Taming the Beast: Cognitive Enhancement, Ethical Implications, and Regulating Today for Tomorrow’s Scientific and Technological Advancements in Neuroscience
Scientific discovery and technological advances in neuroscience have created the newly formed field of cognitive enhancement. Cognitive enhancement is improving the psychological or intellectual functions of individuals who are not ill. While the opportunities may be endless, careful scrutiny must be paid to the looming ethical implications of improving the cognitive function of an individual with no specific illness or disorder. Because of the increasingly accelerated pace of research and development in the field of neuroscience, it is important that the government, along with key stakeholders and the community-at-large, address these ethical considerations and devise a comprehensive regulatory framework to provide the appropriate guidelines for this emerging science.
Part I of this Article will define cognitive enhancement and delineate the difference between treatment and enhancement. Part I identifies cognitive enhancers, including “smart drugs,” memory enhancement and dampening drugs, and dietary supplements, and considers the possibility of a time when humans will no longer be the innovative power behind cognitive enhancement. Part II addresses the ethical implications of cognitive enhancement, such as human dignity and the devaluation of normal, fairness and equality, coercion and pressure to use in a competitive culture, control versus treatment, safety and efficacy, and innovation and the notion of cognitive liberties. Part III outlines the regulatory framework necessary to meet these ethical concerns. In conclusion, Part IV reaffirms the need for a comprehensive regulatory framework to address the ethical implication of cognitive enhancement.