Posts Tagged enhancement

A review of The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand Enhance, and Empower the Mind

*This post by Katie Strong was initially featured on The Neuroethics Blog.

IMG_20140523_172321Katie Strong is a 4th year chemistry graduate student working in Dr. Dennis Liotta’s laboratory at Emory University. Prior to graduate school, Katie received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Mary Washington, where she worked towards the development of polyethylene glycol guanidinylation reagents for protecting alkylguanidines. Katie’s graduate school research has focused on the development and synthesis of N-methyl-ᴅ-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunit selective potentiators to be used as therapeutic probes for the study of schizophrenia and cognitive enhancement. Katie is also an Editorial Intern at the American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience (AJOB Neuroscience), along with a supporting editor and regular contributor to The Neuroethics Blog, the official blog of AJOB Neuroscience.

The Future of the Mind, authored by physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, explores how neuroscience might inform questions that philosophers have been debating for centuries: Do we have a soul? What happens after we die? Do we even have to die? And what would it take to produce a robot with human consciousness or emotions? To explore these questions, Dr. Kaku interviewed hundreds of scientists who are actively conducting ground breaking work in labs around the world, and from these conversations he made predictions on how these scientific findings would shape our future. The work that Dr. Kaku discusses, such as the latest advances in brain-computer-interfaces (BCI) for the disabled,1 recording dream images with MRI machines,2 or implanting memories in mice,3,4 makes for a fascinating and engrossing read from start to finish. The Future of the Mind is at its best when taking readers through these areas of research and explaining the long-term significance, however many of the neurophilosophical questions posed are largely left to the readers’ imaginations for resolution.

The Future of the Mind is divided into three parts or books, and each book delves more and more into the technology of the future and the type of society that will exist decades and centuries from now. Book I sets the stage for how important physics is for neuroscience; the revolutionary technologies such as MRI, PET, and DBS have used basic physics knowledge, as Dr. Kaku notes, to promote the explosion of advances in the field of neuroscience. The state of these technologies in current research is introduced, along with how to conceptualize consciousness, and in Book II, he discusses how these technologies will enable us to conduct acts similar to telepathy and telekinesis, manipulate thoughts and memories, and enhance intelligence. Book III revisits the idea of consciousness and explores the possibilities related to mind-altering technologies, and suggests we reframe our understanding of consciousness beyond a single type of consciousness (i.e., dreaming, drug-induced states, and mental illnesses). He also suggests that the future understandings of consciousness may move beyond humans to include robots and aliens. Book III also explores ideas straight out of science fiction such as that one day our physical bodies will be too cumbersome for travel to other galaxies through deep space, so we’ll simply leave them behind.

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Meet a Member: Dr. Veronica Johansson

bild V1Dr. Veronica Johansson is an ethicist with a specialization in neuroethics and nanoethics. The foci of her research have been deep brain stimulation, brain-machine interfaces, major depressive disorder, human enhancement, nanomedicine and notions of authenticity and identity raised by neuromodulation techniques. Her current work foremost addresses ‘embedded ethics’, a method within bioethics that draws on both empirical ethics and casuistry, and ‘embedded patients’, i.e. patients integrated as collaborators in research, for instance in the formulation of research questions, to set research priorities and in validating research outcomes. A general theme throughout all her research is to detect and elaborate on biases and underrepresented perspectives, as well as separating facts from fiction and unfounded beliefs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Human enhancement and brain stimulation

Laura Cabrera, Ph.D. is a visiting postdoctoral research fellow at the Core where she is working on a project that explores the attitudes of the general public regarding cognitive enhancement. Laura Cabrera is a postdoctoral researcher in bioethics and emergent technologies in the Institute for Biomedical Ethics at Basel University. Laura received a BSc in Electrical and Communication Engineering from the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico City, and a MA in Applied Ethics from Linköping University in Sweden. She received a PhD in Applied Ethics from Charles Sturt University in Australia. Laura’s current research focuses on neuroethics and emergent technologies, especially those connected to uses of neurotechnologies and individual/societal implications and perspectives.

Human enhancement has become an umbrella term to refer to a wide range of existing, emerging and visionary technological interventions that blur the boundaries between interventions aimed at therapy and those beyond therapy and species typical features, as well as interventions targeting vulnerabilities, prevention, restoration, rehabilitation, and protection from harms. Read the rest of this entry »

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