The Ethics of Human Enhancement

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The Ethics of Human Enhancement

Human Enhancement

The term ‘human enhancement’ embraces a range of approaches to improve aspects of human function such as memory, hearing and mobility to improve human performance, hence raising these function to a level considered to be beyond the existing human range.

Human enhancement categorized into particular areas: life extension, physical enhancement, cognitive enhancement, enhancement of mood or personality, and pre- and perinatal interventions. There are some existing technologies which can temporarily or permanently dealing with the current limitations of the human body via natural or artificial means: the use of reproductive technology, for example, In-vitro generated gametes and embryo selection by pre-implantation genetic diagnosis; the physical enhancement technologies such as plastic surgery, doping drugs, organ replacement; the enhancement of cognition, memory or concentration technologies by using nootropics, drugs, and neurostimulation devices. In addition, there are some emerging technologies such as human genetic engineering, neural implants, nanomedicine, brain–computer interface, neurotechnology and gene therapy which have the potential for human enhancement. These novel enhancement technologies bring significant implications for individuals and society.

Human enhancement is said to be the convergence of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and cognitive science (NBIC) to improve the human condition. There will be lots of ethical issues coming out when a novel technology emerged.

"Designer" babies

Designer babies refers to children that were genetically engineered in the uterus to possess certain physical appearance and skill or no genetic disorder and abnormalities. Thus, human enhancement is very similar to human genetic engineering which alter the gene to lower a child’s’ risk of developing genetic disorders and illnesses. It can also genetically choose gender, eye color, hair, height, intelligence and other qualities.

Designer babies are made via the process of in-vitro fertilization where the embryo is first removed from a female and sperm from a male. “test-tube babies” is then fertilized on a petri dish. At this stage, certain desired qualities can be choose to obtain in the embryo in a lab. Then followed by placing it again into a female womb to finish development. Hence during these pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, a scientist could state what physical appearance a child will grow to have, along with knowing the risk of developing certain genetic disorders of the child.

There is some controversy over the idea of “designer babies.” The public argue that it is immoral and unnatural to create a baby the way you desired to have, while others argue that this technology could stop certain genetic diseases in babies before they born.

Some disagree about this idea because parents might have superficial purposes by using this technology for purposely seeking out certain characteristics; such as requesting a blonde haired, blued eyed baby for appearance concerns only. This “Designer” babies who probably had enhanced their appearance, intelligence and etc would widen the gap between designer andnon-designerbabies in society. The best of the best of students or professors are tenure for scholarships and admission to the best universities, reducing the opportunities or even unavailable to the others. There is also a negative consequence for the job-seekers, the ‘designer’ babies would outcompete someone who is not designed, causing the “non-designer” children to miss opportunities because employers most likely will hire the “optimum” candidates. Finally could create prejudgment between enhanced and non-enhanced children in the society, humans should have to be equal to one another. If this technology continually developed, individuality will be slighted, everyone will be relatively similar because most people had these optimum characteristics.

Being able to know a child has a genetic disease, and also be able to work on fixing certain abnormalities gene through genetic alterations could give the parents time to prepare for the road ahead. However, when the scientists start saying that with an extra paying, the parents can change the gender of their child and some other physical characteristics, people began questioning the business. The wealthy would be the first user of the technology, the process is not cheap that not everyone would be able to afford such innovation, thus creating an even wider classes between the have and have-nots. The parents who cannot afford might cause guilty for their children.

According to ASRM, only 24% of the time the genetically modify process is successful. If it is not carry out carefully, the embryo could be terminated by accident. 10-24 embryos are taken from the owner and experimented on the petri dish but only one is selected to be implanted into the womb, and the others are going to be discarded. In this condition, that’s a range of 9- 23 abortions, all for one "designer" baby, no mother should have the right to selective abortion. Only 24% of are successful given the desired results and leaving 76% of mistakes or unsuccessful results. Is this 24% chance of a healthy baby worth the risk according to the above statement?

Besides, the technology has not been proven 100% completely safe, for the embryo or the mother, it contained scientific uncertainty as the technology is just in the experimental stages at this phase. It still cannot be confirmed that whether genetically modifying the babies will affect the gene pool which might cause difficulties later on throughout the baby’s family tree. (Barnard et al., 2013) Some other concern are that genetic modification induces gene at random places in the genome. It could just disrupt the function of another genome crucial for survival. Many gene have more than one affect that can be affected by pre-implantation. Multiple gene influence many of the trait that we may want to select, we are unlikely to find single gene responsible for a certain function such as IQ. For example, a gene that controls intelligence could also control anger management, so you could end up with a genius, but very angry child. (Barnard et al., 2013) This new technology create a way to prevent the disease, most of also replacing certain gene while the other being enhancement of certain more desirable trait. Some argument against designer babies conclude that genetic enhancement connect too close with eugenics program promoted by NAZIS in the world war two. Adolph Hitler wanted to create a German population by murdering those judged low-grade and encouraging those they saw as their betters to reproduce.

Another complaint about Designer babies is they are not naturally born which mean that that is not the way a child was made. Many people perceive genetic altering as with not respect to moral principles because they explain it as not accepting your child the way he or she was. In the future, if the child found out that their parents choose how they look or personal characteristics, it might cause conflict between the child and parents. For example, parents had picked traits to make their child possess athletic abilities and the child does not make it onto the soccer team when they had grew up, it might cause parents disappointment with the fact that they paid for a trait that “didn’t pay off” and also lead to the child being hurt.

The above issue is related to human right. The designer baby cannot consent to having his or her body altered, as a result some do not accept it is right because parents do not “own” their children. Adults have the fundamental freedom to choose whether or not they want to make the changes to their bodies, as long as it does not hurt others, but children are children. The issue of parental responsibilities and rights associated with decisions to enhance children is concerned, whether directly after the child is born or indirectly through germ-line enhancements. If parents decide to enhance children through genetic modification, it is said that they have already been making a crucial decision about the capabilities of their children that may be irreversible and limit their children’s future choices and opportunities. Will the child agree with the choices of what their parents had chosen for them when he or she is older?

Even though there are many issues of whether genetically modifying babies is ethical and for the moral reason, several positives to this type of technology had been stated. Since this treatment has been established, some people might use this process to have children that would be an exact match to an older sibling who is severely ill and by this way it can provide the opportunity for saving someone's life because the designer babies can act as a ‘tailor’ making his or her siblings organs, bone marrow, blood, and other body parts.

Parents have the “right” reasons to genetically modify their baby to eliminate mitochondrial disorders, prevent genetic diseases such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Alzheimer’s, and many others or reduces risk of inherited medical conditions such as anemia, cancer, diabetes and etc which allows their child having a healthy life as well as increasing their children life span up to 30 years. Additionally, the scientists can help infertile women to give birth using in-vitro fertilization. It gave the higher chances of success when comparing with natural conception. Government does not have the right to control means of citizens’ reproduction and the right to prohibit giving the child genes that the parent does not carry, creating a quick adaptation to any environment.

Although not all the kinks in this novel developing technology are solved, with more clinical trials and researches, it has the potential to be a very promising to provide a better comprehension about genetics for genealogists and biologists. Hence, the ethical viewpoints should not cease the advancement of technology.

Transhumanism

The term ‘Transhumanism’ (abbreviated as H+ or h+) defined as an international intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of science and technology with the purpose of improving or transforming human mental and physical characteristics and psychological capacities. This type of human being which had transform to be beyond the existing human range may eventually merit the label ‘posthuman’. Transhumanism can solve the undesirable and unnecessary human condition issues of disability, suffering, aging, disease, and involuntary death.

For transhumanist, transhumanism is a study of the ethics of developing and using such technologies, as well as the potential benefits and risks of developing this technology that could overcome fundamental biological limitations. They view the concept of the natural as problems and it is an obstacle to develop at worst which unlike many philosophers who possess a moral value site on preservation of natural systems. Transhumanists advocate transhumanism as "bioconservatives" or "bioluddites" because they anti-industrialisation social movement, opposed the replacement of human manual labourers by machines.

One of the transhumanist technology is the cryonics. Cryonics is already available currently and the technology is relatively mature.It is a high-fidelity preservation of the human body mainly the brain which stop cells from decaying. There will be an expectation of possible future revival after what we are death. The brain is not frozen in the conventional manner but with an antifreeze mixture called cryoprotectant, which effectively prevents the formation of crystals, causing the water to freeze smoothly, like glass. It would involve slowly melting the ice and rebooting the metabolism by kickstarting the appropriate chemical reactions within cells. Hence, as long as the liquid nitrogen keeps replenished, you can stay on ice for as long as it takes.

Furthermore, many of the designer babies arguments could apply to transhumanism. Some people place a moral value on being “natural” and feeling uncomfortable with "playing God". Nevertheless, don’t people have the right to enhance their bodies condition whichever way they want to be, as long as it is not harmful to others? It seemed like a small alteration could significantly improve a user's happiness. Transhumanism was also considered to accept under certain circumstances where users still had to put work in to improve their abilities. For example, the use of steroid among athletes to become faster, stronger, and bigger; the neural implants that give user a benefit in the work place or in educational features.

We might have some doubts about whether posthumans already exist among us. Albert Einstein and Ray Charles achieved well beyond the norm in their career. Should Einstein and Charles be considered accidental posthumans? This achievement can be traced to their genomes for explanation. Some argue that there is a right for the parent to modify the child’s genome therefore they contained some of the genetic advantages like Einstein or Charles.

Others argue that this advantages of this emerging technology would appear an inequalities in the society. It cause unfair human enhancement in many areas of life to the poor because only the rich can afford and enjoy the privileges. This will resulted the stratification among socioeconomic classes that prevent some from accessing the enhancement. Indeed there are good reason to accept a wide range of inequalities as they have social benefits to deserve as well as it can also provide incentives for innovation, in order to move up economic ladder, to allow flexibility in workforce to fill vacancies and perform a huge range of tasks. It seemed to be some competition are desirable, when resources to be allocated are limited.

Transhumanism which possible enhancing one’s own health who less likely to deal with a contagious disease. If the users become healthier, they can benefit others by being less likely to get infected by them. It is said to be, the users are personally better off and others are not any worse off. Besides, being healthier, you may saves some money for healthcare. By that means, human enhancement greatly increase the life expectancy. In regards to economic programs, employers would either adjust their pension programs to compensate for a longer retirement term or delay retirement age to another then years or so. Others argue that by acting as transhumans would stop them from experiencing character-building trials and consequently they will feel like their lives are less meaningful. However, can’t a person with superior abilities deal with more tough tasks in order to challenge themselves to be success?

In addition, there will appear privacy issue. For example, a person with superhuman hearing or sight could circumvent existing privacy protections by easily and undetectably eavesdropping or spying on others. Transhumanism also related to the utopianism ethical issue. For transhumanists, utopia is defined as the humanity without death and with godlike powers that nearly have the perfect qualities. It refers as an infinite good which the desire of eating, the absence of pain from body modifications and some others are subordinate of utopia. Some argue that in the face of an infinite good any finite evil is insignificant, utopia can be used to morally justify anything. Yet, it can be very dangerous. Others were aware of transhumanism being used as a weapon by governments or terrorists. Part of these fears are came from their understanding in science fiction which normally reveals similar technologies going wrong or even leading to dystopian futures.

Hence, equal distribution as well as tolerance on both enhanced and non-enhanced side problems should be considered. Sufficient laws should be carried out to make sure there are no access usage to such technology. Likewise through education, people would minimize the discrimination between transhuman and human so much in the first place and realize the benefits.

In my opinion, according to my study about the ethics of human enhancement, designer babies is one of the best thing that children are enhanced with particular abilities or appearance prior to their birth as well as transhumanism. Any technology which could improve the general health and conditions of human beings is considered a good thing. I knew that with the advancements of all scientific and technological, there is always exist of ethical questions behind the hopes for these procedures, but we should keep up with modern technologies. Instead of using this for superficial purpose, we can use it to change the disorders a baby had inherited and ensuring a healthy next generation and even their posterity. This will create a massive genetic evolution that may help thousands or even millions of people to have a better lives. Moreover, the increase of efficiency and adaption of a new environment by genetic modification of the babies, we could modify humans to be able to breath on other satellite like moon, other planets like Mars, or in space. In addition, designer babies bring benefit for same-sex couple because embryos containing their traits can fertilize in vitro and implanted into a female womb. So that these homosexual partners can have their own children.

In the future, the advancement of technologies can invent a computational view of the mind. At that point, it may possible to replicate the detailed computational processes in silico that normally take place in a particular human brain, uploading a human mind to a computer. The potential advantages are there will have the ability to make back-up copies of oneself and the ability to transmit oneself as information at the speed of light as well as uploads to a robot. Many of the current technological contexts will change, there will indirectly change our ethical issues and moral values about those technologies. When human nature altered and the statuses of our lives undergo profound evolution that might happen over the coming decades due to accelerating technological progress, then many of our current ethical judgments will need to be abandoned.

References:

  1. Agar, N. (2006) Designer Babies: Ethical Considerations. [Online]. Available at: http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/agar.html [Accessed 6 April 2015].
  2. Barnard, E., Schrading, J., Fluornoy, K. and Brown, I. (2013) The Ethics of "Designer Babies". [Online]. Available at: https://designerbabiesethics.wordpress.com/about/ [Accessed 3 April 2015].
  3. Bostrom, N. & Savulescu, J. (2008) Human Enhancement Ethics: The State of the Debate. [Online]. UK: Oxford University Press. Available at: http://www.nickbostrom.com/ethics/human-enhancement-ethics.pdf [Accessed 3 April 2015].
  4. Giubilini, A. & Sanyal, S. (2015) THE ETHICS OF HUMAN ENHANCEMENT. [Online]. Available at: http://www.academia.edu/9431360/_The_ethics_of_human_enhancement_Philosophy_Compass_forthcoming_2015 [Accessed 3 April 2015].
  5. Lin, P. & Allhoff, F. (2008) NanoEthics. Untangling the Debate: The Ethics of Human Enhancement. 2(3), pp. 251-264. Available at: Springer Netherlands, DOI 10.1007/s11569-008-0046-7 [Accessed 3 April 2015].
  6. Ryberg, J. et al. (2008) New Waves in Applied Ethics. Ethical Issues in Human Enhancement. [Online]. UK: Palgrave Schol. Available at: http://www.nickbostrom.com/ethics/human-enhancement.pdf [Accessed 3 April 2015].

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