The Brain-Enhancement Revolution Will Be Simulcast

  • “The brain-enhancement revolution is already under way.” CSM has an interesting (if somewhat weak) article on the emerging world of neuroethics. It looks (in part) at what can and cannot be considered ethical in a world where someone can alter her own thought processes using, e.g., Modafinil (originally developed for narcolepsy but now used by those who simply want to be alert)? And of course there are the requisite pop-culture allusions (to make it seem current), but the article manages to raise some half-decent questions. Like where do you draw the line between therapy (i.e., performance-enhancement) and treatment of genuine disease? One question the article doesn’t ask—not explicitly, anyway—and that should be asked in this instance is, what do you do when diseased becomes a subsitution for normal, when not having your “performance” enhanced becomes equated with subnormality, everyone else hopped up on brain-boosters? (CSM: “Strange food for thought,” by Gregory M. Lamb [June 17, 2004])
  • Gone The Next. No one’s going to deny that having a 23-acre lake up and vanish is disconcerting. Things like lakes, we expect them to be fairly constant in whether or not they exist. (AP: “23-acre lake vanishes over the course of days” [June 11, 2004]; St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “”Fyooosh!” So long, Lake Chesterfield” by Joel Currier [June 11, 2004])
  • The Tortuous Logic of Torture. This editorial in the NYT addresses the recurring question of torture. What’s good in particular about this article is that it doesn’t waste a whole lot of breath on the morality of torture—not in anything like acknowledgement that torture is moral, but in acknowledgement that there are better grounds on which to challenge the legitimacy of torture. You should read it yourself, because it’s much more compelling than anything you’re going to read in this one-paragraph blurb, but the gist of it is, torture, often supported morally (if tentatively) in situations where there is imminent danger to large numbers of people, is not terribly successful at quickly obtaining vital information. (Unless you consider inaccurate information and outright lies somehow vital.) In fact, it’s not very good at obtaining information, period. What it is good at, budding democratic torture enthusiasts should note, is the assertion of authority in non-democratic countries. Undoubtedly it would have the same effect in democratic countries, but at the cost of undermining democracy itself. But how many times do I have to say it? Go read the thing. (NYT: “A Dangerous Calculus; What’s Wrong With Torturing a Qaeda Higher-Up?” by Michael Slackman [May 16, 2004])