Tom Hobson and Anna Roessing (University of Bath) provide a critical exploration of the politics of human enhancement technologies as part of the recently published Routledge volume “Bioethics and the Posthumanities” edited by Danielle Sands.
Research in the biological sciences has revolutionised our understandings of life, biological entities, and boundaries of the organic and inorganic world, to the extent that extant ontologies of the human have been scrutinised. The discovery of the world of the microbiome substantiates calls for a post-anthropocentric turn in our definition of the human, her agency, and subjectivity. At the same time, the ability to change the genetic constitution of humans poses questions about the normative, ontological, and epistemological frameworks concerning the human essence and boundaries of normality and (dis)-ability within classical medical and philosophical explanatory models. From the desire to overcome death, to transcend the constraints of the human being and body – extending them to new human-machine interfaces – technological developments are situated in these new understandings but also actively shape visions of the human future. What remains underexplored within the field of political sciences is the role of technology in negotiating these imaginaries of societal futures. Technologies remain most frequently understood as either instrumental and ambivalent in regard to societal norms or deterministic in bringing dystopian or utopian ends to society. In this chapter, we look to reveal the commitments, values, and norms embedded in the application of scientific knowledge and its materialisation in technological artefacts and practices in the field of human augmentation technologies. We scrutinise the stakes of contemporary imaginations of technological innovation as a force of social and historical transformation, social progress, and in defining the essence of human life. Attending to post-human and trans-human visions, we explore their utopian and eschatological dimensions and metaphors while placing post-human visions within a broader context of ideas, institutions, and practices of innovation.