In a bold 21st Century declaration, a group of intelligent, thoughtful and creative neuroethicists have come forward in this week's Nature with a issue defining article calling for the responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy. Realizing that the age of neurocompetition is arriving, they (Henry Greely, Barbara Sahakian, John Harris, Ronald C. Kessler, Michael Gazzaniga, Philip Campbell & Martha J. Farah) state their case and way forward as follows:
1.Based on our considerations, we call for a presumption that mentally competent adults should be able to engage in cognitive enhancement using drugs.
2. We call for an evidence-based approach to the evaluation of the risks and benefits of cognitive enhancement.
3. We call for enforceable policies concerning the use of cognitive-enhancing drugs to support fairness, protect individuals from coercion and minimize enhancement-related socioeconomic disparities.
4. We call for a programme of research into the use and impacts of cognitive-enhancing drugs by healthy individuals.
5. We call for physicians, educators, regulators and others to collaborate in developing policies that address the use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by healthy individuals.
6. We call for information to be broadly disseminated concerning the risks, benefits and alternatives to pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement.
7. We call for careful and limited legislative action to channel cognitive-enhancement technologies into useful paths.
"Like all new technologies, cognitive enhancement can be used well or poorly. We should welcome new methods of improving our brain function. In a world in which human workspans and lifespans are increasing, cognitive enhancement tools — including the pharmacological — will be increasingly useful for improved quality of life and extended work productivity, as well as to stave off normal and pathological age-related cognitive declines. Safe and effective cognitive enhancers will benefit both the individual and society. But it would also be foolish to ignore problems that such use of drugs could create or exacerbate. With this, as with other technologies, we need to think and work hard to maximize its benefits and minimize its harms."
The complete article offers more comprehensive analysis of the issues, but as we look forward it is clear that the canaries in the coal mine are getting much louder now as we march more fully into our emerging neurosociety. It is critical that we move forward with safety being paramount weighed thoughtfully against the life improving potential of these new tools for individual and societal empowerment.
December 3, 2008
In case you were wondering, I'll try anything once. Here I am at the Society for Neuroscience conference a few weeks back in DC wearing EyeSeeCam, a novel head-mounted camera controlled by the user's eye movements. It allows, for the first time, to literally see the world through somebody else’s eyes.
A mobile eye tracker system continuously directs the camera towards the user's point of gaze, so that the camera captures exactly what the user’s eyes see. The idea to image such a subjective view is not new – it has a long tradition, for example, in the movie-making industry. Movies like ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ (1931) and, more recently, ‘Being John Malkovich’ (1999) contain sequences of so-called point-of-view shots. EyeSeeCam takes this technique a major step further; it accurately captures the highly dynamic retinal content of the user’s visual exploration.
EyeSeeCam is based on the combination of two technologies: an eye tracking and a camera motion device that operates as an artificial eye. The challenges in designing such a system are mobility, high bandwidth, and low total latency. These challenges are met by a newly developed lightweight eye tracker that is able to synchronously measure binocular eye positions at up to 600 Hertz. The camera motion device consists of a parallel kinematics setup with a backlash-free gimbal joint that is driven by piezo actuators with no reduction gears. As a result, the latency between eye rotations and the camera is as low as 10 milliseconds.
EyeSeeCam provides a new tool for fundamental studies in vision research, particularly, on human gaze behavior in the real world. This prototype is a first attempt to combine free user mobility with biological image stabilization and unrestricted exploration of the visual surround in a man-made technical vision system.
I wore it all around the exhibition floor and as you might imagine ended up in quite a few interesting conversations. Upon analyzing the video it became apparent that I'm a fan of people's ears and shoes. Go figure.
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