Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, December 15, 2008

Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy

(Blogger's Note: It won't take very long, once you begin to take an interest in human enhancement, to see that the idea of enhancing "well" humans through medical technology is politically incorrect. We are supposed to use medicine and technology only to bring the sick or disabled up to "normal," but it is anathema even to discuss going any further. Why is that?

It is partially because certain political factions believe we should all be equal in every way, and partially a result of the religious belief that we should not attempt to play God by improving on his design errors. The human body, screw-ups and all, is held somehow to be sacred.

In my view, both these systems of belief are themselves screwed up, to put it in crass terms. In any case, here is an excellent article that addresses the issue.)

Nature - December 7, 2008, by Henry Greely, Barbara Sahakian, John Harris, Ronald C. Kessler, Michael Gazzaniga, Philip Campbell & Martha J. Farah

Society must respond to the growing demand for cognitive enhancement. That response must start by rejecting the idea that 'enhancement' is a dirty word, argue Henry Greely and colleagues.

Today, on university campuses around the world, students are striking deals to buy and sell prescription drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin — not to get high, but to get higher grades, to provide an edge over their fellow students or to increase in some measurable way their capacity for learning. These transactions are crimes in the United States, punishable by prison.

Many people see such penalties as appropriate, and consider the use of such drugs to be cheating, unnatural or dangerous. Yet one survey1 estimated that almost 7% of students in US universities have used prescription stimulants in this way, and that on some campuses, up to 25% of students had used them in the past year. These students are early adopters of a trend that is likely to grow, and indications suggest that they're not alone2.

In this article, we propose actions that will help society accept the benefits of enhancement, given appropriate research and evolved regulation. Prescription drugs are regulated as such not for their enhancing properties but primarily for considerations of safety and potential abuse. Still, cognitive enhancement has much to offer individuals and society, and a proper societal response will involve making enhancements available while managing their risks.

Read more>>

Technological Singularity and Futurism is updated often; the easiest way to get your regular dose is by subscribing to our news feed. Stay on top of all our updates by subscribing now via RSS or Email.