Bioengagement - Winter 2015

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The promise and perils of advances in technology, science, and medicine have long been fertile fodder for creative works in literature and cinema. Consequently, a variety of resources exist exploring the realm of medical humanities as well as those providing in-depth analysis of a given cultural medium or particular artifact. This column seeks to offer a more expansive listing of contemporary expressions of bioethical issues in the popular media (fiction, film, and television)—with minimal commentary—to encompass a wider spectrum of popular culture. It will be of value to educators and others for conversations in the classroom, over a cup of coffee, at a book club, or around the dinner table. Readers are cautioned that these resources represent a wide spectrum of genres and content, and may not be appropriate for all audiences. For more comprehensive databases of the various cultural media, please visit our website at If you have a suggestion for us to include in the future, send us a note at


Daniel Wilson, Amped

(Vintage, 2013).

Cognitive Enhancement, Neuroethics, Personhood, Posthuman.

The author of Robopocalypse returns with a sci-fi thriller from the not-too-distant future. The novel opens with a breaking decision from the U.S. Supreme Court: amplified human beings (amps) are no longer deemed a protected class of human beings. Their sheer existence, it is ruled, creates inequality with the general population. Immediately, hundreds of thousands who had received neuro-implants through government programs to address poverty and cognitive impairments are relegated to a persecuted underclass. Owen Grey, a history teacher, and recipient of an implant to control his epilepsy, finds himself at the center of a wide-ranging conspiracy with one faction seeking to inaugurate a posthuman future and another seeking to eliminate all humans that have been unnaturally enhanced. The novel explores the potential social and legal concerns at the limits of neuro-enhancement and the limits of human use of emerging technologies.

Daniel Wilson, Robogenesis

(Doubleday, 2014).

Artificial Intelligence, Cyborgs, Human Enhancement, Neuroethics, Personhood, Robotics, Posthuman/Transhumanism.

In this sequel to Robopocalypse, humanity is picking up the pieces in the wake of the robot/AI rebellion known as the New War that nearly destroyed the human race. Beyond the sheer devastation and loss, all types of atrocities are coming to light from the robotic augmentation experiments that the AI Archos R-14 directed during the New War. As humanity and the free-born robots that joined in their defense are reestablishing pockets of civilization, a new AI threat emerges desiring to conquer humanity and the world.

Bioethics at the Box Office

Ex Machina

(2015, R for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence).

AI, Personhood, Robot Ethics.


(2014, R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality).

Human Enhancement, Neuroethics, Transhumanism/Posthumanism.

Terminator Genisys

(2015, PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gunplay throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language).

AI, Personhood, Robotics.

Primetime Bioethics

Agents of Shield

(2013– ).

Human Enhancement, Neuroethics, Research Ethics.


(2012– ).

Human Enhancement.

The Flash

(2014– ).

Human Enhancement.




The 100

(2014– ).

Disaster Ethics, Genetic Engineering, Human Experimentation, Neuroethics, Research Ethics.