Study «Human Enhancement»
Human Enhancement. Study of the Centre for Technology Assessment , Anne Eckhardt, Andreas Bachmann, Michèle Marti, Bernhard Rütsche, Harry Telser , Zürich, vdf, 300 p., CHF 39.--/ EUR 32.--, ISBN 978-3-7281-3396-0 (Print edition) / Download open access ISBN 978-3-7281-3404-2 / DOI 10.3218/3404-2.
vdf Hochschulverlag AG
What is Human Enhancement?
Since the dawn of time, human beings have been striving to extend their capabilities and improve their achievement potential. The means to do this range from the earliest tools to computer technology, from the invention of printing to the wireless Internet. More recently, we have seen interventions that are designed to directly influence physical or intellectual performance. These are often applications that were originally developed for therapeutic purposes. There are, for instance, drugs which are helpful for “hyperactive” children, who find it difficult to concentrate on certain tasks. As a result of the therapy, their attention levels improve, for example learning in school. Recently, there has been a growing number of reports that healthy people are also taking such active substances in the hope of achieving greater success in study-based learning, or of improving their career achievement potential.
Opportunities and risks of Human Enhancement
Provided it is a question of healing diseases or maintaining health, appropriate measures are accepted in the form of therapy or prevention. Drugs that are used for this purpose are tested for effectiveness. The situation is different when drugs or other active substances are used to improve the performance of healthy people: this is controversial. There are, certainly, great expectations regarding future applications; but at present there is little reliable information about the extent to which Human Enhancement through medicinal products or other substances actually affects healthy people. There is also the risk of side effects and a certain potential for dependency with the uncontrolled taking of such substances.
Why cunduct a TA-SWISS study on this subject?
There is considerable interest in Human Enhancement, as coverage of the subject in the media and the demand for corresponding products show. In healthy people, however, evidence of their efficacy has so far only been established in experimental, often extreme situations. On the basis of current research findings, there should be an assessment of whether there are already applications that can also be of value in everyday life, what risks are associated with them and what can be expected for the future with respect to this.
Aims of the study
In this interdisciplinary study, the opportunities and risks of Human Enhancement are to be assessed in the fields of schooling, employment and leisure. It should above all provide answers to the following central questions:
- How widespread is Human Enhancement today – internationally and in Switzerland?
- What prospects are emerging for the future technical development of biomedical enhancement?
- Which major actors exist in the field of Human Enhancement, and what motives are they pursuing?
- What is the legal framework for Human Enhancement?
- What central ethical issues arise with Human Enhancement?
- What economic interests and consequences are associated with Human Enhancement?
- Which social developments promote or inhibit the realisation of Human Enhancement?
- How can the future development of Human Enhancement be controlled?
In terms of content, three main focal points will be addressed:
- Aspects that are specific to Switzerland – especially in the areas of law and economy – will be investigated and presented in more detail.
- The social consequences of Human Enhancement will be illustrated and analysed more precisely using two case studies and concrete scenarios.
- A review of the most important findings and arguments to date should serve as a basis for decision makers and provide interested parties with an in-depth view of the subject of Human Enhancement.
Scientific literature will be assessed to answer the central questions. Additional sources, such as innovation analyses by banks and management consultants, together with statistical data, will also be taken into account. To determine where innovations in Human Enhancement could emerge over the coming years, the study will also look at the research landscape in Switzerland. Interviews will be held with experts to clarify any aspects that remain unresolved.
Two case studies will be prepared to substantiate the subject of Human Enhancement. For this, the areas of neuroenhancement and optimisation of child development will be investigated in more detail. A graphic scenario will be developed for each area. Preparation of the case studies and scenarios is based on an investigation of literature. The project team will carry out an analysis of the potential social effects.
Project start: December 2009 | completion: spring 2011
Results and Downloads
Results of the study
Tailor-made for better performance. Improving the person with Human Enhancement
Abridged version of the TA-SWISS study «Human Enhancement»
Workshop zum Thema «Human Enhancement – die ganz alltägliche Optimierung»
2nd November 2011, 13.15 - 17.30, Kursaal Bern
More information in German...
- Centre for Technology Assessment TA-SWISS
- Swiss Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
- National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics NEK
- Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences SAGW
- Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences SAMS
TA-SWISS Project Supervisors
- Dr Adrian Rüegsegger, TA-SWISS, E-Mail
- Dr Anne Eckhardt, risicare GmbH, Zurich (Project Manager)
- Michèle Marti, risicare GmbH, Zurich
- Dr Juliane Neuss Münzel, risicare GmbH, Zurich
- Prof. Dr Oreste Ghisalba, Ghisalba Life Sciences GmbH, Reinach; TA-SWISS Steering Committee (chairman of the supervisory group)
- Prof. Dr Nikola Biller-Andorno, Institute of Biomedical Ethics, University of Zurich
- Nadja Birbaumer, Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences SAGW, Bern
- Dr Martin Büechi, Head of Fundamentals Section, Federal Office of Public Health FOPH, Bern
- Rita Bürgi, Swiss Olympic Association, Ittigen
- Prof. Dr Jacques Diezi, Pharmacology and toxicology, University of Lausanne
- Prof. Dr Sabine Maasen, Head of Programme for Scientific Research, University of Basel;
TA-SWISS Steering Committee
- Dr Beat Ochnser, General Manager Sympany Group, Basel
- Prof. Dr Francesco Panese, Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lausanne
- Michelle Salathé, Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences SAMW, Basel
- Jean-Félix Savary, Groupement romand d’étude des addictions GREA, Yverdon-les-Bains
- Dr Dominik Schwarb, Department of Occupational Medicine, Suva, Lucerne
- Prof. Dr Giatgen Spinas, Director, Clinic for Endocrinology and Diabetology, University Hospital Zurich; TA-SWISS Steering Committee
- Dr. Jean-Daniel Strub, Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics NEK, Bern
Thorsten Galert: Das optimierte Gehirn
Technologiefolgenabschätzung – Theorie und Praxis, Vol. 19, Nr. 1, April 2010, S. 67-70
Wolfgang van den Daele: Auf eigene Rechnung: Gegen Neuro-Enhancement lässt sich schwer argumentieren
WZB Mitteilungen, Nr. 127, März 2010, S. 9-11
Katrin Gerlinger: Gendoping – Fiktion oder Realität?
TAB-Brief Nr. 36, Dezember 2009, S. 16-17
Arnold Sauter: Pharmazeutisches Gehirntuning
Technologiefolgenabschätzung – Theorie und Praxis, Vol. 18, Nr. 3, Dezember 2009, S. 97-99
Steffen Rosahl: Mehr als normal – verstehen wir die Enhancement-Debatte?
Technologiefolgenabschätzung – Theorie und Praxis, Vol. 18, Nr. 2, September 2009, S. 13-20
Arnold Sauter: Leistungsfähiger durch Medikamente?
TAB-Brief Nr. 35, Juni 2009; S. 28-31
Armin Grunwald: What Does Enhancement Mean Here?
Akademie-Brief No 88 – Newsletter der Europäischen Akademie, April 2009, S. 1-3
CH-3011 Bern T + 41 31 310 99 60
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The project in brief
It is not clear whether drugs can help to improve the performance of healthy human beings. Nevertheless, drugs are already being used for this purpose. For example, by students who are preparing for an examination and hope that it will improve their concentration. The study illustrates and examines the current possibilities of “everyday drug taking”.
Timetable: project start: December 2009 | completion: spring 2011
Project mandataries: Dr Anne Eckhardt, risicare GmbH, Zurich (Project Manager)