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Tech Not for Developing Superpowers

Americans aren't sold on using technologies to enhance human abilities, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

In particular, Pew's Cary Funk, Brian Kennedy, and Elizabeth Podrebarac Sciupac asked their sample of 4,726 US adults how they felt about using gene editing to prevent diseases in babies, implanting brain chips to improve people's concentration and information processing, and giving synthetic blood to boost people's speed, strength, and stamina. While none of these technologies are quite ready to do any of that, they are under development and some are being used in limited, therapeutic ways in patients, the researchers note.

The majority of adults surveyed said they were either "very" or "somewhat" worried about gene editing (68 percent), brain chips (69 percent), and synthetic blood (63 percent), report Funk, Kennedy, and Sciupac. Funk tells the New York Times that she was surprised that the public seemed equally worried about all three approaches.

She and her colleagues also report that most adults said they wouldn't want their own brain or blood enhanced, though they were about evenly split as to whether they'd want gene editing to prevent disease in their babies.

The respondents traced their concerns to using such technologies before they are ready, increasing the divide between the haves and the have-nots, risks likely outweighing the benefits, and meddling with nature.

The researchers also found that respondents' religion appeared to influence their views, as those who were more religious were more wary of the technologies than those who were not religious. For instance, 44 percent of white evangelical Protestants said gene editing was morally unacceptable, while 8 percent of atheists did.