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Transhumanism is an intellectual and cultural movement that afﬁrms the desirability, if not the obligation, to use emerging technologies to transcend the limitation of our bodies and brains for the improvement of the human condition. The potential transition from humanity to posthumanity, however, cannot be limited to the concerns of the few who have access to enhancement technologies. For this reason, this entry locates the debates over transhumanism and its social and ethical implications within the context of globalization and global bioethics in particular. First, an overview of the early conceptualization of transhumanism is provided, followed by an analysis of the nature and goals of transhumanism as understood today, and then an account of the particular milieu in which bioethics and transhumanism emerged in the context of globalization. Subsequently, the relationship between values and technological progress is discussed, which sets the stage of an examination of the question concerning the alteration of human nature and an overview of the social implications of emerging technologies for extension of human life beyond biology.
Whether or not one agrees with the ideology of the proponents of transhumanism, it is very unlikely that the subject will disappear, not only within science and technology debates and academic discussions but also at the societal level. As this chapter outlines, transhumanism is an intellectual and cultural movement that afﬁrms the desirability, if not the obligation, to use emerging technologies to transcend the limitation of our bodies and brains for the improvement of the human condition. The potential transition from humanity to posthumanity, however, cannot be limited to the concerns of the few who have access to enhancement technologies. For this reason, this chapter locates the debates over transhumanism and its social and ethical implications within the context of globalization and global bioethics in particular. First, an overview of the early conceptualization of transhumanism is provided, followed by an analysis of the nature and goals of transhumanism as understood today, and then an account of the particular milieu in which bioethics and transhumanism emerged in the context of globalization. Subsequently, the relationship between values and technological progress is discussed which sets the stage of an examination of the question concerning the alteration of human nature and an overview of the social implications of emerging technologies for the extension of human life beyond biology.
By no means does this chapter offer a comprehensive analysis of transhumanism. The hope is to outline key points for further discussion and debates on a very timely and important topic.
History And Development
Early Conceptualization Of Transhumanism
The human aspiration to transcend our biological capabilities is not new and can be traced back to the seventeenth century. Francis Bacon (The New Atlantis, 1627), René Descartes (Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire sa raison et chercher la vérité dans les sciences, 1637), and Marquis de Condorcet (Esquisse d’un tableau historique des progrès de l’esprit humain, 1795) advanced ideas about the possibility to improve human nature that became the precursors of current conceptions of human enhancement. De Condorcet, for instance, in Esquisse d’un tableau historique des progrès de l’esprit humain (Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, 1795) sketches proto-transhumanist concepts that paved the way to transhumanist ideas. He writes:
…may it not be expected that the human race will be meliorated by new discoveries in the sciences and the arts, and, as an unavoidable consequence, in the means of individual and general prosperity; by farther progress in the principles of conduct, and in moral practice; and lastly, by the real improvement of our faculties, moral, intellectual and physical, which may be the result either of the improvement of the instruments which increase the power and direct the exercise of those faculties, or of the improvement of our natural organization itself? (de Condorcet, 1795 cited in More 2013)
One can see in this passage the early conceptualizations of the contemporary transhumanist agenda. New scientiﬁc discoveries will improve the human condition: individual and societal prosperity, enhanced moral sensitivity, and improvement of physical, intellectual, and behavioral capacities.
The latest advances in biotechnology and neuroscience could potentially expand the conﬁnes of human existence in ways Bacon, Descartes, and de Condorcet could not have imagined. Braincomputer interfaces, bionic limbs, cognitive enhancement, moral enhancement, radical life extension, or, even more extreme, the scientiﬁc conquest of death are few examples of techniques (some already implemented and others more in the realm of science ﬁction) aiming at removing the constraints of our bodies and brains. To this end, human enhancement strategies use various methods, either technologies, psychopharmacology, or a combination of the two, to intervene on the brain or the body in order to improve what is considered a normal range of human capacities or create new abilities (Buchanan 2011). Some noted commentators hold the position that human enhancement is ineluctable, if not already a fait accompli. Allen Buchanan, for instance, argues that human beings have evolved biologically for millennia, but today’s biotechnologies will allow Homo sapiens to transcend their biological nature and as a result exceed their current human abilities (physical, mental, and behavioral ones).
Among the proponents of human enhancement, transhumanism can be considered the most radical perspective advocating the transcending of human biological nature. While transhumanism is a techno-scientiﬁc project to improve the human condition, its ideology is rooted in the philosophies of the enlightenment, and it emphasizes the power of reason to manage human affairs. As James Hughes points out, transhumanism “is the belief that science can be used to transcend the limitations of the human body and brain… an ideological descendent of the Enlightenment, a part of the family of Enlightenment philosophies” (Hughes 2010).
The transhumanism as we know it today emerged in the latter part of the twentieth century, especially under the inﬂuence of the transhumanist thinker F. M. Esfandiary, also known as FM-2030. In his book entitled Are You a Transhuman? (1989), he deﬁned a transhuman as a “transitional human,” that is, a human being using technology toward becoming a posthuman. In addition to the transition from humanity to posthumanity, early reﬂections on transhumanism considered the possibility for the development of powerful artiﬁcial intelligence (AI) beyond human intelligence in order to accelerate technological progress (More 2013). The ﬁrst iteration of this line of thought was developed by Marvin Minsky in the 1970s anticipating the advent of artiﬁcial intelligence, but also in an article he published in the Scientiﬁc American (1994) where he claims that “extended lives” will require the replacement of our biological brains with computational devices (More 2013). Others have championed these ideas – often captured under the term of singularity – such as Ray Kurzweil who claims in The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology that “the early 2030s is a reasonable time frame for the computational performance, memory, and brain scanning prerequisites of uploading” [the human brain into a computational substrate] (Kurzweil 2005). In the late 1990s, the drafting of the Transhumanist Declaration (1998) and the creation of the World Transhumanist Association (1998, now called Humanity+) somewhat legitimized transhumanism which they deﬁned themselves as “the intellectual and cultural movement that afﬁrms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition to applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities” (cited in More 2013).
In the light of the above considerations, transhumanism can be summarized as a technoscientiﬁc, intellectual, and cultural movement whose core ideas promote the following points. First, transhumanism supports the idea that human enhancement technologies should be broadly accessible to the public. Second, individuals should have the right to morphological freedom, that is, people, as autonomous agents, should have the right to transform their own body at will. And third, reproductive freedom should be granted to parents who should have the right to decide what technology they want to use to conceive a child.
Contextual Features: Bioethics And Globalization
In order to frame the ethical arguments around transhumanism, it is imperative to ﬁrst examine the contextual aspects in which transhumanism is situated: those of bioethics and globalization.
Bioethics is often understood generally as the “ethics of life” or as “global ethics” encompassing biology, ecology, medicine, and human values. In the late 1960s, the accepted approach to ethical analysis in the biomedical sciences became limited primarily to clinical medical ethics. This narrow scope of ethical analysis was thought to be inadequate to address questions pertaining to modern biotechnology and the changing face of medicine. During this time, in the United States and throughout the Western world, culture experienced dramatic changes due to the secularization of society, the rejection of traditional values, and the questioning of major social institutions such as the state and the church. Within this context, bioethics emerged as a counterculture in the United States, which Engelhardt describes as “a post traditional moral and political movement, grounded in and motivated by theological dissent and liberal-democratic political aspirations” (Engelhardt 2013). At this point, the term bioethics migrated far from its roots in human relationships with others and with nature and has in many ways become a form of political and social activism. To clarify this claim, it is helpful to look at Michel Foucault’s deﬁnition of biopolitics which he describes as “the way in which attempts have, since the eighteenth century, been made to rationalize the problem posed for government practice by phenomena characteristic of a group of living beings constituted as a population health, hygiene, natality, longevity, races.. .” (cited in Annas 2013). It is within this political deﬁnition of bioethics that transhumanism emerged as a technoscientiﬁc and ideological movement. One can see that bioethics and transhumanism, both as social and cultural movements of the last 30 years, occurred in a context favorable to the promotion of post-traditional values and individualism, key for the advancement of transhumanist ideology.
Globalization And Bioethics
While the face of bioethics in the West reveals a political nature, the burgeoning of global governance bodies, human rights movements, and international economic development perpetuates discussion and disagreement around the need for a global bioethics. The “borders” of nations are, in fact, porous and dynamic, sharing common biological and technological concerns including pandemics, climate change, poverty, genetic engineering, life-sustaining medical treatments, and reproductive technologies. But despite the presence of these potential shared concerns among global actors, the utility and method of a global bioethics are far from settled. Even more problematic is the fact that a global bioethics would require an understanding of globalization proper, yet a uniﬁed deﬁnition of globalization remains unsettled in academic discourse. As Steger describes, scholars on the subject of globalization range from complete rejectionists and skeptics to those who deﬁne globalization in terms of economics, politics, and/or culture (Steger 2008).
Similar disagreements exist among bioethics scholars in terms of the existence of a cohesive approach to global bioethics. Global bioethics has been linked to the notions of rights and human dignity and to universalist theories such as principlism and common morality. And global bioethics has continued to be reinforced by sociopolitical entities such as the United Nations Educational, Scientiﬁc, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee, the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (UDBHR), and the International Bioethics Committee.
The task of overlaying the trajectory of the technological projects of transhumanism within the global context in the absence of a uniﬁed understanding of a global bioethics is problematic. Yet, this uncertainty should not prevent a responsible analysis of the potential beneﬁts, harms, and possible unintended consequences of transhumanism on a global scale.
The prospect of applying the latest developments of biotechnology for the enhancement and advancement of the human species holds exciting promises that will beneﬁt mankind in many areas, such as health, living conditions, etc. However, there is the potential totalizing discourse that should raise concerns (see, for instance, Hughes 2004 on the transhumanist side and Buchanan 2011 in relation to the human enhancement debate). We live in a global world in which the exchange of information and the impact of events that occur in one culture or region affect world economies and ecologies. What could happen to human beings, in terms of biomedical enhancement, does not exclusively affect people in a particular society but the whole human species. For this reason, whether we should pursue enhancement should be at the forefront of our reﬂections, especially if we want to avoid the hijacking of biotechnologies for political or ideological agendas. It appears imprudent to think we can disregard the question. An ongoing questioning provides a system of checks and balances that allow technology to advance responsibly, albeit to a slower pace. Expediency is never a promising strategy even in the light of sometime long and sterile debates. For instance, the development of nuclear weapons by one country does not affect only one region of the world but global geopolitics. The 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima affected countries beyond the Paciﬁc Rim. Countries like Switzerland and Germany, while not affected directly by the incident, have begun procedures to become energy independent from nuclear power as a result of the Fukushima disaster. One might wonder about the disruptive impact, if any, of human enhancement technologies on cultures and societies not as advanced technologically as the Western world.
At the heart of a global bioethics lies the recurring debate between scholars regarding the status of morality as universal, contextually relative, or somewhere in-between. Universality in bioethics has been criticized as the projection of Western worldviews and ideologies on others. Pure relativism, although honoring contextual ties, allows behaviors that can harm local and global communities. The positioning of transhuman technologies at the threshold of this debate requires an understanding of the problematic concept of culture. Culture was classically deﬁned by Edward Tylor as “a complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (Tylor 1871, 2010). While relativist scholars have called upon notions of culture to uphold the existence of a diversity of moralities, in some ways, this does not go far enough. Social and cultural essentialisms can be deﬁned as the attachment narrowly deﬁned, simplistic, and homogeneous traits on diverse and complex communities (Turner 2005). According to Turner, the “concept of culture obscures tensions and cross-currents within communities, fails to explain signiﬁcant historical changes in popular understandings, minimizes intragroup differences, and belittles the signiﬁcance of personal agency.” For instance, to have a conversation about African or Asian morality dismisses the diversity of beliefs, religions, and worldviews of communities within these vast continents.
On all continents, new technologies challenge the values of indigenous as well as Westernized peoples, albeit in different ways. In many indigenous or traditional communities, decisions are made based on values such as conformity, solidarity, and the common good. When considering enhancement technologies that are designed to target individuals, we are forced to ask how these technologies affect populations that determine their value based on their impact of the whole community. Traditions in Asia as far back as the sixth century B.C. have supported a utilitarian framework for harmony within communities (Macer 2012). But as Western worldviews and technologies spread, Asian traditional values are being replaced by the acceptance of enhancement technologies on a large scale. Already, enhancements such as surgeries (eyelid and nose) and skin whitening are widespread, and potential gene therapies to enhance physical, intellectual, and moral qualities have been shown to be generally supported by Indian, Chinese, and Thai survey respondents of a study completed in 1995 (Macer 2012).
In addition to the cultural dimensions, the impacts of transhuman technologies might also be framed within local and global sociopolitical contexts. In China, the concept of “Yousheng,” meaning healthy birth, is prevalent. This concept is often compared to the Western construct of eugenics and would most likely support transhumanism. Also, consider the politics of socialism. In socialist countries, technologies like transhumanism are not as likely to survive, as the enhancement of the individual does not strengthen the welfare of the society in general. On the other hand, transhumanism would thrive in a capitalist society with its values in freedom, individualism, and promotion of technological progress. And last, the present inability to regulate such technologies internationally is problematic in that, once these technologies are developed, it could be difﬁcult to prevent individuals from seeking access to the technologies across borders.
The question as to whether religious considerations are relevant in the debate over transhumanism will not be settled in this section due to the complexity of the issues to be addressed, the limited scope of this chapter, and the various religious understandings of concepts such as the soul and its relation to the body, redemption, resurrection, reincarnation, etc. What follows provides only a brief overview of some of the key concerns raised by scholars in religion to orientate readers for further analysis and exploration. Some of the common themes in religious critiques or perspectives of transhumanism can be summarized as follows: (1) questions related to the nature of the soul and its connection to the body; (2) issues concerning immortality, redemption, and reincarnation; (3) the meaning of what it means to be human; (4) the human future or eschatological considerations; and (5) the means for peace and happiness of the human race. To illustrate some of the religious implications of transhumanism, Christianity and Hinduism will serve as exemplars.
The Christian tradition comprises many schools of thoughts and denominations, and consequently only key points will be outlined here. As stated previously, transhumanism is committed to transcending the limitations of our brain and body with the intent to reach a state of physical immortality. This state can be described as a form of materialistic theology whose ultimate goal is the “immortality of the soul.” In other words, transhumanism offers a new conceptualization of the religious notion of the immortality of the soul grounded on materialistic premises since the “immortal soul” (i.e., the uploading human consciousness) can survive within the conﬁnes of a computational substrate. Maybe the most signiﬁcant issue in relation to Christianity is its understanding of anthropology, which doesn’t describe human beings as a body and a soul but as individuals whose body and soul constitute a psychosomatic unity. This theological perspective on mankind has implications in conceptualizing notions of immortality and resurrection. Contrary to the transhumanist account, immortality does not entail the ability to upload consciousness and the replacement of the biological body with a bionic body. Immortality implies the resurrection of the dead body into a gloried body; hence, the Christian view of embodiment maintains our physicality (i.e., original body) as essential to human identity. Christianity does not view the biological world as in need of perfectibility or the body as an object of endless manipulation to transcend its limitations. It is quite the opposite, since creation is considered “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
The practice of transhumanist endeavors offers both challenges and synchronicities when analyzed through the lens of Hinduism. One of the foundational underpinnings of Hinduism is the concept of reincarnation in which the soul or divine spirit (Ᾱtman) is constant and indestructible, moving between different bodies through birth and rebirth. The soul will undergo multiple rebirths until it is perfected and unites with God or pure consciousness. In addition to the concept of reincarnation, the Hindu practitioner practices yoga, wherein the body is perfected and used to prepare the mind for concentration. Knowledge of the mind-body complex is imperative to reach unmanifested pure consciousness. Ultimately, the Hindu practitioner recognizes that objects of attachment, including the physical body, are illusory and works to let go of the material world. This letting go brings peace and freedom.
The Hindu practitioner might ﬁnd justiﬁcation in transhumanism as yet another “birth” of the soul into a different physical body, only with the assistance of modern science and without the phenomenon of physical death. And in alignment with the practice of yoga, transhumanism might be conceptualized as further perfection of the physical body in order to reach eventual pure consciousness. On the other hand, transhumanism might be yet another grasping of ego and material things that block the path to freedom and happiness. The human qualities of temptation, avoiding discomfort, fearing death, and being driven by ego, all transhumanist pursuits, are the antagonists of grace and acceptance. If the path of the Hindu is graceful acceptance, can it be compatible with transhumanism?
Values And Technological Progress
In 1963, Jacques Ellul wrote, “technological progress produces values of unimpeachable merit, while simultaneously destroying values no less important” (Mitcham and Mackey 1983). It is unquestionable that there are beneﬁts to technology for human life and human ﬂourishing as evidenced by discoveries such as immunizations, cancer treatments, and life-sustaining medical technologies like ventilators and dialysis machines
Technology itself has been considered a value neutral entity represented by physical objects or as scientiﬁc discoveries such as the mapping of the genome. It is not the intrinsic value of a material object, but the impositions of these objects on others, the social and cultural values accorded to these objects, and their misuse and abuse that concerns, among other things, bioethics. Other scholars view technology as “one actor among many” with a determination of its own (Timmermans and Berg 2003). Far from technology possessing some sort of intrinsic self-determination, it is either the creators of technologies that embed their values within the trajectory of that object or in the values of future creative minds who generate alternative uses (abuses) for the same objects. For instance, technology is rooted in the Western idea of progress, often at the expense of not only human ﬂourishing but also of ecological systems and their inhabitants. In the West, there is an inextricable link between technology and market forces that manifests in the rising costs of health care, the inequalities of access, and the general disparities of human wellbeing locally and globally. As Ellul suggested, the origination and application of technology are far from value-neutral. In the last decades, a paradigm shift occurred in the conduct of scientiﬁc research and development. Science can no longer be construed simply as an ideal, as the quest for truth, and qua pure science. Science, in its broad meaning, becomes the source of economic (through technology) and, by extension, political power (e.g., development of weapons, economic development, human enhancement). And although Ellul employed the language of “technological progress,” this myth might be viewed as potentially providing an overzealous faith in technology as necessary for the improvement of human life overall, once the beneﬁts/harms analyses are in. But ultimately, the exponential nature of technology precludes any archaic longings for a simpler (and not necessarily more ideal) time and place. Likely, the evolution of transhumanism within society will fall somewhere between Luddism (opposing technological development) and the technological imperative. Perhaps the precautionary principle is one approach to these new technologies, where the burden of proof of non-maleﬁcence is the responsibility of those who develop new technologies. This last point is highlighted in relation to questions concerning the alteration of human nature, speciﬁcally whether the use of enhancement technologies to transcend our biology is beneﬁcial and useful to the individual and society, and where and how limits to such alteration should be set.
Alteration Of Human Nature
Bioethical discussions about enhancement technologies aiming at the transcending of the limitation of human biology often revolve around the question of the nature of enhancement (the augmentation of biological capacities beyond what is species typical) as opposed to therapy (partial or complete restoration of biological functions). However, the therapy – enhancement debate – has become somewhat sterile because there are many applications of biomedical technologies that have a dual effect (e.g., vaccines, plastic surgery, etc.). Hence, one might frame the issues in terms of alteration. The therapy-enhancement-alteration paradigm is a more fruitful approach because it captures the radical use of techno-science to transcend our biological boundaries. The alternation of human nature is the most controversial dimension as it alters human capacities or adds abilities that are species atypical (outside the scope of what human beings can typically do) in ways unexplored at this point. The question then is to determine whether such changes of our biological nature are morally acceptable and whether clear limits should be set.
The agenda set by the transhumanists seems to indicate that the human species ought to transcend its biology because human nature can be improved. Nick Bostrom, a strong proponent of transhumanism, argues that transcending biological limitations would not only better the human condition but also that human nature is improvable, and therefore, one can legitimately justify “reform [ing] ourselves and our nature in accordance with human values and personal aspirations” (Bostrom 2005).
Certain key points in regard to human nature and our responsibilities are required in order to frame the argument of Bostrom and others (Jotterand 2008). The concept of human nature is a complex one that cannot be covered here. However, for the sake of clarity, the following deﬁnition will be used: “human nature as a set of physical (movement, reproduction, nutrition, etc.) and neurological characteristics (self-determination/free will, reason, communication, etc.) developed in the course of human existence according to, but limited by one’s biological and genetic make-up” (Jotterand 2008). This deﬁnition is not meant to be reductionistic but recognizes the importance of the notion of embodiment (ability to internalize bodily experiences of the outside world) and includes other characteristics such as (1) consciousness (recognition on oneself in space and time), (2) sentience (ability to make rational choices and establish beliefs and ideas about the world), (3) constructs of self (autonomous self in relation to others), and (4) agency (development of character traits and aims).
Considering our pluralistic context and the state of techno-scientiﬁc development, two sets of questions ought to be considered. First, if it is accepted, in principle, that transcending the limitations of biology is morally permissible, are there deﬁnitive boundaries within which the altering of bodily functions should take place? Or, alternatively, should one simply take a libertarian stand and allow people to transform their body at will as an expression of morphological freedom? Obviously, a conclusive analysis cannot be offered here, but the absence of a common moral language and understanding of human nature in contemporary sociocultural and global contexts makes it challenging to afford a framework justifying any limitations. After all, some argue, human beings are autonomous moral agents and masters of their own body, and consequently there is no philosophical argument prohibiting the transformation of one’s body. Modern moral discourse does not provide the framework necessary to assess and critique the particular commitments of contemporary biomedicine (McKenny 1997). As Gerald McKenny argues, “in the absence of such a framework, the commitment to eliminate all suffering combined with an imperative to realize one’s uniqueness leads to cultural expectations that medicine should eliminate whatever anyone might consider to be a burden of ﬁnitude or to provide whatever anyone might require for one’s natural fulﬁllment.. .” (McKenny 1997).
McKenny’s point in turn raises a further issue, that is, the question of the locus of biomedical innovations and the fundamental task of biomedical research and medical practice. Should medicine be dedicated to the cure of what is considered dysfunctional, not normal at baseline, or creating distress and to the care of those whose health is failing? In addition, what is the social responsibility of researchers, scientists, and clinicians in the implementation and regulation of emerging technologies that aim at transcending human nature? Professional standards set boundaries as to the scope of professional practice, but these norms and guidelines reﬂect the particular contexts in which they have been established, which are, as noted previously, unable to provide any moral framework.
In addition, the claim that human enhancement is somewhat a fait accompli needs further questioning. Some scholars think the debate between proponents and opponents of human enhancement, and consequently transhumanism, has become increasingly sterile because the wheel of the technological imperative will continue to spin and the attempt to stop technological progress is a vain pursuit (see Buchanan 2011). Buchanan argues that the low quality of the debates is due to ﬁve speciﬁc reasons: (1) the rhetoric and ill-founded argumentation characteristic of these debates, (2) the lack of due consideration of the fundamentals of evolutionary biology and its relevance to enhancement debates, (3) the methodological naiveté of debates about enhancement, (4) the failure to articulate clearly arguments for and against biomedical enhancement (mostly on the part of critics of enhancement), and (5) the idle state of the debate still addressing question of pros and cons for the last 20 years. For these reasons, he suggests to move to the next stage, that is, to engage in discussion that addresses how “to ﬁgure out effective, realistic institutional responses to the challenges of enhancement” (Buchanan 2011) by raising the following question: “Is it ethically permissible for a reasonably liberal and democratic society to embark on the enhancement enterprise?” (Buchanan 2011).
Contrary to Buchanan, it can be argued that the failure to acknowledge and analyze the conﬂictual context in which these debates take place beyond a political framework (i.e., biopolitics) is problematic. First, the lack of continued reﬂection regarding whether the enhancement of human beings should be undertaken positions the debate in the political arena whose modus operandi is based on the majority argument. The majority argument does not necessarily include a justiﬁcation, on an ethical ground, for enhancement and posthumanity. It only validates what the majority thinks ought to be done but does not establish the reasons why a particular course of action or a speciﬁc procedure is ethically acceptable. To adjudicate disagreement concerning the implications of enhancement biotechnologies, moral discourse in the public square should take the form of a deliberative democratic process that recognizes the limitations of social collaboration. Deliberative democracy, however, does not necessarily rule out the possibility, through a political and discursive process, to reach a managed agreement that will integrate moral arguments for the justiﬁcation of the implementation of enhancement technologies. Without a proper dialectic between political justiﬁcation and moral justiﬁcation, the debate over enhancement will continue to stagnate because no real constructive discourse takes place. The unwillingness to address more seriously the question of whether human beings should be enhanced and/or altered impoverishes and polarizes the debates because it leaves some issues unanswered for which, part of the population, seeks answers and clariﬁcations.
Beyond issues related to the alteration of human nature and the responsibilities of scientists, researchers, and clinicians in the development and implementation of emerging technologies, the social implications of the transhumanist ideology should be considered.
First, there are questions of the public perception of transhumanism and of enhancement technologies, about their nature, goals, and potential risks and side effects. Who should decide about their acceptability and safety, and on what ground? Also, the issue of availability creates concerns about social justice. Who will beneﬁt from these enhancement technologies? It is very likely that these technologies will be costly, and therefore, there could be the potential for the creation of two types of humanity, the enhanced (post human) and the non-enhanced, based on economic factors which could allow some individuals to be more productive, smarter, and stronger. In addition, questions pertaining to the regulation of such technologies must be, despite the challenging task, at the center of social scrutiny. What set of rules and principles should regulate the utilization of enhancement technologies? Do the current regulatory frameworks secure a safe development and use of these technologies? Furthermore, cost containment ought to be a concern. More precisely, standards ought to be set in order to determine what are considered medical needs versus enhancement/alteration. What is a legitimate medical need, and do enhancement and alteration fall into the category of medical needs? How are health-related and non-health-related enhancements/alternations distinguished? What constitutes a departure from species-typical level of functioning? Or, more generally, what does it mean to be healthy and what is considered normal behavior? Still, there are issues related to the potential pressure to meet certain aesthetic or social norms, which could reinforce the concept of normality according to social factors. Finally, the question of human identity should be considered. The use of certain drugs (e.g., Prozac and Ritalin) to pursue certain personal or social goals might raise the issue of inauthenticity, that is, using cosmetic psychopharmacology that could change personal identity and potentially lead to unintended psychological consequences.
The desire to improve the human condition and the establishing of scientiﬁc and social objectives in order to enhance human ﬂourishing are praiseworthy endeavors. The history of mankind is ﬁlled with tragedies due to the frailty of biological organisms confronted to a disease, the aging process, or human violent acts. It is therefore unlikely that technological and scientiﬁc progress will stop as human beings are compelled to create a better environment for future generations. Transhumanism can be viewed in the light of this train of thought since its main goal is to improve the human condition. However, with techno-scientiﬁc progress comes the responsibility to develop these technologies in a prudent manner. Hopefully, this chapter has provided a framework in which further robust philosophical and ethical reﬂections can take place among stakeholders across the various social, disciplinary, and cultural realities of a globalized world.
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