Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Rethinking human enhancement as collective welfarism

Human enhancement technologies are opening tremendous opportunities but also challenges to the core of what it means to be human. We argue that the goal of human enhancement should be to enhance quality of life and well-being not only of individuals but also of the communities they inhabit.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. Doudna, J.A. & Charpentier, E. Science (2014).

  2. WMA General Assembly. WMA Declaration of Helsinki – Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects (World Medical Association, 2013).

  3. Yong, E. Nature 497, 297–299 (2013).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Clarke, S., Savulescu, J. & Sanyal, S. The Ethics of Human Enhancement: Understanding the Debate (Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2016).

  5. Savulescu, J., Sandberg, A. & Kahane, G. Well-being and enhancement. in Enhancing Human Capacities (eds. Savulescu, J., ter Meulen, R. & Kahane, G.) 3–18 (Wiley, West Sussex, UK, 2011).

  6. Costanza, R. et al. Ecol. Econ. 61, 267–276 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Ryan, R.M., Huta, V. & Deci, E.L. in The Exploration of Happiness: Present and Future Perspectives (ed. Delle Fave, A.) 117–139 (Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 2013).

  8. Maslen, H., Pugh, J. & Savulescu, J. Neuroethics 8, 215–230 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Elliott, C. Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream (Norton, New York, 2004).

  10. Whitman, D. et al. What Americans Think of Human Enhancement Technologies. Scientific American Blogs. (2018).

  11. Woolley, A. W., Aggarwal, I. & Malone, T. W. Curr. Dir. Psychol. Sci. 24, 420–424 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Zhou, T. et al. Science 357, 162–168 (2017).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Bruneau, E. G., Cikara, M. & Saxe, R. Soc. Psychol. Personal. Sci. 8, 934–942 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Mill, J.S. A Selection of His Works (eds. Mill, J.S. & Robson, J.M.) (Springer, New York, 1966).

  15. Savulescu, J. J. Med. Ethics 42, 331–333 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Martela, F. & Ryan, R. M. J. Pers. 84, 750–764 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities is supported by a Wellcome Centre Grant (203132/Z/16/Z). J.S., through his involvement with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, received funding through from the Victorian State Government through the Operational Infrastructure Support (OIS) Program. D.B. thanks the Brocher Foundation. S.S. thanks the Branco Weiss Fellowship of the Society in Science. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daphne Bavelier.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Bavelier, D., Savulescu, J., Fried, L.P. et al. Rethinking human enhancement as collective welfarism. Nat Hum Behav 3, 204–206 (2019).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing