April 24, 2024


Futuristic and wacky they may be, but transhumanists are beginning to show up on the radar of bioethical discussion. One of the latest transhumanist visions is engineering people to be virtuous. At recent conference in Helsinki, scientists and philosophers heard one of the leading theorists, James Hughes, laud enhanced moral behaviour.

This is a possibility which Hughes, the head of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies in the US, predicts will happen “in the very near future”. that “we will be able to suppress unwelcome desires, enhance compassion and empathy, and expand our understanding… So, contrary to the bioconservative accusation that neurological self-determination and human enhancement will encourage more selfishness in society, it will probably permit people to be even more moral and responsible than they currently are.”

Nick Bostrom, an Oxford-based transhumanist, raised the possibility of technology rescuing marriages in an interview in Nature. “An interesting possibility is the use of pharmaceuticals to regulate the pair-bonding mechanism. There are a small number of hormones, such as vasopressin and oxytocin, that might help us form bonds with others. It could be possible to prevent the levels of these chemicals from trailing off, and to infuse romance into fading marriages – like a technological form of counselling.”