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Brits more fazed by human augmentation

Italians are the most open to human augmentation, but one-third of people in the UK believe it is unacceptable

More than half of the people who took part in a recent study seeking their views on the use of human augmentation believe the technology can improve quality of life.

The research, for Kaspersky’s The future of human augmentation 2020 report, was based on an Opinium survey of more than 14,000 people in 16 countries. It reported that 53% agree that human augmentation’s biggest benefit is its potential to improve the quality of life.

The study found a disparity between men and women, with 48% of men agreeing that it is “completely” or “mostly” acceptable to augment a body with technology, compared with just 38% of women.

The research found that being able to use augmentation to become more attractive appealed to more than one-third (36%) of women and just a quarter (25%) of men, while men are more interested in improving their strength (23%) than women (18%).

The researchers also reported a difference in attitudes to human augmentation technology between countries. More than three-quarters (78%) of people surveyed in the UK believe it likely that human augmentation technology will be limited to the rich, compared with the least sceptical nations Spain (57%) and Denmark (62%).

The report found that just one-third (33%) of UK people surveyed would be open to human augmentation – the lowest among countries surveyed. One-third (34%) of people in the UK believe human augmentation is “unacceptable”, more than three times the ratio in Spain, which was the most open country.

Commenting on the findings, Zoltan Istvan, author and founder of the Transhumanist Party, said: “I think the majority of people are going to be willing to be augmented, as long as it’s baby steps and they see economic and medical benefits for it. Historically, people often don’t like technology innovations at first, but they accept them because they realise that their jobs, livelihood and national security are at stake.”

The researchers also assessed people’s fears and found that 39% believe human augmentation will be dangerous for society. This figure rises to more than half of adults in France (53%) and the UK (52%).

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The Kaspersky report found that the fear of criminals or hackers being able to access a device or to control it is a concern for almost nine in 10 (88%) people interviewed. Greeks are the most concerned about criminal or hacker access (95%) and control (94%) over devices. Devices malfunctioning (86%) and devices causing permanent damage to the body (85%) are also key concerns.

When asked whether governments should regulate the use of human augmentation, on average, nearly half (47%) of respondents believed governments should regulate.

Oxford University professor Julian Savulescu said: “Letting the market decide the future direction of human augmentation is not the way. We are already seeing an unravelling of potential because of the dominance of market forces. We need a global strategy to make sure we harness the potential of human augmentation for good.”

Summing up the report’s findings, Marco Preuss, director of the global research and analysis team at Kaspersky, said: “We have already seen the first steps to human augmentation. The biohacking community is already super-active. In many cities, there are communities that are meeting up and working on changing their human biology. Our study finds that, while the vast majority of people would like to improve a physical aspect of their person, far less are open to actually doing it.”

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