Superhero or Supervillain?

Slate:

From invisibility to superhuman strength to telekinesis, a wave of emerging technologies promise to give people powers once reserved for comic-book characters. Which raises an important question: If humans become superhuman, will we turn out to be superheroes—or supervillains?

The findings suggest that acquiring a superpower can spark benevolent tendencies. Give someone Superman’s abilities, and she’ll start to behave a little more like Superman. Clinical psychologist Robin Rosenberg, who helped design the experiment, said its outcome supported her hypothesis that people might treat an extraordinary ability as a sort of gift that brings with it a responsibility to help others. That’s an encouraging finding, particularly in light of Lord Acton’s maxim that power corrupts.

But wait—what if the researchers had given their subjects a different superpower? Rosenberg’s co-author, Stanford communications professor Jeremy Bailenson, explained that they chose the power of flight partly because it seemed like a classic “do-gooder” sort of ability. “We thought about giving them X-ray vision, but that would have been a little creepy,” he noted.

Read the whole story: Slate

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