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The Pursuit of Enhancement

The latest from Brave New Britain.

In a book that is plainly designed to enhance the case for enhancing humans, a leading think tank in the UK has launched a book called Better Humans? The Politics of Enhancement and Life Extension. It includes chapters that raise problems, but the first section is simply called "the case for enhancement," and that's the tone of the book. You can download it free of charge.

The subtitle might seem to suggest that the focus is on the political debates about enhancement and its new technologies. Of course, if it had been, the book would have been very short. Because no "politics of enhancement" has yet to appear in party platforms or become a factor in leadership contests. The mainstream parties—in the U.S. as the U.K.—have hardly given it a thought. A book on that subject would need to turn the title around and tell the tale of the lack of a politics of enhancement. In fact, that would be an interesting story … and a depressing one. Despite the masterly review of these issues in the President's Council on Bioethics 2003 report Beyond Therapy, and the transhumanist aspirations of many influential players in the technology community (see the National Science Foundation's notorious 2002 report on Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance, not only our politicians but also our church leaders seem just about as uninterested in the subject as they could be.

So Better Humans? lays out the need for a debate:

A public debate is needed now about the potential for new technologies to make us 'better than human' according to a report published today by Demos and the Welcome Trust.

Better Humans? The Politics of Enhancement and Life Extension argues that policy makers and the public must address the consequences ...

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Life Matters
Nigel M. de S. Cameron is now president and CEO of the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies. His "Life Matters" column, a commentary on bioethics issues, ran from 2005 to 2006.
Previous Life Matters Columns:
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