Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 67–92 | Cite as

Cochlear Implantation, Enhancements, Transhumanism and Posthumanism: Some Human Questions

  • Joseph Lee
Original Paper


Biomedical engineering technologies such as brain–machine interfaces and neuroprosthetics are advancements which assist human beings in varied ways. There are exciting yet speculative visions of how the neurosciences and bioengineering may influence human nature. However, these could be preparing a possible pathway towards an enhanced and even posthuman future. This article seeks to investigate several ethical themes and wider questions of enhancement, transhumanism and posthumanism. Four themes of interest are: autonomy, identity, futures, and community. Three larger questions can be asked: will everyone be enhanced? Will we be “human” if we are not, one day, transhuman? Should we be enhanced or not? The article proceeds by concentrating on a widespread and sometimes controversial application: the cochlear implant, an auditory prosthesis implanted into Deaf patients. Cochlear implantation and its reception in both the deaf and hearing communities have a distinctive moral discourse, which can offer surprising insights. The paper begins with several points about the enhancement of human beings, transhumanism’s reach beyond the human, and posthuman aspirations. Next it focuses on cochlear implants on two sides. Firstly, a shorter consideration of what technologies may do to humans in a transhumanist world. Secondly, a deeper analysis of cochlear implantation’s unique socio-political movement, its ethical explanations and cultural experiences linked with pediatric cochlear implantation—and how those wary of being thrust towards posthumanism could marshal such ideas by analogy. As transhumanism approaches, the issues and questions merit continuing intense analysis.


Enhancements Cochlear implantation Transhumanism Posthumanism Being human Deaf culture 



I would like to acknowledge the thoughtful comments, encouragement, and insightful suggestions of the editors and anonymous reviewers which assisted in the preparation of this manuscript.

Conflict of interest


Ethical standard

There was no research involving human participants and/or animals conducted.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Flinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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