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Human Enhancement

Transhumanism @ BlueDot Festival

Transhumanism @ BlueDot Festival

It was fantastic to be at Bluedot again this week, alongside Tom Shakespeare. I’ve known Tom for over a decade now and it’s always such a delight to be in his company. One of the rare academics who can use comedy within public talks to great effect.

Our discussion took us deep into the realm of transhumanism and spanned such areas as artistic practice and elite sport. I tend to be pretty liberal in how we approach this subject, not hell bent on humans having to embrace all technologies, but having the opportunity to do so. This means being allowed to choose a life that minimises the experience of biological suffering, while also transcending our species typical functions, notably the duration of our life span.

We didn’t record that day, but here’s something that captures much of my perspective on this subject. It’s one of my favourite articles from a few years ago.

Sadly, I was only at Blue Dot for the day, but the real highlight was catching Rebecca Taylor perform, just before my session.

Forest 404 & Human Enhancement

Forest 404 & Human Enhancement

Last week, I featured in a podcast series associated with the new BBC Radio 4 Drama Forest 404. You can check it out and discover more about the drama here

Higher, Faster, Enhanced?

Higher, Faster, Enhanced?

After a full on week of doping controversies with the Fancy Bears website hacks, I gave a talk at Future Fest this weekend on the future of sport and the use of human enhancement.

There's a major problem about to explode with the Therapeutic Use Exemption and this could change  a lot about how we make sense of the distinction between therapy and enhancement. As always, sport is at the forefront of figuring out crucial bioethical problems that will confront our radical transhuman future.




BlueDot Festival

BlueDot Festival

This weekend, I had the chance to speak at the BlueDot Festival, an amazing science, art, and music festival at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre. My talk was part of a programme of events curated by Josh McNorton at FutureFest and I focused on the era of human enhancement and how it's playing out in the world of sport. 


Sport 2.0 #sportfuture

Sport 2.0 #sportfuture

This week, I am in Lausanne for the Sport Future Rendezvous 2016 conference, organized by good friend Professor Jean-Loup Chappelet at the University of Lausanne. I took the chance to talk about the biodigital interface, the growth of e-sport, biotechnological change, ingestible sensors, and virtual realities. But the big controversy, as always, was my views around doping, which did hijack the futures debate a little. In any case, here's my presentation.


 Thanks to Michel Filliau for the photograph.

Project Daedalus needs a Producer & Research Assistant

Project Daedalus needs a Producer & Research Assistant


As I start at Salford University, there is an opportunity for a talented producer and research assistant in a new Digital R&D For the Arts project for which I am the research lead. The fund is jointly awarded by Nesta, AHRC, and Arts Council England. Please find the details below:

"An exciting opportunity has arisen for an experienced academic researcher and creative producer to join Project Daedalus, a new, Nesta project led by Abandon Normal Devices (AND), Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF), and the University of Salford (UoS). Project Daedalus aims to liberate geographic constraints on artistic experiences and live events, using quadrotor technology (flying drones), combined with custom-made applications, to test new ways of engaging audiences remotely with content in real-time. Project Daedalus will test the limits of non-linear storytelling by creating interactive environments, which allow audiences to engage remotely by creating and sharing content in real-time.

The position will be based across Salford’s School of Environment & Life Sciences (ELS) and AND’s office in Manchester, with some presence in Media City Salford, an exciting, state of the art destination, which fosters new, creative connections between scientists, the media and various publics. In 2014, the School of ELS invested into 6 new appointments, including a Chair in Science Communication & Digital Media, with which this post will be associated.

AND is a catalyst for new approaches to art-making and digital invention, commissioning ground-breaking projects which challenge the definitions of art and moving image. Inviting artists to hijack the imagination, by developing projects which abandon traditional settings and partnerships, with a distinct emphasis on creative enquiry and provocations, AND brings together an eclectic mix of academics, filmmakers, scientists and anarchists to actively push the boundaries of audience experience and arts production.

Informal enquiries in the first instance to Professor Andy Miah email:"

If you would like to apply, please use this link You can also find out more on the research side of the role here

Application deadline: 18th October, 2014.

Hours: 0.5 FTE, 12 months


Find below some live blogging notes from today's 'Brain Gear' conference in Groningen on Neuroscience. There were many interesting talks, but stand out findings for me were about science communication and journalism and the absence of scientific underpinning to commercial neurofeedback clinics.  

Human Enhancement

Human Enhancement European Parliament

Martinjntje Smits, Ratheneau

What is new about human enhancement

Laissez faire Pro-enhancement Case by case Restrictive Total ban

Human Enhancement: A Reasoned Restrictive or (Cautionary Permissive?) Approach Roberto Mordacci

HE under the idea of Public Reason -    HE: poltical not metaphysical -    Improving t human condition not -    Equality, freedom and integrity of individuals as public goods -    Framework for justice as fairness in health issues (Rawls, Daniels)

Principle of respect -in a cooperative society, reasonable individuals woul agree..treat others with respect

5 principles fundamental for our self respect and mutual cooperation -    recognizably human body -    naturally unrestricted desire -    complex theoretical and practical rationality -    freedom of the will -    equal dignity permissible iff -    does not intentionally disfigure human body -    does not intentionally restrict width of human desire -    does not intentionally impair t ex of human rationality -    does not impede t human ability to choose freely -    does not violate equal dignity of indivs ie does not generate discrimination or unfairness

Tsjalling Swierstra techno-moral change

-what should be europe’s goals? - not passively following trajectory defined by most powerful technology actors

-habituation - techno-moral learning - what morals, what technology?

Accept contingency: in a technological world, fewer natural givens

Local experimentation, global evaluation

Issues to regulate -    should be reversible -    HUMAN ENHANCEMENTS values and negative freedom -    Gap between blue-print-technology and technology-in-practce (unexpected) -    Political and ethical -    Moratoria rather than absolute bans

Thought experiments -    stimulate techno-moral imagination by providing rich descriptions – need morality fiction not science fiction -    what is god life, etc

organize deliberative forums

epidemic of accountability issues on the horizon

defining a good society is in the end a political issue

communicate diverging positions widely

value lasting diversity

Hans -  Mr Buscani’s assistant

Questions & Answers

Q: Why are we still discussing enhancement in such broad terms Q: Recognizable body necessary? Q: NSF and DoC in USA – first workshop on this – used term ‘launch and learn’ (conservative politican), recommendation was to advise US government asked professors in humanities and sciences to spend time on the issue – and in schools too – how balance it compared to this politics in USA?

Dorette Corbey -    lots of political issues - -    developing technology for enhancement, rather than just for therapy

Tsjalling: neoliberal agenda behind enhancement debate – need more social perspective on converging technologies including enhancements. Do we really want to make people more compassionate, or greedy?

4 march – science in developing countries

Anders: public opinion  in Sweden – many people accept enhancement to help others, though low for self-enhancement.


Is there a red line, beyond which we should not fund.

Is there a tool box?

Are there distinct European values

Framework of public policy, not defining human nature

Values that protect good of mutual cooperation

Job is to remove discriminating practices not just alter the circumstances.

Danish Council of Ethics: case of lorry driver – might be an argument in favour of necessity to discuss different specifics – lorry driver, main problem is that the brain chip means that others would have to have it too.

ME: but we stipulate how many hours people can work, so this becomes an issue of regulating working conditions.

Danish Coucil on Ethics – subcommittee on human enhancement – invited to a conerence held by Danish Union of Optometrists since new technology in USA related to fight against terrorism has made it possible to make implants thinner, giving ability to look through things.

Anders: values important, but also need facts to make important facts – many forms of enhancement becoming realities, but limited knowledge – eg. cognition enhancement – prevalent among higher academics – is a paper written under influence of modafinil worse? – need to research ecological properties – need efficacy and saety

Antonio: medicalization and enhancement are beyond traditional politics – this morning – obesity gene in newspaper – concern will lead to individualization of probles – haven’t heard much about corporate interests – in US direct to consumer influences perceptions of normality – media role in shaping social needs

Marshall, NTL: human dignity –should it be so important that we know what this is, isn’t it more important that individuals make this decision for him/herself –not all social pressure is bad

Chair: I’m deciding dignity, but are you? It’s dependent on how others react to me.

ME: but my conception of dignity is shaped by our common laws at least.

Marshall: but a man should be free

Roberto: yes, you have given an idea of dignity

Tsjalling: don't think there is hope for red line in the sand. General principles is that past experience doesn't necessarily guide us. – lorry driver – new technology shifts responsibilities – before it, we consider whether chair is too comfy, or working too much?

Roberto: overlapping consensus

Reverent from NL: human nature is relevant.

Jordi (MEP): Case by case approach with minimum standards

Chair: what if we create a working group, how create connections with citizens? Or should it be done by emmberstates?

Jordi: it is possible, we have an ethical board already. This q needs a broader discussion. Red line says taboo, but before red line, case by case approach, wth discsussion – want to allow pursuit of happiness, not make them happy (US constitution). What is able to make us all happier.

Chair:  EU level committee.

Francois , EU: keep in mind dual dimension – enhancement of soldiers.

Jordi: or for disabled people.

Political scientist in Vienna: governance question – who is setting the agenda – citizen conferences in Denmark – who is framing the problem – is it really participatiory/deliberative/representative?


Should form a council where everyone is amateur

Peter, Free Uni of Brussels:

It also should not contribute to its criminalization through policy making.

Jordi: health literacy is EP buzzword.

Malcolm Harbour: need broader platform, engagement and citizen participation. At last workshop was about converging technologies. Had some debate about transhumanism. Our role is to inform politicians here and to get them engaged. Other is about global reach and issues – in Europe – eg. stem cell research – we do not have homogenous research. In UK and others, set up own bodies and practices, to approve work around genome. Though many regard UK as dangerously liberal. Human dignity and quality of life issues. One of biggest challenges on human dignity and old age – fact that already significantly prolonged life expectancy at a rate faster than any other decade – what this means for society as a whole – if elderly people can stay at home and live in domestic environment on own, this is a major enhancement of their dignity and their quality of life. European elections on 4 june in uk and vote.