Neuroenhancement: The Shadow Worlds of Science or Economy?

“Free will is an illusion,” Sam said in a strange tone.

– R. Scott Bakker,  Neuropath 

Happened on an article over at Mindhacks which is actually old hat, but made me think about both the uses and abuses of our new cognitive neurosciences. He talks about an essay in the British Journal of Psychiatry in which the so called new and cognitive enhancement medicines are already set to improve ethical behaviour and we should be prepared for a revolution in ‘moral pharmacology’. In one article the experts conclude that as cognitive neuroscience and related technologies become more pervasive, using technology for nefarious purposes becomes easier.1 As the study suggests “the intelligence community (IC) faces the challenging task of analyzing extremely large amounts of information on cognitive neuroscience and neurotechnology, deciding which of that information has national security implications, and then assigning priorities for decision makers”. You can bet that if there asking questions about the moral implications that there already thinking about how they can use these new sciences for war. With all the new imaging technologies along with new pharmacological neuromedicines a whole new world of human experimentation is taking place under our noses. It could be asked, What types of experiments are being done? How are the experiments being controlled and monitored, and why were they chosen? How would human experimentation be conducted outside accepted informed-consent limits?

And where there is money and corporations involved there are patents. New U.S. and international market incentives are driving this research into neuropsychopharmacology. But as he suggests even though the fact that many currently marketed drugs are or have been major sources of profit the ethical concerns have gone unnoticed. A whole new underground or shadow market economies will arise. Neurotechnology enhancement market is analogous to the athletic performance enhancement market. People will make the choice to take illegal and off-label prescription neuropharmaceuticals even if they do not know the side effects or believe that the side effects are worth the potential enhancement. This controversial market will grow dramatically if evidence becomes available that a specific drug is consistently effective in improving performance.(ibid.)

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