Enhancements, easy shortcuts, and the richness of human activities
Bioethics , Volume 22 - Issue 7 p. 355- 363
One argument that is frequently invoked against the technological enhancement of human functioning is that it is morally suspect, or even wrong, to take an easy shortcut. Some things that usually take effort, endurance or struggle can come easily with the use of an enhancer. This paper analyses the various arguments that circle round the idea that enhancement of human functioning is problematic because of the 'easy shortcut' that it offers. It discusses the concern that quick fixes lead to corrosion of character and the idea that suffering, pain, hard work and effort are essential for real and worthy achievements, and argues that these views are largely mistaken. Next, the paper argues that the core worry about taking an easy shortcut is that it makes us lose sight of the complexities of our means and ends; in other words, the argument warns against reducing the richness of human activities. A vocabulary of 'practices', 'internal goods' and 'focal engagement' will be used to articulate this argument further. The conclusion is that the easy shortcut argument has no general validity as an argument against enhancement 'as such'. The paper urges us, however, to evaluate enhancement technologies not only in terms of their efficiency in reaching certain goals but also in terms of their contribution to intrinsically worthwhile human activities. It can point out some of the caveats, as well as the opportunities, of the use of enhancement technologies.