Special Issue "Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines"

A special issue of Philosophies (ISSN 2409-9287).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 July 2020).

Printed Edition Available!
A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Woodrow Barfield
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Independent Reseacher, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, USA
Interests: virtual and augmented reality; AI; algorithms; robots; technologically enhanced humans
Prof. Dr. Sayoko Blodgett-Ford
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Boston College Law School, Newton Centre, MA 02459, USA
Interests: artificial intelligence; consciousness; law and philosophy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue will be devoted to papers that discuss some of the myriad challenges resulting from continuing technological enhancement of human sensory, motor, and cognitive abilities.  The very question of what it means to be human (from a philosophical, legal, and evolutionary perspective) warrants serious discussion. In our view, a cross-disciplinary approach within the fields of philosophy, engineering, computer science, law, and social science is critical as more, and more powerful, technology is attached to and implanted within the human body. Concepts of ‘body’, ‘morality’, ‘ethics’, ‘reality’, ‘experience’, ‘consciousness‘, and ‘rights’ all are candidates for re-examination. We invite papers from contributors on a diverse set of topics (such as the keywords listed below), with the overarching focus being how the use of enhancement technologies is challenging the notion of what it means to be human from a moral, ethical, and legal rights perspective. We look forward to your submissions and to working with you on this important topic.

Prof. Dr. Woodrow Barfield
Prof. Dr. Sayoko Blodgett-Ford
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • human enhancement
  • augmented humans
  • transhumans
  • AI as an enhancement
  • consciousness and enhancements
  • meaning of humanity for technologically enhanced humans
  • exoskeletons
  • genetic enhancement
  • cyborg ethics
  • law and enhancements
  • brain-computer interface (BCI)
  • medical enhancements
  • sense of being

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Introduction to Special Issue “Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines”
Philosophies 2021, 6(1), 9; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6010009 - 29 Jan 2021
Viewed by 573
Abstract
We are pleased to introduce the authors and papers which form the Special Issue “Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines” [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines)

Research

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Article
Agency, Responsibility, Selves, and the Mechanical Mind
Philosophies 2021, 6(1), 7; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6010007 - 19 Jan 2021
Viewed by 771
Abstract
Moral issues arise not only when neural technology directly influences and affects people’s lives, but also when the impact of its interventions indirectly conceptualizes the mind in new, and unexpected ways. It is the case that theories of consciousness, theories of subjectivity, and [...] Read more.
Moral issues arise not only when neural technology directly influences and affects people’s lives, but also when the impact of its interventions indirectly conceptualizes the mind in new, and unexpected ways. It is the case that theories of consciousness, theories of subjectivity, and third person perspective on the brain provide rival perspectives addressing the mind. Through a review of these three main approaches to the mind, and particularly as applied to an “extended mind”, the paper identifies a major area of transformation in philosophy of action, which is understood in terms of additional epistemic devices—including a legal perspective of regulating the human–machine interaction and a personality theory of the symbiotic connection between human and machine. I argue this is a new area of concern within philosophy, which will be characterized in terms of self-objectification, which becomes “alienation” following Ernst Kapp’s philosophy of technology. The paper argues that intervening in the brain can affect how we conceptualize the mind and modify its predicaments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines)
Article
Human Enhancements and Voting: Towards a Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities of Beings
Philosophies 2021, 6(1), 5; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6010005 - 14 Jan 2021
Viewed by 635
Abstract
The phenomenon and ethics of “voting” will be explored in the context of human enhancements. “Voting” will be examined for enhanced humans with moderate and extreme enhancements. Existing patterns of discrimination in voting around the globe could continue substantially “as is” for those [...] Read more.
The phenomenon and ethics of “voting” will be explored in the context of human enhancements. “Voting” will be examined for enhanced humans with moderate and extreme enhancements. Existing patterns of discrimination in voting around the globe could continue substantially “as is” for those with moderate enhancements. For extreme enhancements, voting rights could be challenged if the very humanity of the enhanced was in doubt. Humans who were not enhanced could also be disenfranchised if certain enhancements become prevalent. Voting will be examined using a theory of engagement articulated by Professor Sophie Loidolt that emphasizes the importance of legitimization and justification by “facing the appeal of the other” to determine what is “right” from a phenomenological first-person perspective. Seeking inspiration from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948, voting rights and responsibilities will be re-framed from a foundational working hypothesis that all enhanced and non-enhanced humans should have a right to vote directly. Representative voting will be considered as an admittedly imperfect alternative or additional option. The framework in which voting occurs, as well as the processes, temporal cadence, and role of voting, requires the participation from as diverse a group of humans as possible. Voting rights delivered by fiat to enhanced or non-enhanced humans who were excluded from participation in the design and ratification of the governance structure is not legitimate. Applying and extending Loidolt’s framework, we must recognize the urgency that demands the impossible, with openness to that universality in progress (or universality to come) that keeps being constituted from the outside. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines)
Article
The Neuropolitics of Brain Science and Its Implications for Human Enhancement and Intellectual Property Law
Philosophies 2020, 5(4), 33; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies5040033 - 03 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 924
Abstract
As we learn more about how the brain functions, the study of the brain changes what we know about human creativity and innovation and our ability to enhance the brain with technology. The possibilities of direct brain-to-brain communication, the use of cognitive enhancing [...] Read more.
As we learn more about how the brain functions, the study of the brain changes what we know about human creativity and innovation and our ability to enhance the brain with technology. The possibilities of direct brain-to-brain communication, the use of cognitive enhancing drugs to enhance human intelligence and creativity, and the extended connections between brains and the larger technological world, all suggest areas of linkage between intellectual property (IP) law and policy and the study of the brain science. Questions of importance include: Who owns creativity in such a world when humans are enhanced with technology? And how does one define an original work of authorship or invention if either were created with the aid of an enhancement technology? This paper suggests that new conceptualizations of the brain undermine the notion of the autonomous individual and may serve to locate creativity and originality beyond that of individual creation. In this scenario, the legal fiction of individual ownership of a creative work will be displaced, and as this paper warns, under current conditions the IP policies which may take its place will be of concern absent a rethinking of human agency in the neuropolitical age. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines)
Article
The Ethics of Genetic Cognitive Enhancement: Gene Editing or Embryo Selection?
Philosophies 2020, 5(3), 20; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies5030020 - 03 Sep 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1735
Abstract
Recent research with human embryos, in different parts of the world, has sparked a new debate on the ethics of genetic human enhancement. This debate, however, has mainly focused on gene-editing technologies, especially CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). Less attention has [...] Read more.
Recent research with human embryos, in different parts of the world, has sparked a new debate on the ethics of genetic human enhancement. This debate, however, has mainly focused on gene-editing technologies, especially CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). Less attention has been given to the prospect of pursuing genetic human enhancement by means of IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) in conjunction with in vitro gametogenesis, genome-wide association studies, and embryo selection. This article examines the different ethical implications of the quest for cognitive enhancement by means of gene-editing on the one hand, and embryo selection on the other. The article focuses on the ethics of cognitive enhancement by means of embryo selection, as this technology is more likely to become commercially available before cognitive enhancement by means of gene-editing. This article argues that the philosophical debate on the ethics of enhancement should take into consideration public attitudes to research on human genomics and human enhancement technologies. The article discusses, then, some of the recent findings of the SIENNA Project, which in 2019 conducted a survey on public attitudes to human genomics and human enhancement technologies in 11 countries (France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, and United States). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines)
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Article
Superhuman Enhancements via Implants: Beyond the Human Mind
Philosophies 2020, 5(3), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies5030014 - 10 Aug 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 975
Abstract
In this article, a practical look is taken at some of the possible enhancements for humans through the use of implants, particularly into the brain or nervous system. Some cognitive enhancements may not turn out to be practically useful, whereas others may turn [...] Read more.
In this article, a practical look is taken at some of the possible enhancements for humans through the use of implants, particularly into the brain or nervous system. Some cognitive enhancements may not turn out to be practically useful, whereas others may turn out to be mere steps on the way to the construction of superhumans. The emphasis here is the focus on enhancements that take such recipients beyond the human norm rather than any implantations employed merely for therapy. This is divided into what we know has already been tried and tested and what remains at this time as more speculative. Five examples from the author’s own experimentation are described. Each case is looked at in detail, from the inside, to give a unique personal experience. The premise is that humans are essentially their brains and that bodies serve as interfaces between brains and the environment. The possibility of building an Interplanetary Creature, having an intelligence and possibly a consciousness of its own, is also considered. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines)
Article
Can a Soldier Say No to an Enhancing Intervention?
Philosophies 2020, 5(3), 13; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies5030013 - 03 Aug 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 995
Abstract
Technological advancements have provided militaries with the possibility to enhance human performance and to provide soldiers with better warfighting capabilities. Though these technologies hold significant potential, their use is not without cost to the individual. This paper explores the complexities associated with using [...] Read more.
Technological advancements have provided militaries with the possibility to enhance human performance and to provide soldiers with better warfighting capabilities. Though these technologies hold significant potential, their use is not without cost to the individual. This paper explores the complexities associated with using human cognitive enhancements in the military, focusing on how the purpose and context of these technologies could potentially undermine a soldier’s ability to say no to these interventions. We focus on cognitive enhancements and their ability to also enhance a soldier’s autonomy (i.e., autonomy-enhancing technologies). Through this lens, we explore situations that could potentially compel a soldier to accept such technologies and how this acceptance could impact rights to individual autonomy and informed consent within the military. In this examination, we highlight the contextual elements of vulnerability—institutional and differential vulnerability. In addition, we focus on scenarios in which a soldier’s right to say no to such enhancements can be diminished given the special nature of their work and the significance of making better moral decisions. We propose that though in some situations, a soldier may be compelled to accept said enhancements; with their right to say no diminished, it is not a blanket rule, and safeguards ought to be in place to ensure that autonomy and informed consent are not overridden. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines)
Article
Marketing the Prosthesis: Supercrip and Superhuman Narratives in Contemporary Cultural Representations
Philosophies 2020, 5(3), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies5030011 - 10 Jul 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1265
Abstract
This paper examines prosthetic technology in the context of posthumanism and disability studies. The following research discusses the posthuman subject in contemporary times, focusing on prosthetic applications to deliberate how the disabled body is empowered through prosthetic enhancement and cultural representations. The disability [...] Read more.
This paper examines prosthetic technology in the context of posthumanism and disability studies. The following research discusses the posthuman subject in contemporary times, focusing on prosthetic applications to deliberate how the disabled body is empowered through prosthetic enhancement and cultural representations. The disability market both intersects and transcends race, religion, and gender; the promise of technology bettering the human condition is its ultimate product. Bionic technology, in particular, is a burgeoning field; our engineering skills already show promise of a future where physical impediment will be almost obsolete. I aim to cross-examine empowering marketing images and phrases embedded in cinema and media that emphasize how disability becomes super-ability with prosthetic enhancement. Though the benefits of biotechnology are most empowering to the disabled population, further scrutiny raises a number of paradoxical questions exposed by the market’s advance. With all these tools at our disposal, why is it that the disabled have yet to reap the rewards? How are disabled bodies, biotechnology, and posthuman possibilities commodified and commercialized? Most importantly, what impact will this have on our society? This paper exemplifies empowering and inclusive messages emphasized in disabled representation, as well as raising bioethical concerns that fuel the ongoing debate of the technological haves and have-nots. Furthermore, this paper challenges the ideals of normative bodies while depicting the disabled as an open, embodied site where technology, corporeality, and sociology interact. To conclude, I believe that an interdisciplinary approach that balances the debate between scientific advance, capital gain, and social equality is essential to embracing diverse forms of embodiment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines)
Article
Law, Cyborgs, and Technologically Enhanced Brains
Philosophies 2017, 2(1), 6; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies2010006 - 17 Feb 2017
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3741
Abstract
As we become more and more enhanced with cyborg technology, significant issues of law and policy are raised. For example, as cyborg devices implanted within the body create a class of people with enhanced motor and computational abilities, how should the law and [...] Read more.
As we become more and more enhanced with cyborg technology, significant issues of law and policy are raised. For example, as cyborg devices implanted within the body create a class of people with enhanced motor and computational abilities, how should the law and policy respond when the abilities of such people surpass those of the general population? And what basic human and legal rights should be afforded to people equipped with cyborg technology as they become more machine and less biology? As other issues of importance, if a neuroprosthetic device is accessed by a third party and done to edit one’s memory or to plant a new memory in one’s mind, or even to place an ad for a commercial product in one’s consciousness, should there be a law of cognitive liberty or of “neuro-advertising” that applies? This paper discusses laws and statutes enacted across several jurisdictions which apply to cyborg technologies with a particular emphasis on legal doctrine which relates to neuroprosthetic devices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines)
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Article
Cyborgs and Enhancement Technology
Philosophies 2017, 2(1), 4; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies2010004 - 16 Jan 2017
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 4674
Abstract
As we move deeper into the twenty-first century there is a major trend to enhance the body with “cyborg technology”. In fact, due to medical necessity, there are currently millions of people worldwide equipped with prosthetic devices to restore lost functions, and there [...] Read more.
As we move deeper into the twenty-first century there is a major trend to enhance the body with “cyborg technology”. In fact, due to medical necessity, there are currently millions of people worldwide equipped with prosthetic devices to restore lost functions, and there is a growing DIY movement to self-enhance the body to create new senses or to enhance current senses to “beyond normal” levels of performance. From prosthetic limbs, artificial heart pacers and defibrillators, implants creating brain–computer interfaces, cochlear implants, retinal prosthesis, magnets as implants, exoskeletons, and a host of other enhancement technologies, the human body is becoming more mechanical and computational and thus less biological. This trend will continue to accelerate as the body becomes transformed into an information processing technology, which ultimately will challenge one’s sense of identity and what it means to be human. This paper reviews “cyborg enhancement technologies”, with an emphasis placed on technological enhancements to the brain and the creation of new senses—the benefits of which may allow information to be directly implanted into the brain, memories to be edited, wireless brain-to-brain (i.e., thought-to-thought) communication, and a broad range of sensory information to be explored and experienced. The paper concludes with musings on the future direction of cyborgs and the meaning and implications of becoming more cyborg and less human in an age of rapid advances in the design and use of computing technologies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines)
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Article
Homo Technologicus: Threat or Opportunity?
Philosophies 2016, 1(3), 199-208; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies1030199 - 26 Oct 2016
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2853
Abstract
Homo sapiens is entering a vital era in which the human-technology link is an inexorable trend. In this paper a look is taken as to how and why this is coming about and what exactly it means for both the posthuman species Homo [...] Read more.
Homo sapiens is entering a vital era in which the human-technology link is an inexorable trend. In this paper a look is taken as to how and why this is coming about and what exactly it means for both the posthuman species Homo technologicus and its originator Homo sapiens. Clearly moral and ethical issues are at stake. Different practical experimentation results that relate to the theme are described and the argument is raised as to why and how this can be regarded as a new species. A picture is taken of the status of cyborgs as it stands today but also how this will change in the near future, as the effects of increased technological power have a more dramatic influence. An important ultimate consideration is whether Homo technologicus will act in the best interests of Homo sapiens or not. This paper concludes that the answer is clear. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines)

Review

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Review
Ethical Aspects of BCI Technology: What Is the State of the Art?
Philosophies 2020, 5(4), 31; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies5040031 - 24 Oct 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1539
Abstract
Brain–Computer Interface (BCI) technology is a promising research area in many domains. Brain activity can be interpreted through both invasive and non-invasive monitoring devices, allowing for novel, therapeutic solutions for individuals with disabilities and for other non-medical applications. However, a number of ethical [...] Read more.
Brain–Computer Interface (BCI) technology is a promising research area in many domains. Brain activity can be interpreted through both invasive and non-invasive monitoring devices, allowing for novel, therapeutic solutions for individuals with disabilities and for other non-medical applications. However, a number of ethical issues have been identified from the use of BCI technology. In this paper, we review the academic discussion of the ethical implications of BCI technology in the last five years. We conclude that some emerging applications of BCI technology—including commercial ventures that seek to meld human intelligence with AI—present new and unique ethical concerns. Further, we seek to understand how academic literature on the topic of BCIs addresses these novel concerns. Similar to prior work, we use a limited sample to identify trends and areas of concern or debate among researchers and ethicists. From our analysis, we identify two key areas of BCI ethics that warrant further research: the physical and psychological effects of BCI technology. Additionally, questions of BCI policy have not yet become a frequent point of discussion in the relevant literature on BCI ethics, and we argue this should be addressed in future work. We provide guiding questions that will help ethicists and policy makers grapple with the most important issues associated with BCI technology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines)
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Other

Essay
The Process of Evolution, Human Enhancement Technology, and Cyborgs
Philosophies 2019, 4(1), 10; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies4010010 - 22 Feb 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2401
Abstract
The human body is a remarkable example of the process of evolution which ultimately created a sentient being with cognitive, motor, and information-processing abilities. The body can also be thought of as an amazing feat of engineering, and specifically as an example of [...] Read more.
The human body is a remarkable example of the process of evolution which ultimately created a sentient being with cognitive, motor, and information-processing abilities. The body can also be thought of as an amazing feat of engineering, and specifically as an example of molecular nanotechnology, positioning trillions of cells throughout the body, and creating the billions of unique individuals that have existed since the beginning of humanity. On the other hand, from an engineering perspective, there are numerous limitations associated with the human body and the process of evolution to effect changes in the body is exceedingly slow. For example, our skeletal structure is only so strong, our body is subject to disease, and we are programmed by our DNA to age. Further, it took millions of years for Homo sapiens to evolve and hundreds of thousands of years for hominids to invent the most basic technology. To allow humans to go beyond the capabilities that evolution provided Homo sapiens, current research is leading to technologies that could significantly enhance the cognitive and motor abilities of humans and eventually create the conditions in which humans and technology could merge to form a cybernetic being. Much of this technology is being developed from three fronts: due to medical necessity, an interest within the military to create a cyborg soldier, and the desire among some people to self-enhance their body with technology. This article discusses the processes of biological evolution which led to the current anatomical, physiological, and cognitive capabilities of humans and concludes with a discussion of emerging technologies which are directed primarily at enhancing the cognitive functions performed by the brain. This article also discusses a timeframe in which the body will become increasingly equipped with technology directly controlled by the brain, then as a major paradigm shift in human evolution, humans will merge with the technology itself. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines)
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