Philosophy of Technology: Human vs Machine – Week 8

This session featured two main topics: medicine and crime.

We started by reading an article titled ‘Human Enhancement and Personal Identity’ by Philip Brey. The article talks about the implications of human enhancement for personal identity and assesses the social and ethical consequences of these changes. Human enhancement is an emerging field with medicine with the aim of overcoming human limitations of human cognitive and physical abilities. It is thought the advancement of this type of medical technology could have a wide range of possibilities, including enhancements related to strength, vision, intelligence and personality.

“The possibility of enhancement requires a rethinking of the aims of medicine. The primary aim of medicine has always been the treatment of illness and disability. That is, medicine has traditionally been therapeutic: it has been concerned with restoring impaired human functions to a state of normality or health. Human enhancement aims to bring improvements to the human condition that move beyond a state of mere health.”

Philip Brey

We went on to discuss what the medical ‘norm’ actually meant. Everyone develops differently and what is normal for one person will not be normal for someone else. It can depend on your age and what country you live in. We have vastly different health at aged 20 compared to aged 60 for example. We have also raised the bar of what is the norm over the years, we have eradicated some illnesses and improved health care vastly thanks to new technology, research and science. We talked about how much unhappiness should you put up with before you are allowed treatment. It is difficult because only you know how unhappy you feel, no one else can truly know. Are you meant to think back to when you were most happy in your life and set this as the benchmark, and if you go below this level then you should get treatment? We talked about drugs and alcohol as a ‘cure’ for unhappiness, but these are flawed treatments as everyone knows. If we were able to eradicate unhappiness life would be great and we would still have the ability to strive and reach goals in life. Some people disagreed with this concept and Kerry said she “was not going to put in in the water.”

We went on to discuss how athletes use performance enhancing drugs all the time and how the idea of an ‘enhanced’ olympics has been suggested before. But this is just encouraging drug use which is unsafe. We talked about how if everyone was a fast runner what would be the point in competition, or if everyone was brilliant at playing the violin then would we go to concerts anymore.

In terms of enhancing personality could we eradicate shyness in people? Surely this would be a good thing as people don’t really like being shy, they would rather not have that in their personality.


We then moved on to our ‘Crime’ sheet and started discussing issues relating to technology and crime. We began with an article that claimed altruism is amplified online, people are more giving and friendly, but Kerry noted this was probably due to an age reason and this relates more to people 50 years and under. Younger people are also more likely to disclose information, what does one more matter. We discussed internet addiction and if it was actually classified as a real addiction according to the DSM-5. This is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. According to a 2014 article:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 9.51.04 pm.png

We read an article about internet addiction and it is affecting people all over the world. We heard of people dying due to gaming marathons over 24 or 36 hour sessions and some countries in Asia creating internet addiction treatment centres as the problem is getting worse and worse. South Korea even implemented ‘shut down’ laws forcing teens to abandon their screens between the hours of midnight and 6am, although how they policed that we are not sure of.

We then discussed the Dark Web, a part of the Internet used by criminals to by and sell drugs, pornography, and other criminal activities. It is a professional outfit, sellers offer special deals, coupons and money back guarantees. It is a dangerous place to be though and attempting deals can be tricky and fraught with danger. It is designed to look authentic so it doesn’t feel like you are committing a crime.

BBC – What is the dark web 


We finished the session by talking about 3D printing and in particular the ability to 3D print a gun. This is possible if you own a 3D printer and can download an .stl file of a firearm. In 2014 a Japanese man was arrested for making 3D printed guns. Should this technology be allowed? We talked about making printers that were incapable of printing a gun or not allowing algorithms that can design guns.

There are two sessions left. Next week we finish crime and move on to driverless cars.


Brey, P. (2008). ‘Human Enhancement and Personal Identity’, Ed. Berg Olsen, J., Selinger, E., Riis, S., New Waves in Philosophy of Technology. New Waves in Philosophy Series, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 169-185.


Naughton, J 2016, The Cyber Effect by Mary Aiken – review, The Guardian, accessed 17 March 2017, <>.

3D printed firearms 2016, Wikipedia, accessed 17 March 2017, <>.


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