Human enhancement: bodies, boundaries and why the industry should care

The Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue analyses the pros and cons of using modern technology to boost mental and physical performance.

"We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was: better, stronger, faster."

If you remember the 1970s US television series "The Six Million Dollar Man," you remember the above quote from the opening montage. Steve Austin, the main character, was essentially put back together with "bionic" body parts after being gravely injured in an aircraft crash. His "bionic" left eye, legs and right arm gave him super human strength: better, stronger, faster.

What was science fiction then is turning into reality today as human enhancement methods, whether they are mental and physical performance-boosting drugs, gene manipulation or prosthetics, are rapidly developing.

Enhanced bodies, enhanced risk?

The Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue's latest edition of the online journal Risk Dialogue Magazine examines human enhancement in depth. The topic was also discussed during the 3 July conference "Human enhancement technologies: pushing the boundaries," held at the Centre.

One of the main issues of the conference was the possible impact of human enhancement technologies on the re/insurance industry.

"If I'm starting from the risk side, if I think of liability, there are certainly unexpected and unwanted effects that may come up that we don't not know about yet. And there the question of liability will arise: who is liable? Is it the prescriber of the technology? Is it the producer of the technologies?" said Séverine Rion, Senior Pharmacist at Swiss Re."

Find out more

Enhance your knowledge of human enhancement: download the conference report (PDF, 985 KB) to read thought-provoking commentaries from experts in the field. You can also hear from the experts in our video summary of the event "Human enhancement technologies: pushing the boundaries," held at the Centre.

Published 15 October 2013

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