Advances in technology are creating a world in which the potential for human enhancement appears to be practically limitless. The pace of change within biotechnology is now breakneck; every year we deepen our understanding of the human body, how it functions, and how we might improve it. Human functions that were previously viewed as so complex as to be essentially unknowable are now almost fully explained by science: everything from how memories are formed to how our genes encode cellular behavior can be explained by modern biosciences.
At the time of writing, the resources being directed to cognitive neuroscience, nanotechnology, gene mapping, targeted pharmaceuticals and advanced diagnostics (using artificial intelligence) is swelling to gargantuan proportions. Gone are the days of researchers scratching around for funds to explore novel therapies or basic genetic science. As a society, we understand that biotechnology, genetics, information science, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology have the potential to transform healthcare from the ground up.
But now many researchers are going beyond the treatment of disease. There is a growing movement which seeks to take recent advances in biotechnology and apply them to otherwise healthy individuals. Broadly labelled “biohackers”, these people want to apply biotechnology, nanotechnology, AI, and genetics to the pursuit of human enhancement. They want to improve aspects of human health and performance, taking humanity beyond its present to a better future.
Of course, the concept of “enhancing” our current state is not new. Humans have always applied their ingenuity to improve their health, performance or appearance in different ways. Whether it’s the use of natural substances such as coffee or nicotine to enhance cognitive function, or the application of surgical techniques to improve how we look (i.e. cosmetic surgery), humanity has always had a kind of nascent “biohacking” spirit.
The idea of biohacking is even more familiar in the modern age when the use of exogenous steroids to boost athletic performance (i.e. steroids) is so commonplace that the testing of athletes is compulsory.
Yet the convergence of biotechnology, AI, big data, nanotechnology, and neuroscience brings novel opportunities for pursuing human enhancement. It is at this crossroads that the biohackers of today see the greatest opportunities for enhancing their own bodies. Some want to extend their life beyond natural limits, others want to develop “super-human” intelligence, while others still want to tweak every aspect of their body, from vision to digestion.
Now obviously, the concept of human enhancement raises some serious ethical questions.
It cannot be right that some individuals have access to technologies which drastically improve their own health and performance while many more people do not. This will inevitably create a society in which a select few live as “super-humans”, with augmented eye sight, intelligence, stamina, strength, and general health while the rest of the population battle with relative helplessness. Even today, many people have access to the best prebiotic supplements while others do not, which creates a disparity in their health and performance.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
What’s amazing about much of the biotechnology that has emerged over the last few years is just how easy it would be to take advantage of; implementing natural substances in your supplement regimen can yield enormous gains in performance, but it costs very little in terms of money or effort.
Human enhancement is absolutely achievable no matter who you are or what resources you have at your disposal. So long as you have an open mind and are willing to be disciplined, you can become a more effective, productive, healthier, and ultimately happier human.
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