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Promises and perils of emerging technologies for human condition

Voices from four postcommunist Central and East European countries


Edited By Peter Sýkora

Emerging technologies are defined as fast-growing radically novel technologies with an estimated prominent impact on human society in the future. The ambiguity and uncertainty of emerging technologies at the same time raise techno-optimistic expectations, as well as serious worries about possible unwanted and unpredicted negative consequences following their introduction into wider practice. And because of their radical novelty, emerging technologies also challenge various traditional philosophical and ethical concepts, established risk assessment methods, science and technology governance and policies, science to public communication and practices within and outside the medical domain. The aim of this volume is to present the view of ten authors from four postcommunist Central and East European countries (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Latvia) on emerging technologies and human enhancement. They analyse the topic from various perspectives: anthropological, ethical, philosophical, ontological, empirical, and legal. A variety of views will contribute to a development of the discourse on technology assessment in their countries, help to make the process of national policy and law formation more active and less “mimetic”, and open the national discourses to international discussion and critical analysis.

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Chap. 4. Can we use the capabilities approach to evaluate human enhancement?

Chapter 4


Ivars Neiders

Abstract: The main task of this chapter is to evaluate the proposal made by Johann Roduit that Nussbaum’s capability approach (CA) can be used to assess morality of human enhancement. Roduit claims that the capabilities approach is a type-perfectionist theory that can be used both as guiding and restricting human enhancement. I argue that the claim about using CA for guiding relies on the assumption that the central capabilities can be maximized, but this assumption is problematic. Moreover, many capabilities on Nussbaum’s list of the central capabilities are such that they cannot be affected by biomedical means. A closer examination of CA shows that it provides no incentives for human enhancement. Of course, CA can still be used as restricting; however, in that case one must be careful to take into account the distinction between capabilities and functionings, and this seems to be ignored in Roduit’s account.

If you were offered a chance to live a longer life (and not just few years longer, but considerably longer, let’s say, three or four times longer than the current average lifespan) would you take the offer? And what about your cognitive abilities or physical strength? If by using some, let’s assume, safe biomedical technologies it would be possible to improve them well beyond the levels that people currently enjoy, would you go for it? Well, it might turn out that you would, but would that be the right thing to do? What are the...

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