SIENNA

Human Enhancement

Technology can enhance our physical, cognitive, emotional and moral abilities. Implants, drugs, genetic modification or interaction with machines can have both temporary and permanent effects. This is challenging the boundaries between health and illness, treatment and enhancement, normality and abnormality.

Human Enhancement: Impact on society

Education and exercise can enhance our abilities. So can technology: in the form of implants, drugs, genetic enhancement or machines. This comes with ethical, legal and social challenges. As a society, we need to discuss the ethical questions of what is normal, what is natural, what is moral and what can be permitted.

Where do we draw the line between health and illness? Cosmetic surgery for someone suffering mild social distress is considered elective, and therefore an enhancement. The same procedure for the victim of an accident is considered a treatment. Enhancing humans challenges values such as autonomy, authenticity, dignity, justice, fairness, and our understanding of human nature. A device designed to improve the communication skills of the disabled could become a highly-profitable new gadget for everyone. If there is a drug that can boost the feeling of love a parent has for their child, should we consider making it a mandatory treatment for parents who simply don't feel that love?

The SIENNA project will address these issues in a structured way. Our results will help research to meet ethical standards, and suggest ways to design and distribute products in a responsible way.

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