I have no idea why I'm thinking about this. Perhaps its feeling my mortality as I pass my 41st birthday. But I've been pondering how humans may soon be substantially changed over the next 10-20 years as more and more technology gets implanted into us. Some recent news along these lines:
- FDA approves telescopic implants for older people, July 6
- Army's bionic leg now runs 8 MPH, July 4
- "Luke" bionic arm being tested by amputee veterans, Popular Science, June 2009
Of course this is nothing new. We have pacemakers, implanted hearing aids, and artificial knees as commonplace procedures nowadays. But none of these made us more than human.
What will change is that within a generation, humans will be able to swap out substantial body parts and organs and replace them with ones that are equal to or better than their God-given ones. Your bionic legs will run faster than human legs, your telescopic eye will see further than any unaugmented human could. It's not only possible, it's inevitable.
So what is the moral response to these "transhuman" / cyborg transformations that will someday be possible? It's one thing for someone who is injured on the battlefield to receive a bionic leg to return her to normal mobility. But what about a soldier who is perfectly healthy but wants to become a "super-soldier" by replacing his legs, arms or eyes? What about a government that wants to do this to their soldiers without their consent?
What about rich older people who wish to remain young and vital by buying upgraded parts that keep them running, seeing 20/20, and able to carry heavy items, while poor older people experience the normal diminishing of abilities and senses? Is this any different or any more unjust than plastic surgery?
What will it means for sports when athletes can enhance their performance not only through drug regimes and hi-tech equipment, but also altered body parts and organs? Will there have to be new divisions in sports to account for "natural" humans and cyborgs?
These are many more moral dilemmas are going to confront us sooner rather than later. Where is this ethical debate going to take place? In our churches? In the courts? At the hospital? Before the United Nations?
Personally, I find myself both repulsed and attracted by these technological advances.