Human enhancement technologies are opening up many exciting new possibilities. But they are also bringing up questions about what it means to be human, and what’s right or wrong for our individual and collective well-being. These new technological applications are geared towards restoring or improving mental and physical abilities for medical purposes.
However, those new applications can be turned around and used with a different goal in mind: enhancing performance. Think of athletes! However, using this technology is will be an individual choice; it nevertheless has an impact on society as a whole. An international group of researchers led by the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, and Oxford University has been exploring the ethical issues arising from such experiments.
The study, published in Nature Human Behavior, questions and highlights the conflict between collective and individual well-being, along with the critical role governments have to play.
Today’s new improvement technologies are mainly used restoratively following illness, an accident, or handicap of birth. A new US study headed by Debra Whitman (printed in Scientific American) has demonstrated that these therapeutic technologies get near-universal approval from the general public: 95 percent of respondents support physical therapeutic applications and 88% cognitive therapeutic applications.
This percentage drops to 35%, though, when the topic turns to invasions meant to upgrade a cognitive or physical ability with the individual aim of raising performance. Why? Because you are touching the very nature of humankind, which raises plenty of ethical questions).
An international group of researchers, mandated by the World Economic Forum (WEF), has been looking into the factors that will need to be considered to ensure a fair society and collective well-being when creating and distributing these new human advancement technologies.
Well-Being is seen as Competence, Independence, and Social Relations
Although prosperity is often reduced to economic indices, it goes beyond the thought of money once primary needs are met. The concept of self-determination categorizes well-being into three elements:
freedom — the ability to make own decisions;
competence – the ability to act and contribute to society; and
social relations – the chain of relationships that we can count on.
Autonomy is creating one’s own knowledgeable decision regarding how to manage one’s life without being controlled by someone else. It follows that an individual can choose whether or not to update their faculties. “However, that can quickly result in specific aberrations. If a military pilot gets their vision enhanced, this visual acuity might become obligatory to perform the job.
So, somebody who wants to be a pilot but does not wish to be worked on would automatically be removed from the profession. Take another instance: If parents could choose certain traits for their infant, such as muscle strength, eye color, or intellect, this may have a severe effect on human diversity.
The same refers to competence. What will be the result if some people have the resources to purchase new skills while others don’t? How will corporations manage to stay competitive if these services become a bargaining tool? Do businesses manage to keep competitive if these benefits become a bargaining tool? How will we compete against an individual who has been enhanced?
Doping in sport is an exceptional example of how personal enhancement effects the collective. When an athlete takes a substance that improves their outcomes, they push others to imitate them for the sake of performance. To be competitive, people are no longer free to say no to performance enhancement. This requires new approaches. Perhaps the critical question is not about the efficacy of the regulations, but instead about new transparency that would enable all to take enhancements or deny, but to be open about it and to factor use into the outcomes.
The steady rise in the use of medication to facilitate social relations underlines the importance of this aspect of human well-being. However, new technologies are starting to grow in this field; their use raises genuine decent questions at the standard level. “We can already reverse relationships depending on domination in mice by stimulating specific areas of the brain,” says professor Bavelier. “Influencing someone else’s behavior — by diminishing the feeling of isolation usually associated with depression, for example — is within reach.”
As exhibit by the trepanning adventures of the twentieth century, which were supposed to treat hysteria, every thought, however, has a drawback. It does not be solved by removing a problem. A study that reinforces people’s compassion to eliminate racism showed that people in the same group were more united through compassion. But their denial of different groups increased dramatically. What works for one person doesn’t have the exact same impact on a group as a whole.
After the comprehensive investigations, the international team — comprising engineers, ethicists, philosophers, geneticists, and neuroscientists recognized the importance of thinking through the consequences on society of each change. The specialists reported that the urgent need to include unified laws among several governments before the use of these recent technologies degenerates. This matter is illustrated by the recent case of Chinese twins that were genetically modified to withstand the AIDS virus — a disorder that they may never have a contracted.
Here is a company that is working hard to bring augmented technology to the general public without going overboard.
At Roam, they are making powered human enhancement devices to increase human mobility in activities. Such as hiking, walking, skiing, running, biking, and jumping. They got an audacious objective of making a world possible. Where extraordinary physical experiences of endurance, strength, and speed are accessible to the average person.
It’s paradoxical, but people can be both the most significant barriers and drivers to adoption. As they create a new product category and build new markets. They always remind ourselves that they’re designed for people just like you and me.
People who make buying decisions based on the amount the product provides them, how it makes them feel and look. How they’re perceived by others while using it.
Here are the ways Roam is positioning the products to facilitate mass adoption and bring benefits to billions, not just thousands of people.
- Tune in to aspirations — As they thought of market entry, they picked an application that has a considerable target user base, appeals to their strong desire to boost performance, and offers an inspirational brand association: Skiing. Skiing parlays dynamism and power. Over the long run, they plan to leverage this brand association with regular applications. Additionally, it also does not hurt that their products form in the furnace of defense contracts where we made Navy Seals achieve impossible actions, a fact that has helped us position ourselves as a powerful mobility brand.
- Joy with power — We’re designing our products to change and improve the user experience fundamentally. We need them to feel the same excitement when riding an electric bicycle at the full feed. All of us like that added boost of power, even if we rarely use it. When was the last time you recall maxing out the speedometer of your car? It has probably been a while, but it is nice knowing that you could if you needed to, right? We want to get that sense of thrill and help our users feel superhuman.
- Respect the Goldilocks’ principle — Recognize that people want to be different but not that different. For this point, we specifically chose design attributes that people are familiar with and for which they have a positive intention. Both knee braces and protecting shin guards (motocross and in alpine downhill ski racing) are universally accepted. They are connected with action sports and armor. Some features of this have been infused into our product.
- Personalize The encounter — We envision introducing the consumer’s DNA in the design. Through each use of this device, the user enables the device to understand how he/she’s moving. The method obtains millisecond intervals of data and uses its AI algorithms to move in synchronization with the user. It will blend seamlessly with the user in a way that the user will not know where the body ends, and the device starts.
- Keep Them Engage — Our machines are equipped with apps that permit the user to get knowledge and participate socially with peers. Users will have the ability to track the following metrics: protection (how is my knee health?), competition (how my friends did vs. how did I do ), performance (how do I improve?), and fun (what was my air time). We consider these tools not only drive engagement but also allow us to understand our users better.
- Seeing the Benefits – They see the early advantages of this approach. Hundreds of test users have verified their strategy and design. They have received authentic testimonials by a consumer tech writer, and we’re racking up pre-orders in thousands of dollars. Time will tell how successful they’ll be building this exceptional marketplace. But we feel confident that they’re on the right track.
In Roam, we want to make the impossible possible for the everyday person. We try to create a kind of product that, until now, was only envisioned in science fiction books. We can envision a world where athletes may run a marathon in less than two hours. An ordinary individual can climb their particular Everest, a typical athlete can dunk a basketball, and elders can yet enjoy simple walks in the park.