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Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants
Abstract of "Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues in Neurotechnology Research: Confronting the Boundaries and Considering the Implications"
Dennis K. McBride
Quantum Leap Incorporated, and Center for Public Policy Studies, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA
In the past decade, neuroscience has become something of a focal point for applications of biotechnologies; the pace of neuroscientific discovery is fueled in part by the synergy of new technology in genetic, stem cell, and nanosciences, and neuroscientific advances are being applied in medicine and integrated into the fabric of social conduct and daily life. But the reality that knowledge of the brain and mind remains incomplete and contingent prompts us to consider what Matthew Crawford has regarded as "... the limits of neuro-talk." Still, neuroscience and neurotechnology ardently advance. Neurotechnologies have allowed unparalleled capability to bring groups of individuals together through rapid communication and informational delivery, providing insight to the brain-mind workings, and perhaps creating venues to link humans to each other, and to nonhuman "others" as well. Yet despite the apparent unifying characteristics of these technologies, the paradox remains that these technologies may also incur more dystopian possibilities by isolating individuals as "disjointed selves" that are only artificially, and therefore superficially, "connected" to others, and in this way, are not conjoined to the meaning, or moral realities of intersubjective, interpersonal relationships. Thus, through the pace of our discovery we are poised at the boundaries of knowledge and possibilityeach and all may be utilized to both enhance and diminish human flourishing in numerous domains (including but not limited to health care, social status and utility, and national security and defense). Like it or not, we must acknowledge that these boundaries exist, take measure of their margins, recognize the limits of current knowledge, and advance our investigations and applications with prudent precaution. Such caution need not impede the pace or progress of scientific research and/or technologic development, since this would be antithetic to the incentives of both science and philosophy. However, what is called for is careful reflectionon what we know, how we know it, and the values and beliefs that drive the quest for knowledge and its use. It may be that we are on a "cognitive crest," riding an epistemic wave that is propelled by the nature of mind, advanced by the inquiry and knowledge gained to date, and existing at a point that allows us to apprehend both what has come before and the uncertainties and possibilities of what may lie ahead. Through this presentation, we hope to develop a perspective that allows perhaps to reflect and respond in ways that can direct the wave of inquiry and utilization, avoid drowning in uncertainty, and mitigate the misuse of knowledge and technology.
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