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Enhanced humans walk among us. Over the course of human history, people have sought to alter their bodies not only to restore their health, but also to augment their abilities. Some enhancements have been commonplace for centuries, like a simple cup of coffee to remain alert or eyeglasses to improve sight. More recent developments are ever more complex, from prosthetic devices to restore lost functions, like robotic limbs or cochlear implants, to the DIY biohackers movement to create cognitive and body enhancers. As we move deeper into the 21st century, human enhancement technologies are being developed at an increasingly rapid pace.
Efforts to temporarily or permanently overcome limitations of the human body and mind now include bionic and prosthetic technologies, brain-computer interfaces, neurotechnologies, and nootropics. Advances in artificial intelligence are breathtaking. Another dramatic development in the last decade is gene editing with CRISPR/Cas9, enabling us to not only manipulate human biology, but also to potentially dictate our evolutionary future.
The prospect of human enhancement elicits enthusiasm due to the vast opportunities to redesign ourselves, yet skepticism about how far the science can really take us and bioethical concerns are also prevalent. Many have expressed a need for caution due to the myriad unanswered questions and unknowns regarding how these technologies should be used, to what ends, and who should make these decisions. For example, gene editing has the capacity to cure disease, but can we draw a line between appropriate applications and misuse when it comes to complex issues such as trait selection and editing the human genome in ways that will be permanent? How will enhancements impact human identity and human relationships? Who will be able to access human enhancement technologies, and will societal inequalities be exacerbated? How do we identify and minimize the risks and weigh them against any benefits? As we navigate through new territories in self-customization, what kinds of regulations can and should be put in place?
To explore these questions, the New York Academy of Sciences, together with the Aspen Brain Institute, and The Hastings Center, will bring together scientists, ethicists, philosophers, historians, and other experts, for an evening public event. The Enhanced Human: Risks and Opportunities will examine existing and emerging enhancement technologies, with a special focus on gene editing and artificial intelligence, as examples of technologies with broad capabilities and ethical concerns. Panelists will provide an historical perspective, scientific background, and will delve into the ethical and social questions still to be addressed.
*Reception to follow.
This event will be available via Livestream, and archived in perpetuity on the Academy's Livestream Channel. For full details, and to view the Livestream, please follow the link below:
Funding for this conference was made possible [in part] by the John Templeton Foundation via a Templeton-funded project at The Hastings Center, called “Human Flourishing in an Age of Gene Editing.”
May 21, 2018
AI Now Institute at NYU
Albany Medical College
Aspen Brain Forum Foundation
Aspen Brain Institute
Bronx Community College
Burke Medical Research Institute
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Duke University School of Medicine
Duke University, School of Medicine
Editor, Scientific American
French Development Corp.
Hunter College, CUNY
Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center
Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers
KCav & Associates
LSP Group LLC
New York Institute of Technology
New York University
NYS Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabil
NYU Langone Medical Center
NYU Tandon School of Engineering
Sackler School of Medicine
Senior Editor, Nature Biotechnology
The Aspen Brain Institute
The Corkery Group
The Dana Foundation blog
The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
The Hastings Center
The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
The New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences NYAS
The New Yorker
The Rockefeller University
The Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at NYU
The State University of New York
University of California San Diego
University of Heidelberg
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
University of Washington
University of Washington School of Medicine
Weill Cornell Medicine
Westchester Community College-SUNY