Designer Humans: Prospects and Perils

New Uni Breadth subject looks at biomedical advancements and their moral and social implications.

How will biomedical advancements shape the human species? What are the ethical and social implications of taking human evolution into our own hands? Who should decide and on what basis?

We are in an exciting era of ground-breaking biomedical advancements that have direct impact on society - like the development of tools to detect, choose and edit our genetic makeup.

Designer Humans, a University Breadth (UNIB) subject, aims to give undergraduate students an understanding of selected biomedical advancements and the impact they will have now and on future generations.

There are more than 1,000 breadth subjects, and almost 40 UNIB subjects to choose from. To find out how Breadth can enrich your degree and career - and the many options available visit Planning Your Course and Subjects.

So what is 'Designer Humans' about?

Humans have always exploited their surroundings and engineered changes for survival and advancement. In recent years, advances have given rise to radically new biomedical technologies.

This new Uni Breadth subject will explore the biomedical technologies/interventions that have and will continue to shape the human species, and examine these through ethical, historical, philosophical and social science lenses. We will discuss and critically consider the potential impact and ramifications of such technologies on human life, culture and society.

Examples of concepts and questions that could be explored are:

  • What social inequities could arise from biomedical interventions?
  • What might be the intended and unintended outcomes of our ability to engineer the human genome? For example, what are the implications of removing ‘defective’ genes?
  • What are the ethical implications of taking the evolution of Homo sapiens into our own hands?
  • Who should decide on the trajectory of human evolution, and on what basis?
  • How can misuse of biomedical technologies be prevented?
  • Should there be obstacles to the development of biomedical technologies that might improve human life?

This subject, to be delivered from 2021, will be co-taught by academic staff from departments across the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies and is a balanced representation of the STEM and HASS disciplines.

For more info on this subject please contact Saw Hoon, Coordinator at

What is breadth?

Breadth is a key feature of your Melbourne Model undergraduate degree that allows you to study a wide range of subjects from outside your home faculty.

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