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What is Human Enhancement?

Human enhancement is the process of positively augmenting our abilities, permanently or temporarily. It includes any technology that expands or positively alters our capabilities or appearance: drugs, hormones, implants, genetic engineering or some surgeries. 

Human enhancement technologies are used to improve, modify and/or add to the traits or abilities a person is born with. Contemporary examples include a few uses of reproductive technologies, some kinds of plastic surgery, “doping” or other drugs for performance enhancement targeting anything from cognition to affect, and several neurotechnologies, as well as selected prosthetics. In addition, there are a variety of “low tech” forms of human enhancement technologies, including education, selected nutrition, as well as various activities that are assumed to result in enhanced cognitive performance or moods, like meditation, practicing music, or dancing.

Emerging technologies like genetic engineering, neuronal implants, brain-computer interfaces, nanotechnology interventions, and 3D bioprinting are likely candidates for future human enhancement technologies. Some also speculate that future advances in the field will allow us to connect our minds to online networks or live comfortably in low-gravity environments.

Although technologies for human enhancement offer a great variety of benefits, the development of these technologies has become a hotspot in recent ethical debate. Those who are opposed to enhancement often refer to what it means to be human, and warn that these technologies will change what are often held as sacred definitions, setting a dangerous precedent. On the other side, those who promote advancing the field claim that enhancement has always been part of human nature, and some argue further that it is our moral duty to enhance humanity.

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