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Bionic brains: Over a third of Brits open to boosting intelligence with human augmentation

November 2020 by Opinium Research Kaspersky

A new study in the UK conducted by Opinium Research on behalf of cybersecurity firm Kaspersky has found that than one in five Brits (20%) would opt for improved intelligence or brainpower with the help of technology, if they could. In addition, 39% of UK adults feel that it is ‘completely’ or ‘mostly’ acceptable to use human augmentation to improve children’s ability to learn at school.

Human augmentation is the process of physically improving the body with technology, for example, by inserting a chip into the brain to enable it to function faster and access a wide range of information instantly from the Internet. Interest in augmenting brain power is equal amongst Brits aged 18-34 (24%) and 35-54 (24%) and just 14% for those aged 55+. Men (21%) are narrowly more interested in improved brainpower and intelligence than women (19%).

The wide-reaching study of 14,500 adults across 16 countries in Europe and North Africa found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of people surveyed in those territories would consider augmenting our bodies with technology to improve them – either permanently or temporarily. Italians are the most likely to consider human augmentation (81%) whilst adults in the UK appear to be most sceptical about human augmentation, with 36% of Brits against the concept. More than half of adults in the UK (52%) believe human augmentation will be dangerous for society, way above the study average of 39%.

Enhanced brainpower or intelligence was most popular in Romania, where more than a third (35%) would be interested in improving their brainpower, followed by Hungary and Morocco (both 30%). Interest was lowest in Denmark (12%), Germany and Greece (both 16%). More than a third of people in the UK (34%) believe it is either ‘completely’ or ‘mostly’ acceptable to leverage human augmentation technology to make people more intelligent in general.

Marco Preuss, Director of the Global Research & Analysis Team, Europe, for Kaspersky, commented:

“Security is going to be a key concern as human augmentation develops. There is a risk that human augmentation technology is advancing outside of the control of governments or other regulatory bodies, which is potentially dangerous for humanity. It’s something we should pay close attention to as human augmentation technology develops further. For example, at Kaspersky, we previously researched how chips implanted in the brain could be used by bad actors to hack and then exploit an individual’s memory. Augmenting the brain opens up a truly staggering range of potential cyber threats.”

Human augmentation also has wide-reaching implications for society, especially in education and the workplace. Some leading tech thinkers suggest that chips implanted in the brain could help address mental health issues and boost performance.

However, augmenting intelligence and brainpower raises all sorts of ethical and practical questions:

Is it safe from a health perspective?
Is it ethical? For example, should parents allow their children’s brains to be enhanced to give them an advantage at school? _Will it give people an unfair advantage in the workplace and therefore create an even greater digital divide?

Most respondents want human augmentation for the good of humanity, with nearly half (47%) of Brits in favour of human augmentation, saying it should be used to improve quality of life.

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