Human enhancement and the future of work

In 2012, four National Academies jointly hosted a workshop that considered advances in human enhancement technologies and explored how, although they might aid society, their use at work could raise serious issues that will need further consideration.



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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

Titles and affiliations were correct at time of launch (November 2012)

Professor Genevra Richardson CBE FBA (Chair) Professor of Law, King’s College London 

Professor Paul Edwards FBA Professor of Employment Relations, Birmingham Business School

Dr Robin Lovell-Badge FRS FMedSci Head of Division of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics, MRC National Institute for Medical Research

Mr Phil Newman CEO, PERGALI

Professor Barbara Sahakian FMedSci Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology, University of Cambridge

Professor Nigel Shadbolt FREng Professor of Artificial Intelligence, University of Southampton

Professor Jonathan Wolff Professor of Philosophy, University College London

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