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September 17, 2020

Two thirds of people would consider undergoing human augmentation

By Ellen Daniel

Two thirds of people would consider undertaking some form of human augmentation, research by Kaspersky has revealed.

Human augmentation, which is sometimes referred to as biohacking, is the process of using technology or biology to artificially add to the human body to enhance its abilities either physically or mentally.

This ranges from widely accepted and hugely beneficial technologies such as pacemakers and hearing aids, to more controversial augmentations such as genetic modifications, neural implants and the creation of artificial tissue.

Last year, research firm Gartner identified human augmentation as a trend that will have a “transformational impact” and will continue to grow in popularity over the next five to ten years.

The field is still relatively new, with the advancements in technology are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible when it comes to human augmentation. However, it brings with it various ethical and security considerations.

Human augmentation

Commissioned by cybersecurity company Kaspersky, the research explores the potential of human augmentation and examines how the “underexplored or even sensationalised” technology is perceived.

For the report, research group research group Opinium to interview more than 14,000 people in 16 countries to understand “what people would enhance, which elements augmentation should be allowed to improve, ethics, security, and government involvement in the form of future regulation”.

The research found that 63% of those surveyed would consider augmenting their bodies with technology to improve them, either permanently or temporarily, with better physical health emerging as the most popular physical attribute respondents wanted to improve. The biggest benefit to human augmentation was its potential to improve the quality of life.

This desire to improve physical health increased with age, with 33% of 18-34-year-olds would improve their physical health compared to 45% of those aged over 55.

It also highlighted that perception of the technology varies depending on the country. The country surveyed with the highest level of acceptance of the technology was Portugal, with 60% of participants agreeing that human augmentation was acceptable. In contrast, just a quarter of those in the UK shared this view. The UK also emerged as the country most concerned with human augmentation, with participants in Spain most excited about the technology.

Negative associations

However, the technology has some negative associations across the board, with 69% believing human augmentation will only be available for the rich, and 88% fearing it could leave their bodies at risk of hacking.

Devices malfunctioning and devices causing permanent damage to the body also emerged as key concerns.

Overall, 39% of people think human augmentation will be a danger to society.

There are also health concerns when it comes to biohacking technology.

“My main concern with human augmentation is the biohacking community itself,” said Kaspersky’s David Jacoby.

“We will see vendors producing kits to augment health elements, whether it’s eyesight, strength, or something else, and we will see a lot of copycats trying to copy that kind of technology, which is not licensed or tested. We might find a black market for body enhancement kits because it’s unregulated.”

The report also explored the issue of regulation, asking whether governments should step in. Overall, 47% were in favour of regulation, but this varied significantly from country to country, with 77% of UK participants in favour of regulation, compared with just 17% of participants in Greece.

“It involves the body, so it is a risk to health, and as such perhaps should be regulated in the same way to medical technology and supplies,” concluded Marco Preuss, director of global research & analysis team, Kaspersky.

“The average person does not have the technical expertise to fully estimate the various security risks, both immediate and long term. I also believe that regulation should be something that is considered from the first adoption of such technology, as well as security being factored in by design, rather than as an afterthought. However, we have already seen the first steps in human augmentation, yet no regulation so far.”


Read more: Gartner identifies human augmentation as a key tech trend.