Bioengineering and cognition-enhancing drugs widen the gulf between haves and have-nots
Drugs for human enhancement are in their early stages, but scientific advances may well be exponential. In a world of entrenched inequality, many people might choose to disregard potential health risks in order to maintain or elevate their status. Ingestion would be impossible to monitor, and even if bans are put in place black market channels would inevitably emerge.
If the price tag is significant and the benefits are strong, the result would be ever-deeper and more entrenched inequality. This could trigger social instability and conflict between the haves and have-nots. Divergent regulatory responses could lead to productivity disparities across countries and the emergence of “enhancement tourism” flows. If unforeseen consequences—such as serious brain deterioration—emerged in the future it could create a massive public health crisis.
Stronger measures to combat existing inequality might reduce consumption incentives, but that seems doubtful. Early and appropriate regulation of enhancement technologies may be more successful than an outright ban. For example, new workplace equality legislation might require employers to confirm that all staff are compliant with enhancement rules. If these technologies were ever proven to be an unalloyed good—analogous to vaccinations—then the regulatory objective might shift to ensuring universal access.