There are currently five general areas of experimental therapies that hold the prospect for “human enhancement”:
- DNA. We may one day gain the power to insert new genes safely into various parts of the adult body and perhaps someday also into gametes and embryos. According to Moore’s law, the performance of computing doubles by any measure you use every 18 months. This has been the case for the last 40 years resulting in computer power increasing more than 100 million times over that period. This is why your microwave oven today has more computer power than all the computer power existing in the world 50 years ago. DNA research developments occur very rapidly now. The rate of change is increasing dramatically too. It took 15 years to sequence the genome of HIV. The SARS genome was sequenced in 31 days.
- Drugs. We may one day gain the power to enhance physical performance using drugs such as safe steroids.
- Cognition. We may one day gain the power to alter safely cognition, including memory, mood, appetite, libido and attention, through psychoactive drugs. There are currently over 40 cognition-boosting drugs in development designed to improve wakefulness, memory, decision making, planning and other aspects of thinking. One of these drugs is modafinil. Modafinil is a “wakefulness promoter” that was originally developed to help people suffering from narcolepsy and other sleep disorders. It was discovered that for those who have normal cognition, modafinil improves not only planning but also decision making, verbal memory and visual memory.
- Implants. We may one day have the power to replace body parts with natural organs, mechanical organs, or tissues derived from stem cells, perhaps soon we will be able to rewire ourselves using computer chips implanted into the body and the brain.
- Life extension. We may one day have the power to prolong not just the average, but also the maximum human life expectancy. Some scientists predict that in 20 to 30 years, it will be possible to deliver radical increases in longevity largely by repairing cellular and molecular damage. Not surprisingly, not all scientists agree.