Home Technology The US public more worried than excited over technology that “enhances” human abilities

The US public more worried than excited over technology that “enhances” human abilities

3 min read


Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is coming this month – and is very probably the single game this year that I’m most excited about. Good news, is that the game has gone gold. With little in the way of fanfare, Eidos Montreal announced that the game is done. There should be no delays when it comes time to play around with human augmentation and see if Eidos Montreal has managed to use the very loaded “Mechanical Apartheid” without being crass.

Mankind Divided, as with all things Deus Ex, deals with themes of human augmentation – humans “playing god” and making people more than human – and the fallout and segregation that could happen as a result. They’re very real concerns, if a fortuitously timed report from Pew Research Center about human augmentation, its medical applications and people’s fears of where it all might lead.

The study’s core focus points were on gene editing of babies and adults, upgraded synthetic blood, and also, intracranial brain implants for cognitive enhancement. According to study respondents, most seem to be okay with the idea if it means saving lives or curing diseased – but draw a very strong ethical line if it means augmentation for the purposes of elevating humans beyond their norms. Meddling with nature or “playing god” seems to cross an ethical line for many.


You should read the whole report if it’s the sort of thing that interests you – but here’s the handy, bullet-pointy takeaway:

  • Majorities of U.S. adults say they would be “very” or “somewhat” worried about gene editing (68%), brain chips (69%) and synthetic blood (63%), while no more than half say they would be enthusiastic about each of these developments. Some people say they would be both enthusiastic and worried, but, overall, concern outpaces excitement.
  • More say they would not want enhancements of their brains and their blood (66% and 63%, respectively) than say they would want them (32% and 35%). U.S. adults are closely split on the question of whether they would want gene editing to help prevent diseases for their babies (48% would, 50% would not).
  • At least seven-in-ten adults predict each of these new technologies will become available before they have been fully tested or understood. Some 73% say this about gene editing, while an identical share says the same about synthetic blood; 74% says this about brain chip implants.
  • Majorities say these enhancements could exacerbate the divide between haves and have-nots. For instance, 73% believe inequality will increase if brain chips become available because initially they will be obtainable only by the wealthy.
  • In addition, many Americans think recipients of enhancements will feel superior to those who have not received them; 63% say this about synthetic blood transfusions in particular. By the same token, but more optimistically, half of Americans or more think recipients of enhancements will feel more confident about themselves.
  • Substantial shares say they are not sure whether these interventions are morally acceptable. But among those who express an opinion, more people say brain and blood enhancements would be morally unacceptable than say they are acceptable.
  • More adults say the downsides of brain and blood enhancements would outweigh the benefits for society than vice versa. Americans are a bit more positive about the possibility of gene editing to reduce disease; 36% think it will have more benefits than downsides, while 28% think it will have more downsides than benefits.
  • Opinion is closely divided when it comes to the fundamental question of whether these potential developments are “meddling with nature” and cross a line that should not be crossed, or whether they are “no different” from other ways that humans have tried to better themselves over time.

If you could get implants, or synthetic blood that could make you a better human – would you?

Last Updated: August 1, 2016


  1. Admiral Chief - Check

    August 1, 2016 at 12:23

    Well, if I can edit out a part of my child to make sure he/she has no brony tendencies, sign me up for that.


    • HvR

      August 1, 2016 at 12:25

      Do not forget getting rid of that dreaded ginger gene.


      • Admiral Chief - Check

        August 1, 2016 at 15:46

        Good point!


    • miaau

      August 1, 2016 at 12:36

      Um, what is brony?


      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        August 1, 2016 at 12:39

        A lizard person, swapped at birth with a real human & raised by parents who don’t know.


        • miaau

          August 1, 2016 at 12:40

          Ah, the 7 foot lizards who are the British royal family and all that other, um, interesting stuff

          David Ike, right?


          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            August 1, 2016 at 12:43

            I don’t that it’s true, but it feels right. I don’t have another explanation for adults who have an unhealthy fascination with my little pony.

          • Geoffrey Tim

            August 1, 2016 at 13:54

            Whenever I need a good giggle I read a David Ike book.

          • miaau

            August 1, 2016 at 14:14

            too right!

            Remember a few years ago, late 90s, the big craze. Man, heard people discussing it in pubs, bars, coffee shops et al. Very amusing. also met some people who got extremely upset if you mocked the idea……. Um.

          • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

            August 1, 2016 at 14:26


  2. Admiral Chief - Check

    August 1, 2016 at 12:23

    I’ve heard about the enhancements/augmentations, but synthetic blood? Wow, times sure are changing


  3. HvR

    August 1, 2016 at 12:24

    I’m also bit hesitant about anything so invasive like brain implants.

    We all know few months after FDA approval you will start getting Adwords directly transmitted to your brain,


  4. miaau

    August 1, 2016 at 12:36

    Well, as per the Sci-fi books, a few will get it, tested or not. Mavericks. If these few then have enhanced abilities, they will be better at job X than “normals”, so the “normals” may just start to feel that they NEED this edge to survive or thrive or even just to compete. slowly, within the next generation, a critical mass builds until it starts to be become normal.

    While this slow process is ongoing, there will be “prices paid” for success, that may or may not reach the mainstream consciousness. Even with several public failures, I still think this type of thing will gain traction, once started. It becomes hard to ignore the “keep up with the jones” or the FOMO traits we poor humans share. Well, you poor humans. I am, of course, an awesome human.

    trick is: When does this process start? I do not think for at least another twenty years.


  5. Alien Emperor Trevor

    August 1, 2016 at 12:37

    I would be open to it. What I’d want to know is how much of what’s going into my body will actually be owned by me after I pay for it, and not a corporation.


    • miaau

      August 1, 2016 at 12:41

      Think of the process if you stopped paying the corporation for the “rental” and they come take it back.

      Hey, they should totally make a movie like that. 🙂


      • Admiral Chief - Check

        August 1, 2016 at 13:01

        Just never watch the movie!


  6. Deceased

    August 1, 2016 at 13:34

    Meh – I’ve got no ethical concerns regarding the “playing god” part… in fact, I believe such moral-concerns are what’s holding us back as a race of parasitic cancer…

    I do, however, have concerns regarding the ‘borg viruses that would inevitably pop up…
    Imagine – plug your mind into the interwebz to either go check out the latest news on Lagz or browse some deep-web *expletive deleted*, catch some invasive bug that has direct access to your mind, which causes you to go online and buy those “growth pills” that keep popping up in your head :O

    Goddamn, nightmares shall be had this evening :/


    • miaau

      August 1, 2016 at 13:49

      I can say the following: you do not want to share some of my thoughts, day-dreams and the like. I tend to go places, in my mind. A lot.


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