Truly Human Enhancement

A Philosophical Defense of Limits

The transformative potential of genetic and cybernetic technologies to enhance human capabilities is most often either rejected on moral and prudential grounds or hailed as the future salvation of humanity. In this book, Nicholas Agar offers a more nuanced view, making a case for moderate human enhancement—improvements to attributes and abilities that do not significantly exceed what is currently possible for human beings. He argues against radical human enhancement, or improvements that greatly exceed current human capabilities.

Agar explores notions of transformative change and motives for human enhancement; distinguishes between the instrumental and intrinsic value of enhancements; argues that too much enhancement undermines human identity; considers the possibility of cognitively enhanced scientists; and argues against radical life extension. Making the case for moderate enhancement, Agar argues that many objections to enhancement are better understood as directed at the degree of enhancement rather than enhancement itself. Moderate human enhancement meets the requirement of truly human enhancement. By radically enhancing human cognitive capabilities, by contrast, we may inadvertently create beings (“post-persons”) with moral status higher than that of persons. If we create beings more entitled to benefits and protections against harms than persons, Agar writes, this will be bad news for the unenhanced. Moderate human enhancement offers a more appealing vision of the future and of our relationship to technology.

Table of Contents

  1. Series Foreword
  2. Preface
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. 1. Radical Human Enhancement as a Transformative Change
  5. 2. Two Ideals of Human Enhancement
  6. 3. What Interest Do We Have in Superhuman Feats?
  7. 4. The Threat to Human Identities from Too Much Enhancement
  8. 5. Should We Enhance Our Cognitive Powers to Better Understand the Universe and Our Place in It?
  9. 6. The Moral Case against Radical Life Extension
  10. 7. A Defense of Truly Human Enhancement
  11. 8. Why Radical Cognitive Enhancement Will (Probably) Enhance Moral Status
  12. 9. Why Moral Status Enhancement Is a Morally Bad Thing
  13. 10. A Technological Yet Truly Human Future—as Depicted in Star Trek
  14. Notes
  15. Index
  16. Basic Bioethics