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IEET > Security > SciTech > Rights > Neuroethics > Personhood > Life > Enablement > Fellows > Linda Glenn

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Nanotechnology and Human Performance

Linda MacDonald Glenn
By Linda MacDonald Glenn
Nanoethics 2(3) Dec 2008: 265-275.

Posted: Mar 18, 2009

(With Jeanann Boyce) Legal institutions must try to avoid getting blinded by the hype and inappropriately sweeping in—and perhaps over-regulating—of both the novel and the mundane applications of this still relatively young technology. As nanotechnology progresses, and both humans and nonhumans receive therapeutic benefits and enhancements, it will be up to the policy makers, courts, and legal profession to delineate societal guidelines for regulation and privacy, as well as to determine individual culpability and responsibility.


Examining nanotechnology as a platform technology, as a technology that readily merges and converges with other technologies, allows us to contemplate the applications and implications of using these tiny devices to enhance or extend human capabilities. The contemplation of the intended and unintended consequences of human enhancement begs for striking a balance between opposing forces; and these forces are not static but dynamic and ever changing. The law is not static: it is constantly subject to change, extension and interpretation, and evolution, whether by legislation or judicial decisions. So, it is with this point of view in mind, that thus we examine both the positive and the negative aspects of the ethical, legal, and societal implications of using nanotechnology for human enhancement. First, we consider why nanotechnology is different from previous technologies, and then we explain why a subdivision of nanoethics within the broader discipline of bioethics is prudent. In sections three, four, and five, we consider the possible benefits, potential risks, and distinctions between therapy and enhancement. Finally in sections six and seven, we examine the status of current laws and make recommendatons for how to go about updating them.

Read the rest here or here (PDF).

Linda MacDonald Glenn is fellow of the IEET, and a bioethicist, healthcare educator, lecturer, consultant and attorney. Linda also serves as a Scholar of the Women’s Bioethics Project.
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