The aliens in “District 9” are not humans. So this is not an obvious case of enhancement. However, I choose this image to show that “imperfection” is a matter of gradation. Prof. Thomsen pointed out that the imperfect can be an aesthetic quality and is indeed what makes us human. We should therefore be very leery of attempts to remove all human imperfections. Yet the question is at what point imperfection shades into ugliness, deformity, or monstrosity? How much imperfection/ugliness are we willing to tolerate before we feel the urge to correct or reject it? The aliens in the film have repulsive appearances and make funny noises when they speak. Still, we are shown that they are extremely intelligent and technologically advanced, that a father loves his son in the same tender and protective manner as a human father, and that they are capable of trusting and cooperating with humans and even saving the protagonist’s life. In other words, they have all the inner attributes that make up what Fukuyama calls the “essence” of humanity (moral agency, language, and empathy). Except that they are aesthetically challenged (to put it mildly) and technologically hypertrophic.
The disconcerting combination of horrid countenances and superhuman powers is to me a kind of warning. As Francis Fukuyama notes, we cannot anticipate all the complications that might ensue from our pursuit of biotechnological enhancement: what is an unalloyed good from an individual’s perspective (such as longevity) may have highly undesirable social ramifications. Also, we tend to think of the techno-posthuman condition as one in which we will all have such wonderful prosthetics as wings and can dance in space like angels. Instead, we might do well to prepare for the possibility of a very un-beatific future. Indeed, if all we want is stronger bodies, longer life, and superior brains, what better form to assume than that of the bug-aliens in “District 9” or Philip K. Dick’s “electric ants”?