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French and British Contemporary Ethical Debates on Human Enhancement: Building Dialogue and Shared Vocabulary

Final Report Summary - FABRICED (French and British Contemporary Ethical Debates on Human Enhancement: Building Dialogue and Shared Vocabulary)

Executive Summary:

‘Human enhancement’ refers to the improvement of human capacities by the use of new biotechnologies and other emergent technologies, in order for example to help people think better or feel happier. It has its roots in the therapeutic application of these technologies (healing of illness and relief of suffering) and in the fact that their effectiveness in this area has recently come to a second use in the efforts to elevate human feeling, improve cognition, and raise physical performance to higher levels. Some authors see the new possibilities opened as essentially ‘good’ and even a reason to anticipate a new utopia. Serious ethical concerns are also expressed, particularly about the autonomy of the individual, the nature of humanity, and justice in society and health care. These hopes and concerns have been explored through speculations in philosophy or fiction.

The main objective of the project was to explore the differences between the French and the Anglo-Saxon debates on the ethical, philosophical and social aspects of the use of biotechnology to enhance human functioning, in order to contribute to the ethical and philosophical debate on enhancement by philosophical and empirical research and to find a common understanding and shared vocabulary so as to continue this debate in the European context.

The project has resulted in:

- better insight in the meaning of ‘enhancement’ in the bioethical and policy discourse in the UK as compared to France;
- more insight in the role of the biosciences in the debate on enhancement in the UK as compared to France;
- a common basis for the future bioethical debate on ‘enhancement’ in the French and the British contexts;
- enrichment of the general philosophical and ethical debate on human enhancement by the development of new disciplinary perspectives like future speculation in ethical reflection.

The project has carried out the following activities:

- Interviews with 24 leading academics in the field of human enhancement in the United Kingdom and France;
- A large number of conference presentations, seminars, interviews and round table discussions in France and the United Kingdom;
- Organisation of an international France-UK conference on Human Enhancement in Bristol;
- Public engagement activities like interviews and a public conference in Bristol with speakers from France and the United Kingdom;
- Creation of a network of researchers in France and the UK to collaborate on the philosophical and policy issues of human enhancement technologies
- Establishment of a special interest group in human enhancement and anthropo-technologie
- Development and preparation of national and international funding applications;
- A large range of poplar and academic publications, including book chapters, articles, and academic volumes (foreseen);