Over the last decade or so, we have seen the tide of populism rising everywhere. Populism is defined as ‘support for the concerns of ordinary people’ or ‘appealing to or being aimed at ordinary people’. This begs the question, what is ordinary? And who among us would want to be merely ordinary? Garrison Keillor’s description of the ‘ordinary’ Minnesota town of Lake Woebegone comes to mind – ‘Welcome to Lake Woebegone, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.’
Keillor’s Lake Woebegone is imaginary, and pokes wry fun at middle-class, ‘ordinary’ America. But is Lake Woebegone actually the future? What will average be anywhere in the world, in an era of human performance enhancement? When everyone is augmented, who is ‘ordinary’? What will ordinary look like in postnormal times? The changes erupting around us will transform old notions about what we take for granted, create novel new forms of humanity, and new human tribes.
Human performance enhancement, or human augmentation, refers to the artificial enhancement of human abilities through chemical, technological, or biological means, or by application of mind-body practices such as yoga. The purpose of human enhancement is to improve faculties like mental performance, physical strength, speed, and stamina. Although performance enhancement is not a new phenomenon, advances in science and technology are promising to scale up its impact significantly in the future – and make it widely available for those unable to summon the discipline to achieve mastery in either ancient or modern mind-body practices.
So, what performance enhancement can we expect in the near future?