[ExI] Taxonomy of Human Enhancement

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Fri Jan 13 18:01:31 UTC 2012

When I first saw the thread title, I began to think about taxonomies in 
the classificatory rather than the ontological sense, i.e. ways of 
dividing enhancement into (nested) categories, or dimensions that are 

For example, a fairly common division in bioethics is between therapy 
(return to normal function), enhancing up to maximal species-typical 
performance (i.e. as smart as Einstein or as strong as an Olympic 
athlete), and going beyond it.

In my presentations I usually have a diagram splitting enhancement into 
internal/external hardware/software, but I have grown vary of it - it is 
hard to draw clear lines between them, and it might not matter very much.

Another distinction I think does have some merit is enhancement and 
extensions: enhancements makes some trait we have "better" (by some 
standard) while extensions give us a new trait that previously did not 

One can also try to split the target of the enhancement, for example 
into cognitive, physical and emotional, and then split them further 
(memory, creativity, attention, intelligence, etc.) However, many 
enhancement interventions cut across categories - a stimulant might not 
just sharpen attention, but also perk up mood. Or a health enhancer 
might have positive effects on cognition *through* health and mood.

It would be nice to have a taxonomy of taxonomies of enhancement.

Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford University

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