Brain Enhancement: The Next Frontier?
Brain enhancement, otherwise known as “neural enhancement” or “brain boosting” is the newest health fad to hit the market. But it does have its critics who believe that we need to spend some time thinking first about its physiological and ethical consequences before we accept its techniques.
There are two sides of the argument revolving around brain enhancement. On the positive side of the coin, some believe that we stand to breed a new generation of geniuses through brain boosting techniques. They believe there is nothing wrong with brain enhancement practices since it is just another way for people to improve themselves. But the downside of the argument is that we may be creating a race of monsters, if we’re not careful.
One example of the widespread use of brain-enhancement instruments would be the regular usage of the drug Ritalin by normal high school and college students. The drug, which was originally intended for hyperactive kids, is now employed by the students to improve their thinking prior to examinations. However, no one knows what the long-term impact on the health of the students would be.
Another example is employing transcranial magnetic stimulation to boost the capacity to solve problems. The technique was previously used for almost 20 years as a therapy for depression. Or take the usage of the narcolepsy medication Modafinil by those who want to stay wide awake and on the ball – recently, seven track and field athletes said they consumed the drug to improve their mental state.
More alarming perhaps are the advances in mind mapping. One new technique that resulted from it is “brain fingerprinting”. Through this technique, a third party can tap into a person’s brain to find specific memories. This raises the issue of invasion of the person’s privacy.
The ethical concerns would tend to revolve around pharmaceutical firms who are probably interested in marketing drugs to 100% of the population rather than just to a minority. If the drugs they offer can improve memory for everyone, these firms would like to get a slice of that market.
Thus, some scientists are concerned about creating a new field dubbed “neuroethics”. Practitioners in this field would be concerned with determining the crucial issues about the ethics of brain enhancement, particularly with the use of drugs. This, despite the fact that proponents of brain enhancement believe such scientists are simply trying to forestall the inevitable technological advancements in improving thought processes.