The Greenwall Report: What sorts of considerations might anthropologists bring to this table?

The Greenwall Report  (click here for PDF) is titled Enhanced Warfighters: Risk, Ethics, and Policy. It addresses ethical and policy issues arising from military-supported research and development programs designed to enhance the physical and cognitive performance of soldiers using mechanical, chemical or biological means. Much of the discussion is devoted to the concept of "enhancement" and how it differs from "therapy," an issue that depends on assumptions about about normal human health and behavior. The issues are wide-ranging, involving human biology, technology, ethical and moral dilemmas. I point to this issue here, on OAC, because this is an area where anthropologists might be expected to have something to bring to the table and contribute to the debate.

Suggestions are welcome.

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Comment by John McCreery on January 3, 2013 at 2:42am
Why am I fascinated by this topic? Since around the age of thirteen, I have been an avid reader of science fiction,a genre in which enhanced humans and post humans have long been an established trope. The earliest example that springs to mind is Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon,but my bookshelves are filled with examples. Cyberpunk is a sub genre particularly rich in this regard. I think in particular of William Gibson's Molly Millions, with her super fast reflexes and Wolverine-like steel fingernails, Bruce Sterling's Shapers (who favor biological enhancements) and Mechanists (who prefer to become cyborgs) in Crystal Express, and the rich panoply of grid-linked (always online), hoopers (infected with a virus that makes them physically nearly invulnerable), chaimans (who share their bodies with built-in artificial intelligences) imagined by Neal Asher. There are many,many more. For they anthropologist they all raise the central issue "What is human?" in forms that are becoming, as the Wired article points out,ever closer to home. For those interested in ontologies, mapping their variations and revealing the underlying structures of the world or worlds in which they are imagined would be a fascinating project. Ditto for analyzing the moral and political dilemmas that drive the plots in which they are involved. The issue is how to add something meaningful to an intellectual space already heavily occupied by others.these remarks are only a rough sketch. How might we proceed?

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