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Human Enhancement [Hardcover]

by Julian Savulescu, Nick Bostrom
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 25, 2009 0199299722 978-0199299720 1
To what extent should we use technology to try to make better human beings? Because of the remarkable advances in biomedical science, we must now find an answer to this question.

Human enhancement aims to increase human capacities above normal levels. Many forms of human enhancement are already in use. Many students and academics take cognition enhancing drugs to get a competitive edge. Some top athletes boost their performance with legal and illegal substances. Many an office worker begins each day with a dose of caffeine. This is only the beginning. As science and technology advance further, it will become increasingly possible to enhance basic human capacities to increase or modulate cognition, mood, personality, and physical performance, and to control the biological processes underlying normal aging. Some have suggested that such advances would take us beyond the bounds of human nature.

These trends, and these dramatic prospects, raise profound ethical questions. They have generated intense public debate and have become a central topic of discussion within practical ethics. Should we side with bioconservatives, and forgo the use of any biomedical interventions aimed at enhancing human capacities? Should we side with transhumanists and embrace the new opportunities? Or should we perhaps plot some middle course?

Human Enhancement presents the latest moves in this crucial debate: original contributions from many of the world's leading ethicists and moral thinkers, representing a wide range of perspectives, advocates and sceptics, enthusiasts and moderates. These are the arguments that will determine how humanity develops in the near future.

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Editorial Reviews


"As an anthology Human Enhancement is bound to be indispensable for anyone is interested in the subject. This collection of essays could be a beginner's first reference guide to the subject, since all essays are brief, engaging, and focused. At the same time, both advanced students and instructors will find the volume intellectually challenging and rewarding, since the essays reveal the complexity of each angle of enhancement and address these numerous angles in depth. In short, Human Enhancement is a must for anyone who is thinking about the moral status of bioengineering, and bioethics in general." --Metapsychology

About the Author

Julian Savulescu is Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics, Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, and Director of the Program on Ethics and the New Biosciences in the 21st Century School, University of Oxford

Nick Bostrom is Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford. He previously taught at Yale University in the Department of Philosophy and in the Yale Institute for Social and Policy Studies.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (March 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199299722
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199299720
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,744,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nick Bostrom is Professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University and founding Director of the Future of Humanity Institute and of the Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology within the Oxford Martin School. He is the author of some 200 publications, including Anthropic Bias (Routledge, 2002), Global Catastrophic Risks (ed., OUP, 2008), and Human Enhancement (ed., OUP, 2009), and a forthcoming book on Superintelligence. He previously taught at Yale, and he was a Postdoctoral Fellow of the British Academy. Bostrom has a background in physics, computational neuroscience, and mathematical logic as well as philosophy.
He is best known for his work in five areas: (i) existential risk; (ii) the simulation argument; (iii) anthropics (developing the first mathematically explicit theory of observation selection effects); (iv) transhumanism, including related issues in bioethics and on consequences of future technologies; and (v) foundations and practical implications of consequentialism. He is currently working on a book about the existential risks and strategic issues related to the prospect of machine superintelligence.

He has received the Eugene R. Gannon Award for the Continued Pursuit of Human Advancement (one person selected annually worldwide from the fields of philosophy, mathematics, the arts and other humanities, and the natural sciences), and been named One of the Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy Magazine. His writings have been translated into 21 languages, and there have been more than 100 translations or reprints of his works. He has done more than 500 interviews for TV, film, radio, and print media, and addressed academic and popular audiences around the world.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A few valuable ideas near the end July 10, 2009
This book starts out with relatively uninteresting articles and only the last quarter of so of it is worth reading.

Because I agree with most of the arguments for enhancement, I skipped some of the pro-enhancement arguments and tried to read the anti-enhancement arguments carefully. They mostly boil down to the claim that people's preference for natural things is sufficient to justify broad prohibitions on enhancing human bodies and human nature. That isn't enough of an argument to deserve as much discussion as it gets.

A few of the concerns discussed by advocates of enhancement are worth more thought. The question of whether unenhanced humans would retain political equality and rights enables us to imagine dystopian results of enhancement. Daniel Walker provides a partly correct analysis of conditions under which enhanced beings ought to paternalistically restrict the choices and political power of the unenhanced. But he's overly complacent about assuming the paternalists will have the interests of the unenhanced at heart. The biggest problem with paternalism to date is that it's done by people who are less thoughtful about the interests of the people they're controlling than they are about finding ways to serve their own self-interest. It is possible that enhanced beings will be perfect altruists, but it is far from being a natural consequence of enhancement.

The final chapter points out the risks of being overconfident of our ability to improve on nature. They describe questions we should ask about why evolution would have produced a result that is different from what we want. One example that they give suggests they remain overconfident - they repeat a standard claim about the human appendix being a result of evolution getting stuck in a local optimum.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I wonder why there are so few reviews of this book. Considering its importance for all of us it would seem to me that many more people should have taken interest in it. Is it because it is a book of academic papers and these tend to provide a great deal of jargon and difficult argument? Or is it perhaps because the whole subject is one which is somewhat difficult and even repulsive to a good share of mankind?
I don't know. I do know that the question raised of whether or not we actually know what human nature is in such a definitive way as to be able to enhance it seems to me theoretically overdone. We know enough about our powers to propose very specific 'enhancements' Bostrom speaks about the preference of most people for enhancements which are somehow seen as natural or more in accordance with our nature. He too and others speak about enhancements which might provide a certain risk.There are also questions raised in the book of the 'equality' issue and the kinds of privilege the 'enhanced' might have. It seems to me this book should be of interest to anyone who is concerned about what is presently happening to humanity. There are those who after all believe we will be at the point soon where 'artificial intelligences' somehow go beyond us, and in some way promise to replace us.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transhumanism June 13, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very good collection of essays. I like the idea of contrasting ideas in a single book, and Savulescu does just that. Oh, and his is one of the excellent essays in this.
Anyone interested in the sociological, moral and technological implications of the merge of humans and machines should have a peek at these essays.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific read August 20, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wonderful collection of writing about human enhancement--thoughtful and thought-provoking. Authors engage in a cross-chapter dialogue which is enjoyable. Great addition.
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