Boffins in Britain’s Ministry of Defence have been busy compiling possible strategic threats over the next 30 years. Amongst the gloomy scenarios described in a source document for the development of UK Defence Policy are a number of bioethical issues. Here are a few of the highlights:Bioethics: “A more permissive R&D environment could accelerate the decline of ethical constraints and restraints. The speed of technological and cultural change could overwhelm society’s ability to absorb the ethical implications and to develop and apply national and international regulatory and legal controls. Such a regulatory vacuum would be reinforcing as states and commercial organisations race to develop and exploit economic, political and military advantage. The nearest approximation to an ethical framework could become a form of secular utilitarianism, in an otherwise amoral scientific culture.” Brain broadcasts: who will need a Blackberry when a chip could be implanted in the brain itself by the year 2035? Information and entertainment could be beamed directly to consumers’ senses. The possibility of “synthetic telepathy” seems remote, but it’s there on the MOD’s lists of possibilities. It has a number of useful applications in the military — and at the ballot box.
Human enhancement: “The application of advanced genetics could challenge current assumptions about human nature and existence. Initially employed for medical purposes, breakthroughs in these areas could be put to ethically questionable uses, such as the super-enhancement of human attributes, including physical strength and sensory perception. Extreme variation in attributes could arise between individuals, or where enhancement becomes a matter of fashion, between societies, creating additional reasons for conflict.”
Longevity: The report foresees that people who can afford it will live much longer, with possibly negative political consequences: “The divide between those that could afford to ‘buy longevity’ and those that could not, could aggravate perceived global inequality.” ~ Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, UK Ministry of Defence