The Wisdom of Nature: An Evolutionary Heuristic for Human Enhancement

  • Nick Bostrom
  • Anders SandbergEmail author
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 122)


Human beings are a marvel of evolved complexity. Such systems can be difficult to enhance. When we manipulate complex evolved systems, which are poorly understood, our interventions often fail or backfire. It can appear as if there is a “wisdom of nature” which we ignore at our peril. Sometimes the belief in nature’s wisdom—and corresponding doubts about the prudence of tampering with nature, especially human nature—manifests as diffusely moral objections against enhancement. Such objections may be expressed as intuitions about the superiority of the natural or the troublesomeness of hubris or as an evaluative bias in favor of the status quo. This chapter explores the extent to which such prudence-derived anti-enhancement sentiments are justified. We develop a heuristic, inspired by the field of evolutionary medicine, for identifying promising human enhancement interventions. The heuristic incorporates the grains of truth contained in “nature knows best” attitudes while providing criteria for the special cases where we have reason to believe that it is feasible for us to improve on nature.


Human Organism Inclusive Fitness Mathematical Ability Evolutionarily Stable Strategy Evolutionary Restriction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Future of Humanity InstituteUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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