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Public attitudes to human enhancement

This report aims to capture the publics view on Human enhancement technologies (HET).

Executive summary

Human enhancement technologies (HET) are technological interventions to attempt to restore impaired human performance or extend it beyond normal function, thus overcoming the limits of the human body. HET spans several fields in science, technology and engineering, and includes a wide variety of technologies that approach limits and impairments in both cognitive and physical function. These include smart drugs, bionic limbs and implants, and reproductive technologies, for example.

Research conducted in the UK on public opinion in this area is scarce, focusing primarily on attitudes to pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement (PCE). Despite this, several themes have emerged from the data that should be explored further:

• Data on awareness and use of HET by the public is patchy but indicates low levels of PCE use.

• Many are concerned about the ethical fairness of providing HET, particularly regarding equal access to the techniques for all.

• There is more concern about the use of HET to enhance beyond the norm, and more acceptance as a therapeutic intervention to restore impaired function.

• Concerns around coercion and duty of care arise in discussions around those workers that are responsible for the life of others.

• There are a multitude of ethical, moral and political issues that the public appear eager to be consulted on as technology progresses, especially in the creation of policy and regulation.

Information on public attitudes has been measured more thoroughly worldwide, and many of the themes in these studies should be explored in the UK. More data is also required on attitudes to physical enhancement, as well as the comparison between the opinions of the public and policy makers.


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