Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Downloading Happiness

By Sorab Arora

Sorab Arora is currently a Master’s in Public Health student at Emory University, specializing in Healthcare Management and Policy. He has researched health technology design and strategy focused on behavioral medicine, most recently at Northwestern University’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies. Arora is a graduate of both the University of Chicago (Summer Business Scholar – 2017) and Grinnell College (2016), where he has bridged social entrepreneurship with mobile technologies and medical innovation. 

With median adult smartphone ownership rising to nearly 70% in advanced markets, individuals ranging from wealthy millennials to homeless youth have unprecedented access to mobile technologies (Poushter, 2016; Ben-Zeev et al., 2013). From “swiping” potential soulmates to ordering prescription glasses to one’s door, the proliferation of opportunities for immediate gratification through mobile applications only continues to grow. In what economists have now termed the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” this period of integrated consumer technologies focuses on human-centered design and improved efficiency across global sectors (Schwab, 2017). In healthcare especially, mobile health (mHealth) platforms offer an innovative new element to how medicine can be conceptualized, delivered, and implemented. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Brain In Context

By Sarah W. Denton

Sarah W. Denton is a research assistant with the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Wilson Center. Denton is also a research assistant with the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University. Her research primarily focuses on ethical and governance implications for emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, neurotechnology, gene-editing technology, and pharmaceuticals. 

Tim Brown, University of Washington PhD student and research assistant with the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering’s (CSNE) Neuroethics Thrust, introduced the session titled, “The Brain in Context,” at the International Neuroethics Society’s 2017 Annual Meeting moderated by Husseini Manji, Janssen Global Therapeutic Neuroscience Area Head. This session provided a multidisciplinary view of the challenges we face today in understanding the context of lived experiences and how our brains impact our environments. Getting at the heart of the context in which our brains develop and grow may help us to reduce stigma by increasing our understanding of how our environments impact our brains in a myriad of ways.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Practical and Ethical Considerations in Consciousness Restoration

By Tabitha Moses

Tabitha Moses is a second year MD/PhD (Translational Neuro-science) Candidate at Wayne State University School of Medicine. She earned a BA in Cognitive Science and Philosophy and an MS in Biotechnology from The Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on substance use, mental illness, and emerging neurotechnologies. Her current interests in neuroethics include the concepts of treatment and enhancement and how these relate to our use of new technologies as well as how we define disability.

What does it mean to be conscious? In Arthur Caplan’s plenary session at the 2017 International Neuroethics Society annual meeting (Neuromodulation of the Dead, Persistent Vegetative State, and Minimally Conscious), he explored this question and how the answers may impact research and medicine. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Black Mirror in the Rear-View Mirror: An Interview with the Authors

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The Neuroethics Blog hosted a special series on Black Mirror over the past year, originally coinciding with the release of its third season on Netflix. Black Mirror is noted for its telling of profoundly human stories in worlds shaped by current or future technologies. Somnath Das, now a medical student at Thomas Jefferson University, founded the Blog’s series on Black Mirror. Previous posts covered "Be Right Back", "The Entire History of You""Playtest", "San Junipero", "Men Against Fire", "White Bear", and "White Christmas". With Season 4 released at the end of December 2017, Somnath reconvened with contributing authors Nathan Ahlgrim, Sunidhi Ramesh, Hale Soloff, and Yunmiao Wang to review the new episodes and discuss the common neuroethical threads that pervade Black Mirror.
The discussion has been edited for clarity and conciseness. 

*SPOILER ALERT* - The following contains plot spoilers for the Netflix television series Black Mirror.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Ethical Design of Intelligent Robots

By Sunidhi Ramesh

The main dome of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT).
(Image courtesy of Wikimedia.)
The morning of February 1, 2018, MIT President L. Rafael Reif sent an email addressed to the entire institute community. In it was an announcement introducing the world to a new era of innovation—the MIT Intelligence Quest, or MIT IQ.

Formulated to “advance the science and engineering of both human and machine intelligence,” the project aims “to discover the foundations of human intelligence and drive the development of technological tools that can positively influence virtually every aspect of society.” The kicker? MIT IQ not only exists to develop these futuristic technologies, but it also seeks to “investigate the social and ethical implications of advanced analytical and predictive tools.”

In other words, one of the most famous and highly ranked universities in the world has dedicated itself to preemptively consider the consequences of the future of technology while simultaneously developing that same technology in hopes of making a “better world.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

One Track Moral Enhancement

By Nada Gligorov

Nada Gligorov is an associate professor in the Bioethics Program of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is also faculty for the Clarkson University-Icahn School of Medicine Bioethics Masters Program. The primary focus of Nada’s scholarly work is the examination of the interaction between commonsense and scientific theories. Most recently, she authored of a monograph titled Neuroethics and the Scientific Revision of Common Sense (Studies in Brain and Mind, Springer). In 2014, Nada founded the Working Papers in Ethics and Moral Psychology speaker series–a working group where speakers are invited to present well-developed, as yet unpublished work.

Within the debate on neuroenhancement, cognitive and moral enhancements have been discussed as two different kinds of improvements achievable by different biomedical means. Pharmacological means that improve memory, attention, decision-making, or wakefulness have been accorded the status of “cognitive enhancers,” while attempts to improve empathy or diminish aggression have been categorized as “moral enhancements.” According to Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu (2008; 2012), cognitive enhancement could outstrip our natural abilities to improve commonsense morality. The view of commonsense morality as static motivates Persson and Savulescu (2008) to establish two distinct tracts of enhancement and to argue that cognitive enhancement needs to be coupled with moral enhancement to prevent the negative impact of rapid scientific progress that might be precipitated by the use of cognitive enhancers. To argue that cognitive enhancement might lead to improvements both in science and in commonsense morality, I will propose that commonsense morality is a folk theory with features similar to a scientific theory.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

International Neuroethics Society Annual Meeting Summary: Ethics of Neuroscience and Neurotechnology

By Ian Stevens

Ian is a 4th year undergraduate student at Northern Arizona University. He is majoring in Biomedical Sciences with minors in Psychological Sciences and Philosophy to pursue interdisciplinary research on how medicine, neuroscience, and philosophy connect. 

At the 2017 International Neuroethics Society Annual Meeting, an array of neuroscientists, physicians, philosophers, and lawyers gathered to discuss the ethical implications of neuroscientific research in addiction, neurotechnology, and the judicial system. A panel consisting of Dr. Frederic Gilbert with the University of Washington, Dr. Merlin Bittlinger, with the Universitätsmedizin Berlin РCharité, and Dr. Anna Wexler with the University of Pennsylvania presented their research on the ethics of neurotechnologies.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Anniversary of the First Neuroethics Conference (No, Not That One)

By Jonathan D. Moreno

Jonathan D. Moreno is the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania where he is a Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) professor. At Penn he is also Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, of History and Sociology of Science, and of Philosophy.  His latest book is Impromptu Man: J.L. Moreno and the Origins of Psychodrama, Encounter Culture, and the Social Network (2014), which Amazon called a “#1 hot new release.”  Among his previous books are The Body Politic, which was named a Best Book of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, Mind Wars (2012), and Undue Risk (2000).

The 15th anniversary of what is widely viewed as the first neuroethics conference, “Neuroethics: Mapping the Field” was celebrated in 2017. The meeting was held in San Francisco, organized by the University of California and Stanford, and sponsored by the Dana Foundation. Cerebrum, the journal that is published by the foundation, celebrated the anniversary by publishing short memoirs by some of the speakers, including my own. The feature was dubbed “The First Neuroethics Meeting.”

Except that it wasn’t. The first conference that was recognizably about neuroethics was held in Washington, D.C. under the auspices of a conservative think tank, and its 20th anniversary is in 2018. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The International Roots of Future Neuroethics

By Denis Larrivee 

Denis Larrivee is a Visiting Scholar at the Neiswanger Bioethics Institute
Loyola University Chicago and a member of the International Neuroethics Society 
communication committee. He also serves on the editorial board for the journal Neurology and Neurological Sciences, where he is the section head for neuroscience. He is currently the editor of a text on Brain Computer Interfacing and Brain Dynamics. 

The reappearance in 2017 of the Ambassador Session at the International Neuroethics Soci-ety’s annual meeting underlines both the rapid upswing of global investment in neuroscience and the internationally perceived need for ethical deliberation about its interpretive significance, distinctive cultural manifestations, and evolution of complementary policy and juridical structures best serving global versus regional interests. The 2017 session juxtaposed the more mature organizational approaches of the American and European neuroethical programs against recent undertakings in Asia, a juxtaposition that helped to clarify how neuroethics progress is conditioned by local neuroscience research priorities and how more established programs assist in cross-cultural transmission to shape budding, national efforts. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Neuroethics Women to Watch

By Judy Illes, CM, PHD,
Immediate Past President, International Neuroethics Society (INS)

Dr. Illes is Professor of Neurology and Canada Research Chair in Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia. Her research, teaching and service focus on ethical, legal, social and policy challenges specifically at the intersection of the brain sciences and biomedical ethics. Her latest book, Neuroethics: Anticipating the Future (Oxford University Press) was released in July 2017. Dr. Illes hold many prestigious awards for her work both in neuroethics and on behalf of women in science. She was appointed to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian award, in December 2017. 

During the two years that I was President of the INS, and really since 2002 overall when we first set the modern neuroethics vision in motion, one of my greatest joys has been to work with outstanding people in our field. I have relentlessly sought to create opportunities for leadership especially among early career neuroethicists who seek to contribute, sometimes in the footsteps of more senior people and sometimes along a completely separate path that they set of their own. My focus has been on the women and men of our field alike and, during my term as President specifically, these opportunities unfolded in different forms. Working with remarkable staff led by Karen Graham (INS Executive Director) since the birth of the INS and Elaine Snell (Chief Operating Officer), and the INS Board, I created an Emerging Issues Task Force, for example, a Rising Star Lecture (Kreitmair, 2017), and many podium opportunities at our annual meetings.