Human augmentation technologies (HATs) raise significant ethical issues because they affect our fundamental understanding of what it means to be human.

With their potential to connect humans digitally to the Internet of Things, they also raise significant security issues.

As with any technological advance, the speed of discovery can outpace society’s capacity to handle the consequences of its application. Malicious negative uses are, unfortunately, as likely as pro-social positive ones. What’s more, there are plenty of opportunities for unintended systemic impacts both good and bad.

With HATs of various types growing in maturity and attracting increasing amounts of R&D investment, now is the time to consider the possible effects in an attempt to regulate them for the public good and to protect our national interest.

Organised by Innovate UK KTN’s Neurotechnology Innovation Network in collaboration with national security and defence partners, the Security and Ethics of Human Augmentation workshop held on 18 November 2021 brought together a group of experts in the field of various HATs to consider the medium-term impacts in a range of scenarios.

The objectives were to:
– Share our collective understanding of the scientific and technical landscape
– Gather intelligence to inform senior decision-makers and policy-makers
– Inform the strategic direction of future research in industry and academia
– Identify the best potential areas for future action

The half-day event was structured around a series of three whole-group presentations, each followed by break-out sub-group discussions.
The whole-group presentations set the scene for the discussions in the sub-groups.

The three questions were:
1. What opportunities and threats could HATs present for personal and national security?
2. What technology areas need to be protected in the UK from a prosperity and security perspective?
3. How do we ensure HATs have a positive impact on society, and what are the key ethical principles that will ensure HATs are used equitably and safely?

The event operated under the Chatham House Rule to encourage participants to speak freely.

Read the full report.

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