Brain Interventions Part 2- “Better than Well”
Another large concern in the area of brain interventions is the improvement of humans beyond what is considered normal human ability. There have been advances, both in the use of psychopharmacology and in physical alteration, that have improved what a human being can do. Prescription drugs are already in use which can improve memory and concentration, and others exist which reduce fatigue and improve alertness levels (Miller, 2010). While these have admittedly not created superhumans, there are ethical concerns over medications which will allow certain people to perform at a higher average level than others, and some are even beginning to grow concerned over the posibility that employers will begin to mandate that their employees be on cognitive enhancement drugs in order to improve the profit made from each employed person.
Other advancements of a more direct and physical nature have also been made which can improve human capabilities beyond the normal. For example, neuroscientists have found that, by applying an electrical current to a particular part of the skull, a person’s mathematical abilities can be improved (Savulescu, 2010). Another example is the testing of a small device (called “BrainGate”) in the brain which allows a person to control computer-based devices (such as robotic arms) directly (Gizmag Team, n.d.). While it is difficult to see improving math skills as being ethically important, the main concern with these two examples- and indeed, the topic as a whole- is the use and availability of the technologies. Part of the BrainGate research is to allow people with paralized or missing limbs to regain the functions they have lost, but funding is also coming from the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency which is interested in creating enhanced soldiers and weapons which can be controlled from a distance by thought alone (Gizmag Team, n.d.). On top of this, the technology will be expensive, once again raising the ethical concern that a few wealthy people will benefit from the research and technology when so many could make use of it.
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Gizmag Team (n.d.). ‘BrainGate’ Brain-Machine-Interface takes shape. Retrieved from http://www.gizmag.com/go/3503/
Miller, G. (2010). Cognition enhancing drugs: Just say yes? The Journal of Philosophy, Science and Law, 10. Retrieved from http://www6.miami.edu/ethics/jpsl/archives/ all/CognitiveEnhancers.html
Savulescu, J. (2010). Why bioenhancement of mathematical ability is ethically important. Retrieved from http://www.practicalethicsnews.com/practicalethics/2010/11/ why-bioenhancement-of-mathematical-ability-is-ethically-important.html