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NSF-funded report on human enhancement

Sept. 11, 2009

KALAMAZOO--In an era when human enhancement has become all too familiar in the world of athletics, a new report on the ethical implications of human enhancement has just been released. The report was written by a Western Michigan University researcher and colleagues at three partner universities and supported with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Dr. Fritz Allhoff, WMU assistant professor of philosophy, is part of the four-person research team that wrote the report, "Ethics of Human Enhancement: 25 Questions & Answers." Allhoff was joined in the work by Dr. Patrick Lin of California Polytechnic State University, Dr. James Moor of Dartmouth College and Dr. John Weckert of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics in Australia.

View the full report online [PDF]
"Ethics of Human Enhancement: 25 Questions & Answers"

The 50-page report was released last month and covers such topics as definitions of human enhancement, possible enhancement scenarios, issues of freedom and autonomy, fairness and equity, societal disruptions, human dignity, rights and obligations and policy and law. It serves as a convenient starting point for both public and classroom discussions, such as in bioethics seminars.

The report stems from a three-year ethics study on human enhancement and emerging technologies, especially nanotechnology. Study activities also included a conference on the subject March 28-29 at WMU's Fetzer Center that drew ethicists from around the globe.

New technological developments are closing the gap between reality and science fiction. Examples include development of contact lenses that will provide the wearer with telescopic and night vision or act as an omnipresent digital monitor to receive and relay information, the report finds. Another innovation calls for implantation of a touch screen just below the skin that would activate special tattoo ink to form telephone number keys to punch or even a video to watch.

"The important thing is to do the ethics before the science can realize its promise," Allhoff says. "By having public discussion about how to responsibly deploy the science, we can be properly situated once it has been developed."

For more information, visit the Human Enhancement Ethics Group online.

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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