Dr Imogen Goold presented an interactive talk on human enhancement and the law at the Oxfordshire Science Festival on Saturday 25th June at Oxford Town Hall. The Science Festival is an annual celebration of science held in Oxford, using lively hands-on and thought provoking activities, talks and debates.

The presentation, entitled ‘Humans 2.0: How to Regulate Human Enhancement Technologies’ took the audience on a journey through the moral, legal and scientific issues relating to human enhancement technologies.

The talk looked at a range of enhancements from the drugs that help keep us awake and alert, to devices that stimulate the brain or restore hearing and even high-tech neuro-prosthetics controlled by the brain.

Dr Goold focused on engaging with the audience: what would you choose to enhance? How would you decide? The answers displayed live and onscreen ranged from boosting intelligence, height, beauty and language skills.

The centrepiece of the talk was an interactive walk through of a scenario about a tired surgeon faced with the choice between taking an enhancing drug called Modafinil, to help her stay awake, and risking completing the surgery whilst tired. The audience was put in the patient’s shoes: should she take the pill? Their decisions were displayed live and in real-time onscreen, as members of the audience voted to express their views.

The presentation then explored the issues arising from the audience’s decisions and sought to spark off a debate about how and why the law should be involved –if at all- and what morally surgeons and patients ought do.

This scenario will be made into an interactive animated video to be created and hosted as part of an AHRC and Oxford University funded public engagement project. The project will launch this summer and seeks to bring to light issues relating to human enhancement and the law.