So, technology has become available to enhance human abilities, legislators and the public want to make sure people cannot use this to their advantage. If someone applies these enhancements later in life, the difference between them and normal people is like the difference between a normal person and someone who has been crippled, at the upper limit of technology. If they were a genetically enhanced baby, the difference between them and a normal person is like the difference between a normal person and someone who suffers from Down's syndrome, at the upper limit of technology.

The laws vary by country, but here is some of the general details:

  • Nearly all the laws have an exception for enhancements that reduce the risk of disease, although there is usually an exception to that exceptions for diseases that happen with near certainty, like aging. Enhancements to allow humans to preform tasks that would normally be fatal to regular humans, like the ability to work directly with radioactive waste without a risk for cancer, are an exception.
  • Many countries have laws preventing employers from favoring enhanced humans, a kind of reversed disability protection.
  • Most countries have laws preventing insurance companies from favoring enhanced humans.
  • Some countries impose higher taxes on enhanced humans, similar to how rich people pay higher taxes.
  • Nearly all countries outright outlaw certain enhancements, particularly ones that give immense advantages, such as increasing IQ by 15 points, doubling strength, or improving senses enough to hear and see through most walls.

However, these laws are causing problems for the countries that implement them.

  • There a couple of "enhancement haven" countries, which have virtually no laws regarding enhancements. Enhanced humans or humans who want to be enhanced migrate in large numbers to these havens. This in turn gives those havens a strong economic and military advantage. This is especially true of intelligence enhancements, since many services having to with intelligence can be done over the internet. Strength and sensory enhancements help in military situations, as well as the intelligence ones. Luckily, 99% of politicians and people are officially opposed to these havens, and 85% are actually opposed. However, reality is not democratic, so wishing them away is not a solution.
  • Some countries tried imposing import controls or tariffs on goods and services produced by foreign enhanced humans. However, this caused them some economic harm and strained foreign relations. Even worse, it often causes a black market for these goods and services. Additionally, enhanced humans will often try shifting the goods and services between multiple countries and jurisdictions, to either hid their origin, or exploit a loop hole in the laws.
  • Some countries also tried imposing sanctions on the enhancement havens, but these led to the countries to just start hiding the enhanced human activities. They would pass laws banning enhancement advantages, but then not enforce them.
  • Even within their borders, black markets for enhanced human labor have sprung up, with companies and the enhanced humans secretly breaking the laws for the purposes of profit. Sometimes enhanced humans would even try to hide their enhancements.

This obviously is a large burden and problem for the countries that want to ban the enhancement advantages. Being economically and militarily weakened is obviously a problem, one that can compound over time. Moreover, enforcement is proving to be a challenge, and a burden on the police.

What can these countries do to keep to successfully achieve this ban, and not fall behind by doing so?

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    $\begingroup$ People also aren't comfortable with genetically modified crops, but guess what most industrialised agriculture is composed of. If it puts the country at an economic disadvantage, the law won't pass, regardless of what the plebs have to say about it. It isn't that your idea is stupid, it's the fact that you haven't made it clear how you got to that position from here. The first adopters will the the rich and influential. These peoples' opinions matter, not those of the random man on the street. They will not penalise their advantage, and they have the power to shift public opinion $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Mar 5, 2019 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ @nzaman If the first adopters become the rich and influential, that's the perfect reason for them to ban it... for others. Pull that ladder up behind you :/ $\endgroup$
    – Geobits
    Mar 5, 2019 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Geobits: Exactly backwards. The rich and influential are the first adopters because they are rich and influential--they have the money to pay the exorbitantly high costs of the development phase $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Mar 5, 2019 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ @PyRulez: Performance enhancing drugs are illegal because of the side effects. Designer babies are illegal because the science is not established and there is a high chance of desperate parents being taken advantage of. Cloning of people is illegal because a) there is no good reason to clone humans other than for spare parts and b) clones tend to have very short life spans-- Dolly the sheep lived for only two years. Plastic surgery is a multi-billion dollar business worldwide; there may be some social snobbery, but not enough to stop anyone getting it. $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Mar 5, 2019 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ How has the (near) international ban on powerful narcotics been going? I expect it would go something like that... $\endgroup$ Mar 6, 2019 at 9:28

4 Answers 4


You can't

Firstly there will never be enhanced human labour. What parent would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars buying improvements for their child to work as a labourer? This same child could be a star athlete, skilled surgeon, genius inventor etc. A labourer is a job for the genetically unenhanced.

The bans would be based on ethical / religious grounds, not cheap human labor. Tariffs would because of the revolutionary manufacturing techniques and robot assembly factories that the haven's skilled scientists and engineers create.

Secondly, I can't see any military in the world rejecting better, faster, stronger soldiers. The only point to war is to win and if someone else is doing it, you must do it too or face losing. I can see the army "gifting" free enhancements to offspring of soldiers to create the next generation of warriors. A fair number of soldiers come from families with military history so there is a good chance, you'll get back your enhanced recruits.

In the end, the consumer doesn't really care about the ethical concerns of who made their new TV, just what it does and how much it costs so any such ban will inevitably fail.

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    $\begingroup$ "Firstly there will never be enhanced human labour." it's interesting how Deus Ex: Human Revolution flips this on its head, where in China it's the augmented people who are thought of as lower class - they'd be doing all the menial jobs of lifting and construction. And they NEED to do that to pay for the drug they now have to take in order for their body not to reject the implants. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Mar 5, 2019 at 6:49
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    $\begingroup$ I guess it comes down to the costs of the enhancements. Say to enhance a human so he can do the double amount of work in the same time you have to pay a certain amount of money. If you can get a second slave for less, then you get a second slave. $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2019 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ Skilled surgeons don't just sit around all day. They have to study and do surgeries, which involves work. $\endgroup$
    – PyRulez
    Mar 5, 2019 at 8:53
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    $\begingroup$ Deus Ex might but robots will replace most manual jobs because robots don't need to be paid, sleep or demand better working conditions. Like in "Gattaca", genetic enhancements will be the domain of the wealthy. $\endgroup$
    – Thorne
    Mar 5, 2019 at 9:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Thorne I've worked in a yogurt factory. There was a lot of machinery that handle the yogurt for distribution, such as pouring it in containers and ferrying them to various places via conveyor belts. Yet me and hundreds of other people were also employed to do pretty menial tasks - ensure the yogurt containers are aligned on the belt, put lids (the second plastic ones), take the pots from the end of the container and put them into pellets, move the pellets around. And so on. We have robots RIGHT NOW and yet we use human labour to supplement it. It's cheaper than completely replacing people. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Mar 5, 2019 at 9:55

I don't see how any country could not fall behind by banning human enhancements. The benefits as you have described them are just too strong to resist. There would be a huge underground market for augments and tons of research would be poured into hiding them. Think drugs in sports but many orders of magnitude worse.

There are, however, a few enforcement mechanisms a government could use if they wanted to.

Institutionalized Checks

Need a driver's license? We'll need some blood, sir.

Need access to a secure facility? We'll need some blood, sir.

Need to enroll your child in school? We'll need some blood, sir.

Random traffic stop? We'll need some blood, sir.

You get the idea.

If the enforcement of "pure humanity" is done at a societal level, it removes a lot of the burden from your police. Think GATTACA in reverse. Society would maintain a list of known augments and use all these systemic blood draws to randomly scan the population for them.

If you want a more sinister approach, you could go with a

Gene Drive

Since the military knows exactly the kind of people they want to target, and we clearly have the ability to modify beings at a genetic level, the military could create a CRISPR-like pathogen to infect only people with known strands of augmented DNA. This is incredibly immoral and incredibly dangerous, but it could very easily be something the military could keep in its back pocket "just in case".

Naturally, there's nothing to prevent the other side from making a gene drive that targets "human purists", so this is a scenario that could easily devolve into a post-apocalyptic world if one leader or another is having a bad day.

  • $\begingroup$ Note that many enhancements are non-genetic. Reinforced bones, for example, or performance enhancing drugs. The genetic ones are the most extreme though, as well as the most subtle, so this is a good partial answer. $\endgroup$
    – PyRulez
    Mar 6, 2019 at 2:20

Restrict usage to approved persons, rather than enforcing a total ban

The easiest way to not fall behind by banning human enhancements would be to explicitly license them for government use. Sanctioned individuals, from families with strong military or political ties, and a strong likelihood of raising children that support the state, could receive enhancements, while common civilians would be forced to go without, or at least denied access to the most potent enhancements available.

For example, banning massive strength enhancements for civilians, but applying them to the police and the military, would give the government an advantage against any criminal organization or civilian uprising. Creating a ruling elite with mental modifications, similarly, would entrench government power in that elite. Enhanced politicians and CEOs could easily outcompete baseline opponents.

Protecting the ban would rely on giving people a means to obtain modifications for their children. Exceptionally successful and loyal baseline individuals could obtain a license for enhancing their kids, simultaneously preventing ossification of the ruling class and weakening any opposition movement by offering a powerful incentive for the best and the brightest to support the government. Meanwhile, enhanced individuals who did not support the government would lose their right to enhance their own children.


/How to enforce an international ban on the use of human enhancement to one's advantage?/

Extremely wealthy persons can pay for their own enhancements, and do. These persons acquire enhancements in the same way they might acquire a performance automobile - mostly for bragging rights with their rich friends, and not because they intend to race the auto or use their enhancements productively. These rich people are of no consequence to the welfare of the polity.

For the hoi palloi, enhancements are paid for with public funds. Countries which allow them must use a limited pot of public money to finance these expensive enhancements. These provide benefit only to one individual and uncertain benefit to the taxpayer and society.

Countries which do not use their public money on human enhancement use that money to enhance the health and well being of their people as a whole: clean water, low cost health care for ailments that reduce productivity and life expectancy, effective public schooling, child care, elder care.

The advantage of enforcing the ban on enhancements is that there are more funds available to advance the public interest generally in cost effective ways.


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