View Positional vs. intrinsic enhancement
Positional vs. intrinsic enhancement refers to the difference between enhancements that are beneficial only in contrast to the rest of society, and enhancements which are advantageous to increase regardless of the state of society. For example, the advantage of being tall is overshadowing one’s peers, whereas additional health is beneficial regardless of the health status of the rest of society.
Positional enhancements include such things as wealth, height, and status. The relation of wealth to reports of personal well being, above a certain poverty level, is limited to those who have more money compared to their associates reporting being better off. For another example, being 3 inches above the average height in today’s society would be of little benefit in a society in which the average height was 6 inches higher.
Intrinsic enhancements are augmentations of traits which are beneficial regardless of the status of that trait throughout society. For instance, increased happiness, health, intelligence, longevity, strength, and wisdom can be beneficial to someone even if the rest of society has a much greater abundance of those traits, and increasing them above the average can be even more beneficial.
When a portion or all of society is enhanced intrinsically, everyone potentially stands to benefit. On the other hand, making everyone taller by the same degree would not provide benefit but only inconvenience, and increasing wealth has little meaning if everyone’s wealth increases and inequalities remain.
What exactly qualifies as a positional as opposed to an intrinsic enhancement is sometimes a matter of debate. For example, some argue that intelligence is a positional enhancement as it allows an individual to stand out and gain status in relation to the rest of society, but others respond that intelligence also has an intrinsic application in real world problem solving. By the same token, in the modern developed world running speed is largely useful as a means of impressing others, but it also has intrinsic value when trying to escape from disaster situations.
The term"intrinsic enhancement” in this context should not be interpreted as a claim that for a given trait more is necessarily always better. For instance, enhancing focus increases ability to solve some problems regardless of others’ ability to focus, but that does not not preclude the possibility of there being a point beyond which increasing focus has diminishing returns, or that different tasks benefit from different degrees of focus.