Biotechnologies, Artificial Intelligence, and Human Identity

With the rapid development of AI and biotechnologies come vast powers to reshape ourselves and the natural world. Whether it is about human-animal chimeras, CRISPR-CAS9, mass automation, or brain-computer interfaces, there exists an urgent need for broad societal discussions to help chart a responsible path forward.

As technological advances grant us new powers, so do they blur some boundaries between humans, animals, and machines, prodding us to ask the question: what does it mean to be human?

The Biotechnologies, Artificial Intelligence, and Human Identity Conference brings together scholars from across disciplines to assess the right uses of AI and biotechnologies.

In the medical and healthcare context, these technologies have the potential to help persons with a wide range of physical disabilities. It is likely that medicine and healthcare will be among the first fields of application of such technologies.

But some suggest their use can be extended well beyond therapeutic interventions. Through these technologies, the boundaries between therapies and enhancement become blurred and the power to alter fundamental aspects of human nature and human relationships is increased. For instance, we could potentially control the emotions or physical actions of another person via an implant in our brain and in their own. Or control the pleasure centres in our own brains. It may not also be clear who has primary agency when it comes to a particular act or decision. We might be able to heighten our own alertness and awareness and increase other capacities. And so on.

With the potential for what some might consider the misuse of these technologies, how do they challenge traditional views on human nature? And conversely, how proposed, shared aspects of our humanity ought to shape personal, societal, and governmental positions on the right uses of biotechnologies and AI?

By considering what it means to be human, we believe we can foster more substantial and productive debates and encourage broader societal involvement in these debates. These are matters for the whole human family, as they relate to our very nature as human beings, as well as our place within the natural order.

Detailed program to follow.

Convenors: Andrew Moeller, Faculty of History; Alberto Giubilini, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. Contact:

Supported by Medical Humanities – TORCH; Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics; Boundaries of Humanites Project at Stanford University