Beyond therapy and enhancement: The alteration of human nature [Book Review]

NanoEthics 2 (1):15-23 (2008)
With the rapid progress and considerable promise of nanobiotechnology/neurosciences there is the potential of transforming the very nature of human beings and of how humans can conceive of themselves as rational animals through technological innovations. The interface between humans and machines (neuro-digital interface), can potentially alter what it means to be human, i.e., the very idea of human nature and of normal functioning will be changed. In this paper, I argue that we are potentially on the verge of a paradigm shift in terms of the ends and goals of techno-science and its applications in the biomedical sciences. In particular, the development of brain-computer interfaces could reconceptualize the very notion of what it means to be human. Hence, we should not limit our reflections of applications in terms of therapy and enhancement but also include an examination of applications aiming at the alteration of human nature. To this end I will first delineate the potential paradigm shift and then map out four distinct clusters of concerns in relation to the brain-computer interface. Finally, I argue that our moral and philosophical reflections should follow a procedural model based on managed consensus due to our pluralistic context.
Keywords Human nature  Human enhancement  Alteration of human nature  Brain–computer interface  Procedural ethics
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