[ExI] Fwd: In defense of cognition-enhancing drugs

Samantha  Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Thu Dec 11 18:24:43 UTC 2008

Begin forwarded message:

> From: samantha <sjatkins at gmail.com>
> Date: December 10, 2008 5:14:12 PM PST
> To: sjatkins at mac.com
> Subject: In defense of cognition-enhancing drugs
> Sent to you by samantha via Google Reader:
> In defense of cognition-enhancing drugs
> via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow on 12/9/08
> A commentary in this week's issue of the journal Nature argues that  
> cognitive performance-enhancing drugs should be made widely  
> available, and sets out an ethical and legal framework for doing so  
> in a way that maximises the social good of being able to choose what  
> state of mind you're in. Contributors to the article include a  
> Stanford law prof, a Cambridge research psychiatrist, a Harvard med- 
> school prof, and other distinguished personages.
> Human ingenuity has given us means of enhancing our brains through  
> inventions such as written language, printing and the Internet. Most  
> authors of this Commentary are teachers and strive to enhance the  
> minds of their students, both by adding substantive information and  
> by showing them new and better ways to process that information. And  
> we are all aware of the abilities to enhance our brains with  
> adequate exercise, nutrition and sleep. The drugs just reviewed,  
> along with newer technologies such as brain stimulation and  
> prosthetic brain chips, should be viewed in the same general  
> category as education, good health habits, and information  
> technology — ways that our uniquely innovative species tries to  
> improve itself.
> Of course, no two enhancements are equivalent in every way, and some  
> of the differences have moral relevance. For example, the benefits  
> of education require some effort at self-improvement whereas the  
> benefits of sleep do not. Enhancing by nutrition involves changing  
> what we ingest and is therefore invasive in a way that reading is  
> not. The opportunity to benefit from Internet access is less  
> equitably distributed than the opportunity to benefit from exercise.  
> Cognitive-enhancing drugs require relatively little effort, are  
> invasive and for the time being are not equitably distributed, but  
> none of these provides reasonable grounds for prohibition. Drugs may  
> seem distinctive among enhancements in that they bring about their  
> effects by altering brain function, but in reality so does any  
> intervention that enhances cognition. Recent research has identified  
> beneficial neural changes engendered by exercise10, nutrition11 and  
> sleep12, as well as instruction13 and reading14. In short, cognitive- 
> enhancing drugs seem morally equivalent to other, more familiar,  
> enhancements.
> Many people have doubts about the moral status of enhancement drugs  
> for reasons ranging from the pragmatic to the philosophical,  
> including concerns about short-circuiting personal agency and  
> undermining the value of human effort15. Kass16, for example, has  
> written of the subtle but, in his view, important differences  
> between human enhancement through biotechnology and through more  
> traditional means. Such arguments have been persuasively rejected  
> (for example, ref. 17). Three arguments against the use of cognitive  
> enhancement by the healthy quickly bubble to the surface in most  
> discussions: that it is cheating, that it is unnatural and that it  
> amounts to drug abuse.
> Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy  
> (Thanks, Guido!)
> Things you can do from here:
> Subscribe to Boing Boing using Google Reader
> Get started using Google Reader to easily keep up with all your  
> favorite sites

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.extropy.org/pipermail/extropy-chat/attachments/20081211/351b9470/attachment.html>

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list