Human enhancement and the future of work

In 2012, the Academy of Medical Sciences, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society came together to host a workshop that summarised technological advancements that could change how people work over the next decade.

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Although the impact of human enhancement technologies has been widely debated, until now they have not been considered in terms of their impact upon the nature of work.

Due to the requirement for multi-disciplinary expertise in addressing this issue, the Academy of Medical Sciences, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society came together to host a small policy-focused workshop that brought together policy-makers with leading experts from across engineering, science, social science, the humanities and industry. The workshop summarised technological advancements that could dramatically change how people work over the next decade, and considered the associated opportunities and challenges for all stakeholders.

Starting the debate in this area, the workshop report explores how, although human enhancement technologies might aid society, their use could raise serious ethical, philosophical, regulatory and economic issues that will need further consideration. The greatest immediate challenges for regulators and other policy-makers will arise from the use of drugs and digital devices that enhance cognition. Dialogue with potential users and the wider stakeholder community, as well as studies and commissioned research, will be required to balance the risks and benefits of these technologies in the future workplace.

This report, for which the Academy of Medical Sciences acted as lead secretariat, captures the themes and questions that emerged from the workshop.

The academies would welcome feedback on the report: please send this to richard.malham@acmedsci.ac.uk.

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