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Advances in Neurotechnology: Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues


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Neuroscience and neurotechnology have progressed through a reciprocal relationship of tasks and tools: advances in technology have enabled discovery in the neurosciences, and neuroscientific questions and concepts have fueled development of new technologies with which to study and manipulate nervous systems and the brain. Neuroimaging, neurostimulatory and neuroprosthetic devices, neurogenetics, and unique pharmacological agents and approaches have shown considerable promise in improving the diagnosis and treatment of neurological injury and neuropsychiatric disorders and may expand the boundaries of human performance and human– machine interaction. Despite apparent limitations, these technologies increasingly are used to define, predict, and control cognition, emotions, and behaviors, and they have been instrumental in challenging long-held beliefs about the nature of the mind and the self, morality, and human nature. Thus, neuroscience and neurotechnology are implicitly and explicitly shaping our worldview—and our world.

On the one hand, neuroscience and neurotechnology may be regarded as a set of resources and tools with which to answer perdurable questions about humanity and nature, whereas, on the other hand, we must consider the profound questions that neurotechnology will foster. Can neurotechnology resolve the problem of consciousness—and if so, what will be the implications of such findings for social thought and conduct? Will these technologies take us to the point of being beyond human? What values drive our use—and potential misuses—of neurotechnologies? How will neurotechnology affect the international balance of economic, social, and political power? Should neurotechnology be employed by the military, and if so, how? Are there limits to neurotechnological research and use, and if so, what are they, who shall decide what they are, and what ethical criteria might be required to guide the use of neurotechnologies and the outcomes they achieve?

Such questions are not merely hypothetical or futuristic; rather, they reflect the current realities and realistic projections of neurotechnological progress, and they reveal the moral, ethical, and legal issues and problems that must be confronted when considering the ways that neurotechnology can and should be employed and how such utilization will affect various individuals, communities, and society at large. Confronting these issues necessitates discussion of the benefits, burdens, and harms that particular neurotechnologies could incur and the resources that are needed to govern neurotechnological progress. The discourse must be interdisciplinary in its constitution, delivery, and appeal, and therefore, any authentic effort in this regard must conjoin the natural, physical, and social sciences as well as the humanities.

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Neurotechnology in National Security and Defense: Practical Considerations, Neuroethical Concerns

Neurotechnology in National Security and Defense: Practical Considerations, Neuroethical Concerns

James Giordano
September 25, 2014

Neurotechnology in National Security and Defense: Practical Considerations, Neuroethical Concerns is the second volume in the Advances in Neurotechnology series. It specifically addresses the neuroethical, legal, and social issues arising from the use of neurotechnology in national security and...

Neurotechnology: Premises, Potential, and Problems

Neurotechnology: Premises, Potential, and Problems

James Giordano
April 26, 2012

New technologies that allow us to investigate mechanisms and functions of the brain have shown considerable promise in treating brain disease and injury. These emerging technologies also provide a means to assess and manipulate human consciousness, cognitions, emotions, and behaviors, bringing with...

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