Will Neurocognitive Enhancement Survive?
Will Neurocognitive Enhancement Survive?

Beware the neuroethicist, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the political bird, and shun
The frumious Fukuyama!

— With apologies to Lewis Carroll

o man, woman, or child is safe when Congress is in session," remarked Will Rogers. Even the less astute among us are surer of this with each passing day. Yet . . . what about the threat of the neuroethicists? In a recent meeting, reported on in Nature Reviews Neuroscience,1 this newest breed of bioethicists has insisted on doing our thinking for us—not so we can be more informed about the latest nootropics, but because they have declared an ethical dilemma resulting from all the new developmental work being done in the areas of neuropharmacology and neuronutrients.

So what do the neuroethicists propose? That we relinquish our choice of enhancing ourselves cognitively. To whom would they give the power to enforce this? To politicians and a new government agency. Give us a break!

According to leading biotech Luddite Francis Fukuyama, we desperately need new legislation to control the use of neurocognitive enhancement, not to mention other biotechnologies.2 Why, oh why? Because important groups such as the President’s Council on Bioethics in the USA and the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technology are doing the “intellectual spade work of thinking through the moral and social implications of biomedical research.” Suggests Fukuyama, “It is time to move from thinking to acting, from recommending to legislating. We need institutions with real enforcement powers.” I kid you not.

Because you’d like to be smarter, have a better memory, get better grades, or improve your executive function, the bioethicists recommend calling in the cops—not just any cops, but a special breed, with the wisdom to know how horrible it is for some to improve themselves until everyone can improve at the same time . . . and until everything is perfectly safe. If it takes a moratorium on neurocognitive progress, so be it. Throw the baby out with the bathwater!

With the neuroethicists calling for policies to govern neurocognitive enhancement, what can you do in the face of such unbridled chutzpah? Get informed! Make yourself heard! Tell your Congress critters you won’t put up with any attempts to interfere with your right to take supplements in order to become a better person! Speak up for cognitive ethics and cognitive liberty—the right of everyone to do with their minds as they see fit, provided they do not interfere with anyone else’s right to do the same. Do it today—or we might not have a neurocognitive enhancement future.

  1. Farah MJ, Illes J, Cook-Deegan R, Gardner H, Kandel E, King P, Parens E, Sahakian B, Wolpe PR. Science and society: neurocognitive enhancement: what can we do and what should we do? Nat Rev Neurosci 2004 May;5(5):421-5.
  2. Fukuyama F. Our Posthuman Future. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2003.

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