The brain-gain revolution is already under way. But will these “neural enhancement” drugs turn us into Einsteins or Frankensteins?
What used to be confined to speculative fiction is fast becoming scientific fact. Brain boosting, or “neural enhancement,” is already being done – and much more powerful techniques are on the way. Some observers say we’re rushing into this brain-gain revolution without sufficient thought or preparation.
“We’re about to be handed a bunch of powerful new capabilities … to refashion ourselves, improve ourselves,” notes Martha Farah, a director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, in an e-mail. “We should always think through the ethical consequences of changing ourselves and our lives, for the individual and for society.”
While some may worry that we’ll turn ourselves into a race of Frankensteins, others look forward to new Einsteins. Optimists argue that humans are only doing what they’ve always been doing: trying to improve themselves, whether it’s taking caffeine to stay alert or undergoing cosmetic surgery to change their appearance.