Human enhancement technologies: pushing the boundaries

03 Jul 2013

Organised by: Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd and Swiss Biotech Association

About the event

Human enhancement refers to any attempt to temporarily or permanently overcome the current limitations of the human body through natural or artificial means. These means may include a wide range of existing, emerging and visionary technologies, including pharmaceutical products, neuroimplants that provide replacement sight or other artificial senses, drugs that boost brain power, nutritional supplements, new brain stimulation technologies to alleviate suffering and control mood, gene doping in sports, anti-ageing medication, and highly sophisticated prosthetic applications that may provide specialised sensory input or mechanical output.

All these technologies signal the blurring of boundaries between restorative therapy and interventions that aim to bring about improvements extending beyond such therapy. As most of them stem from the medical realm, they can boost societal tendencies of medicalisation when increasingly used to treat non-pathological conditions.


Human enhancement has become highly topical. There appear to be many people who want to improve their performance, their happiness, their beauty, or other features by techno scientific means. These desires and hopes are often related to broader societal tendencies and to structural features of our societies - such as the orientation toward competitiveness - that shape individual preferences in the direction of human enhancement. This event will explore recent progress in brain, bionics, pharmacological, and nutrition research, and other fields of R&D which clearly demonstrate that there is potentially a new quality of interventions into the human mind and body; and we will have a closer look at the consequences for professional sports, the regulatory environment, and society at large.

Target audience

  • Biotech, medtech, and pharmaceutical communities at large
  • Life & Health insurance community
  • Sports associations and companies
  • Policymakers
  • Related interest groups



Wednesday, 3 July 2013


Welcome coffee and registration


Welcome and introduction
Christoph Nabholz, Head Business Development, Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue
Domenico Alexakis, CEO, Swiss Biotech Association


Do we want smarter, faster, better humans? Opportunities and risks of human enhancement
Anne Eckhardt, Managing Director, risicare GmbH


Enhancement tools I: pharmacological enhancement
Arianna Ferrari, Senior Researcher, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology


Enhancement tools II: gene doping
Swen Körner, Professor and Head, Department of Pedagogy, German Sport University Cologne


Enhancement tools III: neurostimulation and brain-computer interfaces
Laura Cabrera, Consulting Research Fellow, National Core for Neuroethics, University of British Columbia (UBC)




Enhancement tools IV: bionics
Jon Sigurdsson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Össur


Enhancement tools V: nutritional practices of the best endurance athletes in the world
Yannis Pitsiladis, Professor of Exercise Physiology, Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, and founding member of the “International Centre for East African Running Science” (ICEARS)


Enhancement tools VI: developing cognitive and physical capacity through in extremis leadership
Thomas A. Kolditz, Director, Leadership Development Program, Yale School of Management; former Head of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York


Coffee break


Enhancement tools beyond legitimacy: anti-doping programmes and policies
Matthias Kamber, Director, Antidoping Switzerland


Panel discussion
Human enhancement - a matter of personal freedom?
An ethical, philosophical, societal, and regulatory view

  • Yvonne Gilli, Physician, National Councillor (Switzerland)
  • Matthias Kamber, Director, Antidoping Switzerland
  • Andy Miah, Director, Creative Futures Institute, and Chair of Ethics and Emerging Technologies, University of the West of Scotland
  • Ralph Schumacher, Scientific Director, MINT-Learning Center, ETH Zurich

Moderated by Christoph Nabholz, Head Business Development, Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue


Wrap-up and farewell drink