The Age of Enhancement


Ecerpted From

Ten years ago, Slate editor David Plotz wrote a series of stories examining the ways in which scientists believed humans could better their vision, strength, memory, alertness, and hearing, primarily through drugs or surgery. His “Superman” series examined emerging technologies ranging from retinal implants and prosthetic ears to gene therapies and memory drugs. Today, many of those possibilities remain just over the horizon.

In the meantime, a new crop of enhancement technologies has captured the attention of the media, the dollars of investors, and the scrutiny of ethicists. Some of the potentially most transformative achieve their effects not through biochemistry but by means of electronic devices that connect our brains to external sources of knowledge, sensory data, or physical power. We may not have gotten any closer to being able to put memory chips in our brains, but who needs those when we’re all walking around with the entire contents of the global Internet in our pockets—or on our faces?

Perhaps the most astounding enhancement technologies that have begun to enter the realm of reality in recent years are devices that interact directly with the human brain. Products now on the market can use things like your skin conductance, facial expressions, and perhaps even brain waves to detect your emotions and intentions. Future neural implants could allow humans to manipulate real-world objects with their minds—a power some have likened to telekinesis.

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