Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Human Enhancement and Reproductive Ethics on Generation Ships

Topics: Epistemology, Ethics, Metaethics, Moral Philosophy
Keywords: Generation ships, Human enhancement, Reproductive ethics, Space ethics


The past few years have seen a resurgence in the public interest in space flight and travel. Spurred mainly by the likes of technology billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, the topic poses both unique scientific as well as ethical challenges. This paper looks at the concept of generation ships, conceptual behemoth ships whose goal is to bring a group of human settlers to distant exoplanets. These ships are designed to host multiple generations of people who will be born, live, and die on these ships long before they reach their destination. This paper takes reproductive ethics as its lens to look at how genetic enhancement interventions can and should be used not only to ensure that future generations of offspring on the ships, and eventual exoplanet colonies, live a minimally good life but that their births are contingent on them living genuinely good and fulfilling lives. The paper further claims that if such a thesis holds, it also does so for human enhancement on Earth.

Over the past several decades, both scholarly and popular literature has actively attempted to highlight and explore the various existential risks that might jeopardise continued life on planet Earth. Ranging from nuclear winter (Baum 2015) and climate change (Butler 2018) to runaway nanotechnology (Umbrello and Baum 2018) and artificial superintelligence (Bostrom 2016). Despite some of these existential risks being more plausible, what has concerned scholars is how to avoid, ameliorate, and mitigate some of the threats. More recently, one of the proposed solutions made quite popular by science fiction in shows like The 100 (2014) and movies such as Passengers (2016) and Interstellar (2014) is to have humans leave Earth and colonise other planets. Recently, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stated that to ensure the species’ long-term survival, humans must become a…


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