About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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Brain Waves

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October 15, 2003

Neuroceuticals are Tools

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Neuroceuticals are tools. They hold the promise and peril of any new set of tools.

Tools like the oxen plow, railroads, electricity, automobiles, planes, cell phones, and the web, have all in one way or another been used for good and evil purposes.

By providing new tools for people to manage their behavior and empathize with others, neurotechnology represents potential breakthroughs in human productivity, political stability and ecological balance. In the wrong hands, this technology also could be used for mind control, coercive truth detection or as neuroweapons that have the potential to erase the memories or feelings of entire populations.

Neuroceuticals, although perhaps daunting and perhaps a bit scary because they have the capacity to influence our moods and perceptions, are being developed rapidly. My purpose is to help begin a broad and thoughtful public discussion of the social implications of neuroceuticals before they arrive. My intention is not to promote them but to highlight the fact that they will emerge no matter what stringent standards may be adopted by most of the world's governments.

My thinking is that neuroceutical adoption for competitive advantage will likely begin outside the jurisdiction of western governments, as the regulatory process will be slow to adapt. It is in the smaller countries or regions that initial adoption will occur where the political process can be persuaded quickly.

Moreover, when people within large multinational companies begin to experience the advantages these new tools bring, the pressure to accept and legalize them will grow quickly. Governments and regions that don’t won’t be able to compete. It would be as if a region didn’t allow telephone service.

Neuroceuticals will one day be considered very ordinary and disappear into people’s daily lives like all successful technologies do. Just like irrigation is an invention we don't think about much anymore, neurotechnology will in time seamlessly become part of our lives.

Comments (1) | Category: Neuropharma


1. Chris on October 17, 2003 5:28 PM writes...

For what it is worth, I agree whole-heartedly that massive "...[neuro-tech] adoption... will likely begin outside ... western governments." Just look at the breadth of government-sponsored technological advances throughout Asia, with everything from better cell-phone networks to widely-used air-traffic-control technology that is decades ahead of what we have in the states.

But I fear the assessment that the implemented neuro-tech revolution will beging with “smaller countries” [than the US] is probably misguided--- Look no further than mighty China, which has already demonstrated its massive dedication to both bio- and high-tech (without having to worry about the FDA, restrictions on testing human subjects, or religious and popular outcry). My guess is put your money on China to be the first country popularize and utilize massive neuro-tech implementations….

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