Futuribles Journal n° 399

Recherche, sciences, techniques - Société, modes de vie

Enhancing Human Capacities: Current State of Affairs and Technological Prospects

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In the last Futuribles issue of 2013, Jean-Michel Besnier analysed the ideology of the transhumanists and the different visions of the “posthuman” they were inclined to promote. And, in another article, Adrien Marck and his co-authors raised the question of the potential limits to humanity, both in terms of resources and also of physical performance. Are human beings doomed, then, to stagnate or will they “mutate” under the influence of ever more specialized technological innovations?

As Pierre-Yves Cusset shows here, the enhancement of human capacities is an ancient dream which is, in part, becoming reality as the years go by and advances are made in various scientific fields. However, in the context of accelerating technological progress and an increasing convergence between nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, information technology and the cognitive sciences (NBIC), that dream is prompting major ethical debates, including within the scientific community. How do things stand today? What technologies for the improvement of physical and cognitive faculties are already being used to repair or develop human capacities? Which are being examined for future use? What perspectives do these open up and what (environmental, health, social…) risks do they imply? These are the questions dealt with in this article which stresses a number of ethical and philosophical issues that need to be faced before we engage in such a race to improve human performance.

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