Who Loves Advanced Biomedical Body Enhancement Technology? Not Many Americans

While participants of a Pew focus group were excited about addressing diseases and disabilities, they feared a society of superhuman “robots.” REUTERS/Mike Blake

A recent Pew Research Center survey and accompanying focus group spells out how Americans feel about using biomedical innovation to alter the human body and its performance capacity. The center asked Americans about the use of gene editing, brain chips and synthetic blood enhancements and found that most have little interest in melding man with machine.

Pew Research Center

Let's take a brief look at three interesting findings from Pew's latest survey—and ask yourself where you fall in the mix.

First, consider your religious commitment. Do you pray or attend religious services often, occasionally, or not at all?

Pew Research Center

Survey participants who reported practicing a faith less often than others "are more inclined to see the potential use of these techniques as just the continuation of a centuries-old quest by humans to try to better themselves," the study authors wrote. And the similar correlation holds true of those with higher levels of religious commitment, who are more inclined to think biomedical interventions like gene editing is "meddling with nature and crossing a line that should not be crossed."

Second, let's talk about the gender gap. "Women are consistently more wary than men" about enhancements, the authors write.

Pew Research Center

This gap is similarly comparable to a 2014 Pew survey on the use of wearable technologies, too. But let's not exaggerate—the differences tend to be within a matter of a few points up or down.

Finally, consider how individuals define what is an "appropriate" use of biomedical enhancements. Ideas about societal obligation and fairness play a significant part of what we accept or reject. For example, while participants of a related Pew focus group were excited about addressing diseases and disabilities, they feared a society of superhuman "robots" that would encourage socio-economic inequality.

While nearly half (47 percent) accept using synthetic blood to maintain an equal level of health to other average people, to only 28 percent are comfortable with its use to improve a person's capacity "above that of any human." A 50-year-old Hispanic woman in Phoenix, for example, described how enhanced abilities could inspire workplace discrimination: "Who gets the promotion at work? Because you could afford to have an implant so you get it? I mean, what about everybody else?"

Most Americans want the most extreme biomedical technologies to stay in the realm of fiction and not enter that of real-world science.