Human Enhancement Technologies and Human Rights Conference

Much of the criticism of enhancement technologies has focused on the potential for increased discrimination against women, people of color, the poor, the differently enabled, or "unenhanced" humans. Some bioethicists have proposed a global treaty to ban enhancement technologies as "crimes against humanity."

Defenders of enhancement argue that the use of biotechnologies is a fundamental human right, inseparable from the defense of bodily autonomy, reproductive freedom, free expression and cognitive liberty. While acknowledging real risks from genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive enhancement, defenders of enhancement believe that bans on the consensual use of new technologies would be an even greater threat to human rights.

Health care, disability and reproductive rights activists have argued that access to technology empowers full and equal participation in society. On the same grounds a generalized right to "technological empowerment" might connect defenders of enhancement technologies with disability activists, reproductive rights activists with would-be parents seeking fertility treatments, the transgendered with aesthetic body modifiers, drug policy reformers and anti-aging researchers with advocates for dignity in dying.

Yet, what, if any, limits should be considered to human enhancement? On what grounds can citizens be prevented from modifying their own genes or brains? How far should reproductive rights be extended? Might enhancement reduce the diversity of humanity in the name of optimal health? Or, conversely, might enhancements inspire such an unprecedented diversity of human beings that they strain the limits of liberal tolerance and social solidarity? Can we exercise full freedom of thought if we can't exercise control over our own brains using safe, available technologies? Can we ensure that enhancement technologies are safe and equitably distributed? When are regulatory efforts simply covert, illiberal value judgments?

Between the ideological extremes of absolute prohibition and total laissez-faire that dominate popular discussions of human enhancement there are many competing agendas, hopes and fears. How can the language of human rights guide us in framing the critical issues? How will enhancement technologies transform the demands we make of human rights?

With the Human Enhancement and Human Rights conference we seek to begin a conversation with the human rights community, bioethicists, legal scholars, and political activists about the relationship of enhancement technologies to human rights, cognitive liberty and bodily autonomy. It is time to begin the defense of human rights in the era of human enhancement.

 
Date and Time:
 Friday, May 26, 2006.  7:00 PM.
Approximate duration of 72 hour(s).
Location:
Stanford University Law School  [Map]
URL:
Audience:
Faculty/Staff
General Public
Students
Category:
Conferences/Symposia
Sponsor:
Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences, Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
Contact:
860-297-2376
director@ieet.org
Admission:
$170 reg / $120 students
Registration required. Free to Stanford students.
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Last Modified:
May 14, 2006