes (cigarettes, cigars, "Vapes"), marijuana, all sorts of party drugs that I've never bothered learning.

    Kid has ADHD? Ritalin, Adderall, others and etc.

    Schizophrenic family member? Here comes the Abilify.

    And so-on. Heck, even heroin got started as a painkiller.

    Really, the big objections aren't about the brain. It's about *enhancement* rather then *correction*.

  • Kivlor||

    I probably wasn't clear enough in my previous post. Fixing deficiencies, even in the brain, will not be something generally opposed. But altering the brain just because it's a fad, or this sounds cool, or for "enhancement" is going to pose a real problem.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Sure, I'll agree to that.

  • silver.||

    I got kicked from my 2nd grade class because my parent didn't want to put me on Ritalin during the ADD craze of the 90s.

  • EscherEnigma||

    To be clear, were you actually kicked out because your school disapproved of your parents medical choices, or were you kicked out because of ongoing behavior problems that the medication was supposed to fix?

    'cause one of those versions elicits sympathy and a "that's fucked up man". The other gets a "well, that was your parents choice, but c'mon dude, you were a little shit and you know it."

  • silver.||

    Oh I was totally a little shit.

  • Kivlor||

    I've got a lot of sympathy for either. But I'm generally opposed to drugging children just because you are having a hard time dealing with them. (rare caveats of course)

  • silver.||

    I got over it pretty quickly when the new teacher stuck me in front of a computer whenever I got bored. The screen was shiny.

  • vek||

    The school thought I had ADD when I was a kid, and wanted to drug me. My dad was knee jerk against it. They ran a series of tests, including an IQ test, and found out... I'm a genius, and was mostly only fucking around because I was bored as shit. And also ALL little boys are shits. The female dominated schooling system doesn't allow ANY of us to behave naturally. Of course I ended up being fine with no mind altering drugs.

    I feel so sorry for all the kids who have stupid parents that go with the advice of these femi-edu-nazis.

  • ||

    Slightly OT: I'm digging Netflix's Altered Carbon thanks to whomever it was (X? CJ?) who recommended it.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I haven't watched it yet but the book is so fucked up.

  • ||

    Yes. I liked the book and was worried that the series was going to be too 'Syfy'. I'm at a loss as to how they could've done more justice to the novel. While there are aspects I don't 100% like (plot and character development to seemingly drive a longer storyline/series), it certainly meets/exceeds expectations.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    I watched the first episode and was sort of meh about it. I will keep watching though, because the rest of the TV landscape is an intellectual desert right now (with the exception of Electric Dreams, which I am enjoying). There's definitely cool aspects to it, and I dig Joel Kinnaman's handsome smirks just as much as the next guy, but I am having some suspension-of-disbelief issues and the female lead is kinda lame. But I am hoping it gets better.

  • ||

    I watched the first episode and was sort of meh about it.

    Did you read the book(s)? As I said, I was honestly expecting Kinnaman to be stepping into Kevin Sorbo's shoes. The fact that the series is closer to par with Black Mirror and Blade Runner rather than a sci-fi version of Magnum P.I. makes/made me extremely happy.

  • BYODB||

    Eww...Philip K. Dick. That guy is a fucking loony toon.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    I heard your mom likes Dick.

  • BYODB||

    It would certainly explain how I came into being?

  • silver.||

    Haven't seen it yet, but I'm hearing good things. YSK that it's whitewashed, so you're a damn, dirty racist for watching it.

  • BYODB||

    It's a bit bizarre watching a man who is supposed to be of Asian decent who somehow lacks all of the idiosyncrasies of all the other people of Asian decent in the show...but I ignore it because some of the supporting cast are some truly amazing actors.

    It gets weird when you need several actors to portray the same character, though. It never really works out as well as it would in a novel.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    In the book, Kovacs notices that the body he's resleeved into lacks most of the muscle memory/habits he used to have (instead it comes with a raging nicotine addiction). That could be an in-universe explanation for the lack of idiosyncrasies.

  • BYODB||

    Yeah, without a better in-universe explanation for what an Envoy is I'm assuming that plays a larger part than the body switching itself. Their interpretation of 'muscle memory' isn't actually in line with what that usually means, though.

    If you, say, bite your nails that isn't a muscle memory it's a psychological manifestation. The same could be said of something like bowing instead of shaking a hand.

    The nicotine thing, though, yeah that's also a physical addiction so it makes sense. Especially since apparently he smoked before in his natural body as well so he has both the psychological and physical going.

    Not only that, but who the hell knows what the social norms are of an Asian culture a few hundred years from now. Especially when some of them are a few hundred years old, and some of them are 30. 'Culture' in that universe doesn't really appear to mean a damn thing.

    The casual sexism in a culture that literally transcends the human form is a bit illogical. That's probably the biggest unexplained flaw I've seen thus far but I haven't finished the show yet either. I'll definitely need to read the book after, although I still need to read The Expanse as well.

  • vek||

    Casual sexism? I didn't notice that off hand, but that's probably because I'm a male chauvinist pig! LOL

    Actually what I noticed was more the imaginary women as badasses/leaders thing that has basically never happened at all in the real world throughout all of human history. Other than a few female monarchs who were allowed to rule male societies because their male ancestors established such societies, women have never done the things modern film tries endlessly to portray. So to me it's all just more proggie delusion pedaling.

    As far as things go, sexism could be explained by: Stacks perfectly reproduce the mind of the person, so even if a woman went into a mans body, she would still be the same overly emotional basket case she was in her original body. As far as all the strippers and other stereotypical women... That's the natural order? Men dominate all societies except when they allow women to pretend they have any real power. Powerful hyper competent women are a small minority of women, they exist, but not in the same proportions that powerful hyper competent men exist. The truth might hurt, but it's still the truth.

  • vek||

    I'm liking it so far... Going to watch an episode............ Right now actually!

  • EscherEnigma||

    My main concern with "enhancements" is (A) safety, and (B) socio-economic stratification.

    The first is just a matter of sufficient testing to establish safe limits. So just a matter of time.

    The second is what determines if we're heading for a CyberPunk dystopia or a bio-tech Utopia. And I suspect there's no planning or safeguards we could put in place that would actually change course one way or the other.

    That said, current society is largely against using drugs for performance enhancement, even when it's not for competitive purposes. I can't go get some Adderall without a prescription even if it would make me a more productive engineer. Drug liberalization (that is, being more permissive about recreational drug use) might be an important enabling step to making other performance-enhancing drugs be socially acceptable.

  • Oscarson44.||

    I think the safety and side effect concerns will be more of a problem than you suggest. Aside from the obvious like a schizophrenia cure that later leads to untreatable brain cancers, what if a treatment eliminates all of an individual's sex drive? Or all treated people also grow up to be homosexual (or heterosexual)?

  • EscherEnigma||

    Yeah, you haven't really bright up anything that we haven't dealt with before. There are effective drugs that we stopped using as long-term treatments because we learned more about the side-effects.

    So unless we get a treatment that gets widely adopted by *everyone* before side-effects are discovered, and those side-effects are genocidal in nature, it's not a new problem.

  • ||

    (B) socio-economic stratification.
    ...
    if we're heading for a CyberPunk dystopia or a bio-tech Utopia.

    It bugs me that you list the two separately and use the term socio-economic stratification like you don't realize that the dystopia and the utopia don't necessarily or exactly exist in isolation but more frequently as different strata within the same spectrum. Especially when you go on to describe your desires/wishes and they fit more into or don't intrinsically void the dystopia rather than the utopia. Like you've got an idea in your head and you're trying to bend the facts, vocabulary, and even 'reality' to support it.

  • EscherEnigma||

    I was going to do a detailed response about why I listed utopia and dystopia separately, but then I got to this line:

    Especially when you go on to describe your desires/wishes [...]


    And, well, that's not a thing that happened. So I'm kind of skeptical that you didn't get an idea in your head about what I said, and you then bent the facts, vocabulary, and even 'reality' to support it.

  • Zeb||

    I figure that eventually people will do anything that it is possible for people to do.
    Which doesn't mean you have to like everything that people do or shouldn't try to top particularly wicked things from happening. But I think it's a healthier perspective than thinking that you can keep the cat in the bag, so to speak.

  • BYODB||

    I've already known people in my life that had horn implants, so really it's a pretty big nothingburger from me. I don't even really care that transgender people get life-altering surgery that ends up causing a suicide later down the line most of the time, beyond the ethical issues for the Doctor. That's on them.

    The only time I get a bit worked up about this issue is when they start talking about altering the baseline human genome towards some goal since it evokes the idea of the New Soviet Man for me. That isn't to say that people shouldn't be allowed to do this kind of thing, but I do worry about what some authoritarian regimes would do with technology like that.

  • silver.||

    Right, I'm not scared of mankind being able to do these things, I'm scared that mankind will be made to do these things.

    I mean, there's something to be said about parents who would genetically modify their kids in a heartbeat if it meant they could be better at X. But that desire is as old as humanity, and not entirely inappropriate.

    Hell, politicians love making tiny version of themselves. Government is a holdout of generational employment; forcing your kids to do something is even easier than forcing the general public to do something.

  • Kivlor||

    I take issue with a lot of these things because they are fads. Novophiles and mentally unstable people pushing for forced acceptance of their fad / mental derangement. Done en masse, it is hard to have any clue of the long-term let alone multi-generational implications.

    As a general rule, I'm in favor of an outright ban on trans surgeries and hormone therapies intended to do similar things.

  • BYODB||

    Sounds like someone's been watching Altered Carbon on Netflix...


    But seriously, why implant a knee that makes someone run faster or longer when you can just use an external device to achieve the same result for far less money and risk to the patient?

  • silver.||

    If nobody knows it's there, nobody will know you're cheating.

    And vanity. Exo-suits are tacky.

  • BYODB||

    I'm just picturing someone with one knee replacement who could get just a normal knee replacement deciding to suddenly get two because they want the enhanced model that lets them kick someone through a wall. Of course, then you'll also need entirely fake legs so you don't do something minor like shatter your own femur. Probably a full endoskeletal coating for that kind of force, in fact.

    Seemingly small things like a 'powerful' knee replacement require a lot more internal reinforcement than I think most people would actually care to go through, but then again I know more than a few people who are into the tabletop 'Rifts' game and would gladly put their consciousness into a full-conversion cyborg body.

  • EscherEnigma||

    What, you mean like an exo-suit? If we get honest-to-God Iron Man suits before we get cool bionic knees, then yeah, the bionic knees will probably take a knee.

    But until we we one or the other, folks will continue trying to get both. But until we have the technologies developed, it's just guess-work (sometimes educated guesswork) on which will be cheaper or safer.

    If you just mean "bicycles, cars, motorcycles, etc." then a major problem is they aren't mobile enough. Anything with wheels is going to be limited in what it can traverse, whereas if it's your legs then anywhere you can go, your mobility boost can go. There's a reason we still have folks poking at making walking robots even when we already have wheeled robots.

    That, and there's always the "cool" factor. Being able to do something without tools will almost always be cooler then doing same thing with tools. And folks will "internalize" their enhancements as part of them in ways that folks don't internalize external tools.

  • BYODB||

    We could already make, and have made, full-on exo-suits. The problem for them, much like the exact same problem for an implant, is powering it.

    Of the two, I know which will occur first due to miniaturization of power sources: The exo-suit.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Of the two, I know which will occur first due to miniaturization of power sources: The exo-suit.


    I suspect you're right.

    But I'm not confident to say "I know [...]".

    That said, current exo-suits are huge. Folks that want to use 'em recreationally (like, say, extreme rock climbers or mountain hikers or things like that) probably wouldn't be happy unless they much much smaller. And I suspect there's a point where making an exosuit smaller/thinner would become more difficult then just replacing someone's legs with super legs.

  • BYODB||

    You can't know for sure, but probability dictates that the more achievable option is more likely to occur before the less achievable option. A power source that fits inside a knee implant that could be described as 'superhuman', or even just 'functional' today, is further away than one that fits on a suit.

    As to the rest, you're quite right that at some point future technologies will themselves become obsolete. Ergo of course at some point even something like an exo-suit will be subsumed by something akin to total or partial body replacement of some type. That will be long after the power issue is not only solved, by several iterations from the original.

    All of this assumes that power sources can be miniaturized or power transmitted in such a way to achieve those goals, which isn't a certainty at all. The idea that mankind can do anything it puts it's mind to is an obvious myth.

  • silver.||

    Boston Dynamics' ultimate aim is to make Spot as agile as a Nubian ibex. Legs are awesome.

    They're gonna have to do something about that creepy-ass gas motor whine, though.

  • BYODB||

    What's a nubian?

    *raises single eyebrow*

  • Sam Grove||

    What I want from biotechnology.
    A new set of teeth.
    Immunity to dental caries.
    Restored hearing.
    Repair balance organ.
    Correction of genetic defect.
    Restore skin elasticity.
    Restored vitality.

    I really don't want much.

  • ||

    Sam: Or, you could change your diet after researching the cause of your complaints. At 75 I still have all my teeth because I quit refined sugar at 10, refined flour, refined rice, artificial preservatives, and artificial additives at 14.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    The whole 'worried about social stratification' and 'people being left out' is actually a belief that they aren't good enough to qualify, and they will be left out.

    I have no such worries. When tentacles become available, I will by god do whatever it takes to get my tentacles!

  • ||

    59% don't think I should have a physical enhancement without someone's approval? Whose body/life is it? Mine. Either I own myself or society does. If society does, then I secede. I resist, resent, and deny society my consent to violate my right to life. This is not negotiable.

    You can forfeit your life, your sovereignty, e.g., vote for a ruler, but I refuse and you have no authority to force your choice on me.

  • Kivlor||

    That's quaint

  • buybuydandavis||

    "ethics professionals"

    Apparatchik priesthood

  • vek||

    Yeah, this shit is all going to happen, and nobody can stop it. It won't be banned globally, places like China will forge ahead no matter what anybody else says. I don't mind the idea of designer babies, or one off super knee implants... The only thing that really scares me is going beyond DNA manipulation of intelligence into AI/computer enhanced mental capabilities.

    If the world ended up like Gattica, that's be fine. It'd probably be a far better world. But once we start being able to enhance our brains, that's where shit could get real. Everybody having 160 IQs would be AWESOME... But when the intelligence is beyond what any human has ever had, what will the implications be? I've read lots on the singularity etc, and things could just get crazy. It'll probably happen within my lifetime, and it'll all be awesome up to the point that it's terrifying.

  • Robert||

    I can't imagine the Food and Drug Administration having nothing to say, but the agency also has no system for reviewing or approving medical technologies that don't serve a diagnostic or therapeutic purpose.


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