Presentation on theme: "ENHANCING HUMAN POTENTIAL. ENHANCING HUMAN POTENTIAL….AN ANCIENT DREAM Ancient Olympians used to eat mushrooms to improve their success in athletic competitions."— Presentation transcript:
ENHANCING HUMAN POTENTIAL….AN ANCIENT DREAM Ancient Olympians used to eat mushrooms to improve their success in athletic competitions. Renaissance women wore corsets to slim their waists and achieve the ideal shape. Millions of people wake up and pour themselves a cup of coffee each morning to increase their alertness. Others have paid significantly for superior vision, often achieving better than perfect “high definition” sight. In short, we, as humans, have always been driven to to enhance ourselves. After all, why shouldn’t we be better, faster, stronger, and smarter?
Merriam-Webster defines enhancement as “heightening, increasing, especially to increase or improve in value, quality, desirability, or attractiveness.” Human enhancement aims to increase human capacities above normal levels. Psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “What a man can be, he must be,” recognizing what is widely regarded as the human need for self-actualization.
The drive for self-actualization describes the human desire that motivates people to accomplish everything they can, and to be all that they can be. These are the same desires that inspire some to become ideal parents, some to express themselves through painting or writing, and still others to conquer athletic feats that have never been accomplished before. In a world of routine scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs, the enhancements available to help us are seemingly endless. Whether we need glasses, Air Jordan tennis shoes, cognitive- boosting pills, or gene therapy, are all options for helping us reach our potential.
In the 1960’s, George Leonard interviewed the best and brightest psychiatrists, brain researchers, and philosophers on the subject of human potential. Of all the professionals he interviewed, not a single one believed we use more than 10% of our brain capacity. This set the stage for the Human Potential Movement, formed around the belief that by developing human potential we can experience an exceptional quality of life full of happiness, creativity, and fulfillment.
The movement lasted from the late 1960’s to the early 1980’s. During that time individuals explored Eastern religions and attended self-help groups or therapy sessions inspired by humanistic psychologists.
While the Human Potential Movement did not last long, human fascination with enhancement and realizing higher levels of potential did. Today, enhancement technologies have the potential to affect the children we have, the way we think, the way we play, how we age, and how long we live. One way many people enhance their bodies and performance is by supplementing their diet.
Supplements are thought to boost the immune system, improve energy, optimize performance and improve health. In addition to supplements, a number of people find value in cognitive-enhancing pills that help them focus for extended periods of time. The drugs make them feel more alert and sharp in their thinking. An increasing trend among students and academics is to take the cognition-enhancing drugs, or pills, to get a competitive edge in the classroom.
Techniques in neurostimulation technology improve the quality of life of those who have been severely paralyzed or suffer from profound losses to various sense organs. It enables neural prosthetics for hearing devices, artificial vision and limbs, and even brain-machine interfaces.
In business, corporate executives now face the difficult task of developing organizations that are capable of discovering, nurturing, aggregating, and appropriately rewarding individual contribution. Many experts believe the key to successfully unlocking human potential and keeping employees happy will depend on not only unleashing each individual’s capacity, but also aggregating employee talent across organizations and boundaries so that collaborative performance exceeds individual contribution.
The need for individuals to show up to work with significant initiative, imagination, and passion for their job is important now more than ever, when competition is global and innovation is rare. With an endless stream of new discoveries and technological advancements, individuals are pressured to excel like never before.
As science and technology have advanced, it has only become more common for people to enhance their basic human capacities to increase or augment cognition, mood, personality, and physical performance. People also seek to control the biological processes underlying normal aging. Do these efforts take us beyond the bounds of what is expected for the human species? Should they be available to everyone or controlled by an elite few?
Many experts worry that as enhancement technology becomes more pervasive, a division of “haves” and “have not’s” will emerge, split along socioeconomic lines. Signs of enhancement may become visible markers of privilege and wealth as affluent individuals remove them from the genetic makeup of their offspring.
Despite the hazard it may pose to humans, plants, and animals, it is likely that human interest in gene therapy will only grow with time. Soon, some parents may be given the option to hand pick their baby’s traits. It is likely that some traits will be labeled as desirable while others will be deemed undesirable.
The role of performance-enhancing drugs in the sports arena is already at the forefront of enhancement conversations. Tensions between those in favor of enhancement becoming an integral part of everyday sport and those who believe enhancement should be prohibited or limited are already high. Today, the World Anti-Doping Agency regulates which therapies and enhancements are acceptable in the world of sports, but there is a pro-enhancement movement that is picking up momentum. Will Lance Armstrong, or Alex Rodriguez one day be regarded as the pioneers of human enhancement in professional athletics?
To what extent should we use technology to try to make better human beings? New enhancements already have the potential to impact policy choices and create personal dilemmas. There is need for conversations on and reexamination of the moral principles and social policies that govern public policy on enhancements today. Individuals will need to assess their own opinions on enhancement while remaining highly involved in communities and nations that may or may not reflect the same values.
So far, there is no guidebook for evaluating new technologies and the options they present for people or society. Nations, businesses, and organizations will be forced to grapple with what it means to be enhanced, and when and under what circumstances enhancement should occur. These are the conversations that will ultimately determine how humanity develops in the near future.
If we are able to tap into our vast potential to learn, perform, improve, and extend our lives, what will the future hold? Should the limits of human biology discourage our human drive to exceed them?
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