Biomedical technologies are increasingly used not only to combat disease, but also to improve the capacities of normal and healthy individuals. This practice is commonly described as biomedical enhancement.
Because of this potential to radically improve the human condition, biomedical enhancement technologies have become the focus of one of the liveliest debates in practical ethics, with far reaching implications for public policy.
Radical enhancement raises worries that the fundamental equality in moral status of human beings could be undermined. The widespread use of pharmacological cognitive enhancement could undermine the pursuit of a good life, and core virtues like humility. Many react to perceived features of unnaturalness and inauthenticity of biomedical enhancement.
Another recurring objection is that cognitive enhancement is in one way or another unfair. If cognitive enhancement is most prevalent among those who are already economically or socially advantaged, then its liberalization will only aggravate existing inequality.
On the other hand, defenders of enhancement argue that widespread cognitive enhancements might increase the rate of scientific progress, thus benefitting almost everyone. It is also suggested that biomedical enhancements will increase overall human productivity, and can thus be seen as part of the story of human economic development.
Besides the overall benefits for human development, some philosophers present biomedical enhancement as a potential solution to human moral limitations like xenophobia and parochial altruism that make very difficult human cooperation at the global level.
The exploratory research project ENHATEC aims to develop a pluralist framework of the ethics of bioenhancement technologies.