Public opinions about human enhancement can enhance the expert-only debate: A review study

Anne M. Dijkstra, Mirjam Schuijff

Human enhancement, the non-medical use of biomedical technologies to improve the human body or performance beyond their ‘natural’ limitations, is a growing trend. At the same time, the use of these technologies has societal consequences. In societal debates about human enhancement, however, it is mainly the voices of experts that are being heard, and little is known about the public’s understanding of human enhancement. The views of the public can give valuable insights, and can, in turn, supplement experts’ voices in political decision-making as has been argued before for other emerging technologies. This study presents a systematic literature review of current public perceptions and attitudes towards technologies for human enhancement. Results show that the public’s view has not been assessed often. Studies originate mainly from western-oriented countries and cover a broad range of enhancement technologies. In the studies, the majority of respondents hold moderate to strong negative attitudes towards enhancement technologies for non-medical applications, although the type of technology influences these opinions. The study provides an overview of what is known about citizens’ attitudes towards technologies for human enhancement.

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