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Augmented people are here – but is society ready?

In the world of comicbook heroes, the narrative often follows the suspicion that humans harbour towards mutants. Could the same happen with augmented people in the real world?

New research carried out by security company Kaspersky unveils disparity over a future shared with augmented people – in their family, workplace, and even personal life. The study finds that a lack of understanding around human augmentation could be holding back exciting developments.

Nearly half (46.5%) of European adults believe that people should be free to enhance their own body with human augmentation technology, but many harbour concerns about the longer-term societal impact of such technology.

Human augmentation comes in two forms: it can either be required due to health grounds – such as the use of bionic limb – or people can choose to augment themselves, for example, by inserting radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips.

Just 12% of the survey respondents would be opposed to working with an augmented person because they feel they have an unfair advantage in the workplace. However, nearly two in every five (39%) adults has concerns that human augmentation could lead to either future social inequality or conflict. Overall, nearly half (49%) are either “excited” or “optimistic” about a future society that includes both augmented and non-augmented people.

According to Kaspersky’s study, more than half (51%) of survey participants say that they have met someone with an augmentation. When it comes to personal life, nearly half (45%) would have no issue dating someone with an augmentation, and 5.5% say that they have already dated an augmented person.

More than a third say they have “always been accepting” of augmented people and 17% say that they are more accepting now than they were ten years ago. Half of European men (50%) say that they are either “excited” or “optimistic” about the future shared by both augmented and non-augmented people, compared to 40% of women.

If a family member required augmentation technology on health grounds, people would be most comfortable if a family member had a bionic arm (38%) or leg (37%). Nearly three in ten (29.5%) respondents would support a family member who decided to augment themselves, regardless of their choice. Just 16.5% of the survey participants view choosing to augment oneself as “weird”, while nearly a quarter (24%) view self-augmentation as “brave”.

Just over a quarter (27%) believe that augmented people should have special representation at a governmental level, compared to 41% who oppose the idea.

The results were unveiled to coincide with Kaspersky’s online debate with leading augmentation experts as part of the company’s Kaspersky NEXT 2021 event.

“While we find broad support and interest in human augmentation across Europe, there are understandable concerns around the implications of human augmentation for society,” says Marco Preuss, director of the global research and analysis team of Kaspersky in Europe. “Governments, industry leaders and augmented people must come together to help shape the future of human augmentation together, so we can ensure that this exciting industry develops in a way that is regulated and safe for everyone.”

Hannes Sapiens Sjöblad, managing director and co-founder of DSruptive Subdermals, says: “Human augmentation technology should not be thought of as high-end, high-tech solutions for the few and privileged. It must be affordable and accessible to all – everyone should be able to enjoy the benefits of augmentation.”

* About the research: An online survey was conducted by Atomik Research among 6,500 adults aged 18+ across Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and UK. The research fieldwork took place between 1 and 4 March 2021. 

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