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August 21, 2007
Good, Better, Best: The Human Quest for Enhancement
In June of 2006 I participated in a two day workshop on the future of human enhancement sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in DC. At long last, the report of the human enhancement workshop is now posted on the web. It's a very well documented 20 page piece that summarizes the group’s deliberations (about 40 experts). The first section is an overview of what constitutes human enhancement (HE). The second part examines the possible impact of HE on different sectors of society. The final section identifies potential next steps AAAS might take in the emerging debates on HE.
I was particularly pleased to see that the workshop organizers picked up on a theme/meme on "neuroenablement" I've been trying to get into the broader therapy/enhancement discourse.
The line between therapy or restoration and enhancement is another piece of ongoing debates about HE. After noting at the workshop that the line between therapy and enhancement is particularly faint and subjective, Zack Lynch, managing director of NeuroInsights, recommended the term “enablement” as a replacement for the current buzz-word “enhancement.” He believes the term enhancement is already politically charged in both its meaning and use among science policy players. He sees no hard line between “therapy” and “enhancement”; instead, there is a range of capacities already in normal distribution among the population, and enablement refers to maximizing each person’s latent potential. While these arguments are explored in greater detail later in this essay, this report will utilize the more familiar term of “enhancement.”
Slowly, enablement is leaking into more discussions.
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