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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

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The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A NanoGrant for NanoEthics

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This Nanothics Group press release from September 25 notes that the U.S. National Science Foundation has granted their organization about $250,000 to study certain ethical questions relating to human enhancement and nanotechnology. The article states:
For thousands of years, humans have enhanced their capacities by using tools, but technology today can be used to enhance humans themselves, either on or in their bodies. This is evident not only in the use of drugs to enhance athletes, but also in innovations that make us more productive workers, more durable soldiers, more creative artists, and more attractive persons. Many more such enhancements seem just over the scientific horizon, particularly given predicted advances in nanotechnology; but the ethics of human enhancements are still murky at best.

The questions to be investigated by the nanoethics research team include, but are not limited to: What exactly constitutes enhancement? Is there a right to be enhanced? Is it justifiable to enhance people in order for them to undertake certain tasks, e.g., in the military? Is there an obligation to enhance our children? Should there be limits on the types of enhancement allowed or the degree to which someone can be enhanced? Does it make an ethical difference if some enhancing device is implanted into the body rather than worn on the outside? Does the notion of human dignity suffer with such enhancements?

“The ethics of human enhancement technologies is widely held to be the single most important debate in science and society and will define the 21st century,” explained Dr. Lin. “Today, human enhancement may mean steroids or Viagra or cosmetic surgeries. But with the accelerating pace of technology, some of the more fantastic scenarios may arrive sooner than people think ­ such as advanced cybernetic body parts and computers imbedded in our brains ­ which magnify the ethical issues involved. So our NSF research grant will be pivotal in sorting out the issues and advancing this complex debate.”

Personally, I'm happy just to see these questions being discussed publicly in the first place, much less to see research getting under way to consider them systematically. Still, we shall what fruits the Nanoethics Group's labors shall produce in good time. Hopefully they shall be as productive as the far-ranging field they are now beginning to explore.

Nano, Soc
Future Imperative

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