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BY-NC-ND 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter April 6, 2016

Human enhancement and the concept of liminality

Miroslav Popper
From the journal Human Affairs

Abstract

The article considers human enhancement from the perspective of liminality. It defines the concept of liminality, introduced by ethnologist van Gennep in an attempt to generalise the rites of passage. It shows how, thanks to Turner, this concept has spread beyond anthropology to characterise the many situations ‘betwixt and between’ associated with transitioning from the original social structure to the new one. The article points out that, by definition, liminal situations break down traditional structures; hence, polemical debates on whether to allow human enhancement cannot be conducted from the position of existing normative standards. It argues, on the contrary, that these must be fundamentally expanded so as to reflect the current transitional phase from treatment to enhancement and that preparations must be made for the policies and institutions that will deal with the consequences. Otherwise, we will face threat of a new kind of totalitarianism.

Introduction

The new opportunities for human enhancement increasingly offered by nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, information technologies and cognitive science (NBIC technologies) have the potential to fundamentally alter human characteristics and abilities. Even if the potential of NBIC technologies is only partially fulfilled, it will mean humans being transformed physically and mentally to a whole new qualitative level. On the one hand, this promises many positive changes, such as correcting body impairments, improving cognitive and moral abilities and extending life, while on the other, it raises fears of undesirable and/or unpredictable negative consequences. Human enhancement therefore has its supporters and its opponents.

This article begins by defining the concept of ‘liminality’, which refers to the transitional stage from a known state to an unknown state, associated with the removal of previous limits and the formation of new rules. It then introduces the main arguments for and against human enhancement used in the ongoing polemic between the transhumanists and the bioconservatives. It uses the concept of liminality as a prism through which to consider standpoints on the three criteria most frequently used to assess NBIC technologies and their impact on the individual and society: naturalness, normality and morality. It shows that the core feature of liminal situations, among which we can include the potential of NBIC technologies, is the questioning or collapse, or even the elimination, of traditional (social) structures and/or their transformation into a new social order. The article therefore argues the need for different qualitative standards to be introduced for assessing a dynamically changing reality and for policies and institutions to be established to deal with the changes occurring in relation to human enhancement.

Concept of liminality

The concept of liminality (from the Latin limen—threshold) was introduced by ethnologist Arnold van Gennep, who used it in his well-known book, The Rites of Passage(1960/1909) to classify different kinds of rites and rituals. Van Gennep was particularly interested in the fact that in all societies people undergo a series of transitions from one age category, job or group to another, and that these are often accompanied by special acts—ceremonies. In his attempts at generalising the ritual ceremonial patterns that occur in transitioning from one state to another, he discovered a series of three interconnected states: the pre-liminal rite of separation (separation from the previous state or position), the liminal rite of transition (testing and seeking out the unknown) and the post-liminal rite of incorporation (acquiring a new status or position). Van Gennep also stressed that these three stages of transition did not always form an equal part of each ceremony; rather, the rite of separation would dominate at a funeral, while the rite of incorporation would prevail at a wedding, and in pregnancy, engagements and initiations, the rite of transition would dominate.

Although van Gennep did not gain any great respect amongst his contemporaries, he was later rehabilitated by Victor Turner (1964), who devoted his attention to the intermediary, or liminal, stage in transition rites, in which individuals find themselves ‘betwixt and between’ and with no status. They are caught in transition between two relatively stable states and culturally recognisable conditions. These stable states included, according to Turner, legal status, profession, office or vocation, position or rank as well as the physical, mental and emotional conditions in which the individual or group find(s) itself at that given moment. When in the liminal stage, individuals are therefore, according to Turner, in an ambiguous state, shedding attributes from the previous state but yet to acquire a new stable state. He sees liminality as a rejection of previous social structures and as presenting an opportunity to create a new social order. It is this that constitutes its positive side. In his words, ‘Undoing, dissolution, decomposition are accompanied by processes of growth, transformation, and the reformulation of old elements in new patterns’ (Turner, 1964, p. 49).

Turner’s attempt to generalise, expand and make use of the transitional phase of liminality, not just to describe ritual transitions in small communities but to characterise any situation that is ‘betwixt and between’, including those found outside anthropology, has been highlighted by Thomassen (2009). He proposes that the concept of liminality should be used to capture the transitional experiences associated with different spatial categories (for example, doors separating rooms, borders between countries or large empires— Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean) and temporal categories (sudden moments, shorter periods, longer epochs), and that they can be applied to individuals, larger communities or even civilisations. The individual, he suggests, may undergo a speedy divorce, a critical stage in life—such as puberty, while societies experience wars, revolutionary events and extended periods of liminality, such as modernity. Like Turner, he sees liminality’s paradox in the fact that it is

at one and the same time unstructured and highly structuring: the most basic rules of behaviour are questioned, doubt and skepticism as to the existence of the world are radicalized, but the problematisations, the formative experiences and the reformulations of being during the liminality period proper, will feed the individual (and his/her cohort) with a new structure and set of rules that, once established, will glide back to the level of the taken-for-granted (Thomassen, 2009, p. 20).

Unstructured liminality, then, makes it possible for new structures to be created.

Szakolczai (2009) also sees potential in the concept of liminality—conceived of as the breaking down of limits and boundaries—for exploring different kinds of events or situations in which the old order dissolves whilst allowing for new institutions and structures to be formed. This means that the concept of liminality can be used not only in philosophy or social theory but also in social and political life. He stresses the importance of studying the structures of lived experience, where, once previous certainties have been left behind as the individual enters into an uncertain, malleable state, the core of being itself may change. Szakolczai again takes as his analogy the initiation ceremony rituals described by van Gennep and Turner that a child undergoes when transitioning into adulthood. Thus, ‘the child has died, but only to be re-born again as an adult’ (Szakolczai, 2009, p. 148). Unlike Turner, however, he emphasises that suffering may result from the breakdown of the previous stability and from potential failure. In other words, liminal situations need not always end positively. The main reason for this, according to Szakolczai, is that when in a liminal situation, individuals, full of uncertainty, attempt to imitate others and at this point there is a risk that this will be abused by the unscrupulous whom the imitators will not be able to distinguish from charismatic leaders. That is why, in some liminal situations, tyrants may come to power who are capable of turning the country into a totalitarian state over a relatively long period of time.

From the above discussion on the concept of liminality, it is clear that the concept is interpreted differently, ranging from ethnological and cultural anthropological interpretations to sociological and social and political ones. In the discussion on human enhancement that follows, the anthropological interpretation is relevant in the sense of stressing the transition to qualitatively different human physical and mental characteristics, while the social and political interpretation is relevant in the sense of calls to change existing social structures.

Permanent human enhancement

Throughout its history, humankind has been driven by people’s attempts to improve their bodily or mental states—through body decoration, the use of healing plants, coffee, tea, natural drugs and so on. It is only relatively recently that the arsenal of enhancement methods has been expanded, thanks to technologies that enable us to compensate for and supersede our biological limits, either directly at the individual level (for instance, prosthetic replacement of limbs and spectacles that correct vision) or at the broader, mediated, level (for example, aeroplanes that enhance our mobility). These various means of enhancement have gradually changed the ‘natural state’ of the natural world and our ‘human nature’. The question is whether the current or potential opportunities offered by NBIC technologies are entirely different from previous enhancement practices, and if so, how? In other words, are we simply talking about the kind of gradual evolutionary changes that we have encountered throughout our history or have we reached a revolutionary turning point? If we accept the second possibility, then we are forced also to ask a second question and that is whether our tools, standards, norms and ethical criteria, which were created in a different context, under different circumstances and conditions, and in another era, are sufficient to assess radical qualitative change.

The thrust of the debate between transhumanists and bioconservatives

The answer to the first question may be found in the many arguments used, on the one hand by the transhumanists in defence of human enhancement, and the bioconservatives on the other in opposition to attempts to significantly alter human biology. An overview of the various opinions and arguments can be found in numerous articles and books. Juengst, Binstock, Mehlman, Post, and Whitehouse (2003), Bostrom and Savulescu (2008), and Juengst and Moseley (2015), for instance, have established that the main lines of argument are:

  1. is there a fundamental difference between natural enhancement (training memory, intelligence, studying) and artificial enhancement (using ‘smart drugs’ to improve cognitive skills)?

  2. is there a qualitative difference between interventions aimed at prevention or at recovering normal functioning and those aimed at improving normal functioning?

  3. is playing at God, by genetically selecting a child, morally bad because it robs the child of its true identity and may increase inequality, or is it that the child had no previous identity to lose and inequality will not be a concern so long as the technologies will be accessible to all?

  4. is the normal life cycle sufficient for life fulfilment and are suffering, old age and death part of it, or is it that, since ageing can be slowed down and life can be longer, more active and free from chronic illness, extending life in this way means that people can achieve things they could not achieve earlier?

This incomplete summary of the differences in opinion between the bioconservatives and transhumanists quite clearly indicates that the debate is a fundamental one. At the very least, those who oppose enhancement consider the potential changes to be radical and thus reject them. The battle lines are primarily drawn between what is ‘natural’, what is ‘normal’ and what is ‘moral’ (religious). Ethical judgements on human enhancement are primarily made on the basis of current standards, values and norms. However, if the changes are considered to be radical, then paradoxically, they should be judged using a different optic to the one currently in use, as the concept of liminality indicates at the general level. Thus, just as when children mature in traditional societies, they participate in rites of passage symbolising their departure from the set of values and norms associated with childhood and their entering into a new sphere of values and norms, human enhancement is accompanied by a transition to a new social order—one which has to be gradually created. The most substantiated fears are those concerning germ-line interventions and whether they may change human nature and human beings as a species; but, it is worth adding that it is this human nature that creates our continual desire for knowledge and perfection (Sýkora, 2014). After all one of the most natural aspects of our human nature is change itself. Moreover, human nature is not static (Juengst & Moseley, 2015) but develops as part of evolution. Sandel (2004), a key opponent of human enhancement, is especially critical of our Promethean aspirations to transform nature and human nature. However, what might be considered normal and natural today need not have been viewed that way in the past; equally, in the future these concepts will be judged using different criteria and the concepts themselves will differ. For example, average longevity or intelligence today is substantially greater—i.e. unnatural—than in recent history. The rules preventing computer piracy that emerge ‘naturally’ and ‘normally’ today would have seemed completely ‘unnatural’ and ‘abnormal’ a hundred years ago.

When will radical change occur?

In assessing the morality of medical interventions, one of the measures/criteria bioconservatives use is whether the individual is suffering from a disorder or disease that should be treated so that person can return to normal life or whether the individual is healthy and is simply seeking perfection. On this view, therapy or treating the ill is acceptable, whereas enhancement is not. The classic pro-enhancement counter argument points to existing preventions (compulsory or voluntary inoculations, vitamins, minerals, fluoridised drinking water and so forth) that do not seek to treat the ill but to protect the healthy against disease. However, it is difficult to operationalise healthy, diseased or enhanced states since they are not static. Thus, flu inoculations are recommended for healthy individuals who, because of age, other diseases, exposure to infectious environments and so forth, are more vulnerable to infection, whereas inoculations are less important for individuals with greater resistance. These criteria can equally be applied to intelligence. For instance, thanks to the use of ‘smart drugs’, individuals who have below average IQ could improve their cognitive skills to, let’s say, the average level or an above-average level so they become more resistant to environmental pressures. Enhancement of this nature need not exceed the intelligence levels that ordinarily or ‘naturally’ occur within the human species. Something similar happens in relation to hearing implants. People with impaired hearing who are fitted with implants may begin to hear better than many other ‘healthy’ people who are not. Existing hearing aids, however, only capture sounds that are typically within the range of human hearing.

These examples show that in some cases capturing the difference between disease, health and enhancement is not easy, if possible at all, since the states of disease, health and enhancement are not static and unchanging but dynamic and subject to the influences of individual characteristics, social demands and environmental expectations. They also indicate that there are two possible levels of enhancement: enhancing insufficient or sub-average ability to average or above-average human levels and enhancements that go beyond the current limits of human ability (the ability to hear a greater range of sound frequencies, see infrared or ultraviolet light, or acquire above-genius levels of intelligence). In philosophical anthropology, humans are seen as biologically imperfect or incomplete beings whose essence is not definitively limited and who must consequently ‘shape and develop’ (Tomašičová, 2014, p. 461) themselves. This is the case in the two examples given above, albeit not to the same extent. From the liminal perspective, in the first case, the limits are removed at the individual level, but not at the human level, and so the need to create fundamentally new social rules does not arise. In the second case, human limits are transcended and so radical change occurs.

In terms of the morality of human enhancement, human freedom and free will are also coming to the fore of debates on human nature (see, for instance, Heilinger & Crone, 2014). One primary concern is that parents will select and influence the kind of features or characteristics they wish their child to be born with and that the child will subsequently have to accept these. However, at the moment are we free to decide, for instance, whether to inoculate our children and can we demand that our tap water should not be fluoridised and is the opinion of the child relevant in these issues? In many countries, the authorities have set ‘normal’ standards—which were not considered ‘natural’ in the past—so the majority of people do not even think about these standards and similar precautionary measures simply taking them for granted. We can expect similar approaches in the future. There will also be a need to stipulate new regulations in relation to radical human enhancement and these will become ordinary over time.

Liminal situations break down traditional structures

Liminal situations by their very nature and definition deviate from existing rules, opinions and structures and from what people currently consider to be natural or normal. They disrupt ordinary, stable and predictable frameworks. Liminal situations rupture, transcend or transform the existing social order, and call for new systemic elements to be set up. Szakolczai (2009) characterises the transitional period as one in which the old order dissolves, existing practices and routines are abandoned, the forms and boundaries previously taken for granted are removed, and the sense of security is lost, and thus new institutions and structures can be formed. In considering human enhancement, we are in liminal situation throughout the human history; however, today the changes have accelerated and are more marked than in the past. Technology as a whole can be seen as enhancing people’s potential and abilities to achieve things that would not be possible without it. Intuitively distinguishing between technological equipment that can be found outside the body (for instance, computers) or that forms part of the body (for example, memory chips implanted in the brain) appears, on closer inspection, not to be a reliable guideline. In considering examples like musculoskeletal implants, hearing aids, dental implants and breast implants we are faced with the question of whether they compensate for or improve a feature or activity and again we can find examples that do both.

The sudden development of NBIC technologies has forced us, as never before in history, into a liminal state in which existing conceptions of treatment are no longer satisfactory, and in which we are superseding the limits of our individual human nature, and yet we have not, so far, exceeded the limits of our biological species. For instance, individuals can improve their cognitive abilities by taking pharmaceutical drugs, but not to the extent that their abilities outperform those of all others. We are entering into a revolutionary and unstable era in which it will no longer be possible to use the normative social structures of old, but in which the new ones will still have to be created. It will not therefore be possible to create a stable order, since the original system will already have been surpassed, but the new one will not yet have been established. Thus, people will be caught between the old order and the new order. A more fundamental solution to the rapidly changing situation will not be in sight precisely because the change will be so dynamic. It is this kind of situation, the transition between states, structures and patterns, that the concept of liminality captures (Stenner & Moreno, 2013). In liminal situations we are presented with an understanding of human existence that is located beyond that social position and we are aware that we may change in a fundamental and irreversible way (ibid.).

The transition from treatment to enhancement will therefore be accompanied by high levels of insecurity and uncertainty in addition to the extremely positive or negative emotions associated with surpassing the original norms and creating new ones at a time when no immediate solution will be at hand. It will mean abandoning existing structures and entering into an uncertain environment. Liminality opens up the way to achieving something new but as yet it is very unclear what that ‘something new’ might be and what kind of consequences it might bring with it. Individuals will be trapped in a transitional and ambiguous zone between the original attributes and the future potential attributes of the human race; one in which they will not be able to go back but neither will they know precisely where they are headed[2].

Bostrom (2005) captured the way in which existing, established structures are (unwittingly) adhered to in his imaginary tale of an evil, tyrannical, invincible dragon feeding off thousands of old people every day. Initially, many people tried to fight the dragon; however, all their attempts were ineffective and just further stimulated its appetite. Consequently, all the inhabitants had long become accustomed to the situation and even apathetically assisted the dragon. Orators even sought to persuade people that the dragon’s existence was natural and that it was morally right to feed him. Bostrom’s tale shows us that when something occurs repeatedly it becomes fact and thus seems natural and not to require intervention, and so solid structures form that can only be overcome with difficulty. In his tale, the dragon is representative of the insurmountability and passive acceptance of old age. Nonetheless, slaying the dragon still remains an option. Thus, Bostrom seeks to show us metaphorically how a change of perspective or angle, or the abandoning of existing structures, may ultimately redirect attention away from medical treatment and research of the diseases that frequently occur in old age and towards stopping the ageing process.

Status quo biases are another example of the way in which the structures around us affect our understanding of ‘normality’ and ‘naturalness’. Bostrom and Ord (2006) point out that in hard-to-predict situations, such as the radical uncertainty associated with predicting and judging the consequences of enhancement, people often fall back on intuitive assessments, which may be biased in many ways. The most frequent of these are status quo biases, which can be characterised as an irrational preference for decisions that protect the status quo from change. In other words, entering into a liminal arena in which we are as yet unable to establish clear coordinates is dangerous. Consequently, we seek to preserve the past or present and prevent change.

The psychological mechanism behind this, which has been tested in many human decision-making situations, is found in the fact that when confronted with uncertainty people prefer to relinquish the potential gains rather than risk the potential losses (ibid.). Bostrom and Ord consider reversal tests to be one way of eliminating this bias. In this case the reversal test would be whether we think a deterioration in our abilities, such as intelligence, would be worse for us than if current levels were maintained. If we agree that deterioration would be worse than current levels being maintained, then we should agree that enhancing our existing abilities would be better for us than maintaining their existing quality. On the other hand, those that think either a worsening or an improvement in any parameter would have negative consequences should offer clear arguments in support of their position to prove it does not stem from the status quo bias. Bostrom and Ord (ibid.) then propose a double reversal test, consisting of a thought experiment in which we have to imagine the drinking water is polluted by a chemical which harms and impairs our cognitive functions. However, scientists subsequently invent a therapy that permanently improves our cognitive abilities to account precisely for the extent to which the toxic water damaged them, and so ultimately they remain unchanged. If after some time the chemicals evaporate from the water and we do not act, then we will suddenly have better cognitive functions than prior to the catastrophe. Should we, in this case, invent something to impair them, so we can return to the original status quo? Bostrom and Ord suggest these thought experiments can be used in other areas of enhancement, for instance, extending human life. From the liminality perspective, the important thing is that a change of perspective is being suggested. It forces us to abandon our consideration of the pros and cons of the situation and look at enhancement from the position of different structural and contextual conditions. It indicates that position that current standards are immutable is untenable and that the concepts of ‘normality’ and ‘naturalness’ are dynamic and variable.

Qualitative changes require qualitatively different standards of evaluation

The question now is not whether to enhance or not. The developments set in motion by NBIC technologies can no longer be stopped or indeed reversed. To assume that experts working in these areas are waiting for the ethical opinions of philosophers would be naive. This does not, however, mean that the humanities should make no further response. Quite the contrary: their role will become of increasing importance, but clearly within a much broader context. Regardless of whether the benefits and risks of human enhancement will be assessed by scientists, politicians or ordinary people, we can expect members of these groups to express opposing beliefs and arguments. These will differ in terms of values, religious beliefs, social standing, degree of power, force, control accorded, perceptions of risks and the trust placed in the various institutions and so forth. Moreover, as Miah (2011) has illustrated, different social contexts may exert an influence on different moral and ethical expectations. If, for example, a student uses a cognitive enhancer in order to pass an exam, this will clearly be judged more negatively than if a scientist were to use the same enhancer and make an important discovery. The reason these are assessed differently, Miah suggests, is that in the case of the scientist the gains are of significantly greater value. We could provide numerous similar examples. Many critics of enhancement would surely welcome, for example, being operated on by a surgeon with enhanced senses or cognitive abilities should they require complicated surgery or the tired pilot of the plane they were flying in taking a tablet to improve concentration.

Real issues associated with enhancement

In the long-term, however, other questions will have to be resolved and dealing with them now will help us exit the liminal ‘betwixt and between’ position and prepare to create the appropriate social structures. These questions relate to how we will deal with the fact that the use of NBIC technologies will mean that people will surpass previous generations with their increased sensory perception, more effective information-processing skills, better control over their emotional state and improved longevity. Bostrom and Savulescu (2008, p. 18) state that human enhancement is no longer the preserve of science fiction but has entered into debates on practical ethics and so the question has changed from ‘“Is this science fiction?” to “Should we do it?”’. It seems, however, that the die have already been cast and that the question has undergone a fundamental shift from ‘Should we do it?’ to ‘How should we do it?’ A number of pharmaceutical drugs are already used to enhance cognitive performance, such as Ritalin to improve productivity, beta-blockers that reduce anxiety, stimulants for sleep deprivation, hallucinogenic drugs for creativity, and cosmetic surgery and steroids for body enhancement and to improve physical performance (Allhoff, Lin, Moor, & Weckert, 2009). We can anticipate the appearance of neural computer chip implants that equip the brain with a wealth of information and the means of processing it, or cybernetic body parts that improve the senses, such as contact lenses that allow the wearer to see in the dark and so forth (ibid.).

Of course, these different kinds of enhancements will require different policies. Generally though, it is about ascertaining how to minimise or eliminate all the imaginable negative consequences of human enhancement and how we can prepare all the potential kinds of institutions and organisations for the consequences of transition from the original (previously ‘natural’ ) state to the new (future ‘natural’) state. It appears that within a relatively short period of time we will need to start thinking about creating new structures in many spheres of ordinary life:

  1. In medicine, a radical re-assessment of concepts such as health, disease and treatment will be required, since it may be the case that the skills of unenhanced people will be considered inferior to those of enhanced people. Will the need arise to ‘treat’ people now considered healthy so they can achieve the level of enhanced people? Will the non-medical potential of medicine prevail, where the emphasis will be not on treating disorders but on improving health and extending life?

  2. Psychologists and psychiatrists will need to resolve the issue of whether the consequences of enhancing certain mental spheres will not lead to deterioration in others, and of how to ensure a balance between the cognitive and affective components of a person’s personality, not to mention the fact that the various standardised below-average, average and above-average personality indicators will suddenly become invalid.

  3. In ethics, concepts such as responsibility, free will, justice and morality will have to be redefined and operationalised. There will be a need to consider which kinds of characteristics, behaviours and actions will be desirable and which should be repressed. Associated with this is the sphere of norms, which will require repeated negotiation and reassembling so that the norms do not cement the current order and world arrangement but reflect the newly emerging reality.

  4. In education, schooling and training will have to be reconceived. What form and kind of education will be meaningful and which education institutions should be responsible for it? Another problem will arise in connection with teachers’ competencies. Will enhanced pupils have to be taught by enhanced teachers or will the existing ones with their stagnating skills and features suffice?

  5. Law and justice is another area that will have to be reassessed in relation to the criteria used to judge the acts of enhanced people. How will the motives and intentions of those who ‘contravene’ current laws be assessed? Who will bear primary responsibility for the legislation and how will laws be drawn up to reflect the changes that occur?

  6. The army, police and other enforcement agencies will be faced with the task of defending the public against potential attack and crimes committed by people with enhanced cognitive abilities unless a higher moral level is introduced. What kind of protection and prevention will there be against individuals who attempt to ‘enhance’ people who will work only for them and their benefit to the detriment of others?

  7. Politics will be a very important area in which decisions will have to be made over who will represent us, how will important political decisions be made and how will we ensure that they are not abused by a narrow group of (enhanced) elites.

  8. Employment, leisure activities and pension systems are other areas that will have to be fundamentally transformed to account for the impact of enhanced individuals and the increased longevity.

Conclusion

Preparing for change will insure us against abuse

The issues addressed above and others related to the reality of human enhancement must be raised and resolved as soon as possible. The more prepared we are for the new reality, the shorter the period of entrapment within the liminal phase, ‘betwixt and between’, and the less opportunity for fraudsters who may be ready to occupy the empty space and misuse NBIC technologies and entrap us in a new-age form of totalitarianism governed and controlled by technologies or the genetic manipulation of individuals. It will be important to unify local and global policies since more conservative governments will run the risk that their more liberal counterparts will overtake them and, moreover, leave them having to solve the consequences of ‘enhancement tourism’. As soon as citizens who have been enhanced abroad return, inequality will emerge and governments will no longer be able to avoid the issue.

Regardless of our value systems and desires, the old structures will begin to collapse and this will present us with the challenge of having to construct new ones to keep up with the developments that will shortly affect us. It no longer suffices simply to ask whether enhancement is morally correct and just, we must ensure that it is just. It is more effective to anticipate in advance what the consequences of human enhancement will be and to prepare to resolve them than to respond too late and in an unprepared manner. The conservative instinct to stick to outmoded standards is simply one reaction to the liminal situation described. Another is to leap unthinkingly into the unknown, assuming that progress is inevitable. These two polarised responses to the liminal crisis may encourage ‘tricksters’ to misuse the situation.


The work on this article was supported by grant no. APVV-0379-12 Analysis of philosophical and ethical dimensions of NBIC technologies related to human enhancement


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Published Online: 2016-04-06
Published in Print: 2016-04-01

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