July 01, 2004

Neuroethics Stocks Are Up!

I blogged about the neuroethics boom at CNE Health.

In many ways I think the neuroethics debate is a step forward. People are starting to realize how profoundly neuroscience matters to many areas, and that things are happening at a fast pace. If one considers the enormous influence by Freud on the 20th century (for good and ill) it is clear that radical new perspectives on how we function, who we are and what we can do matter. Neuroethics also brings up the enhancement debate, which is great: it needs to be analysed, debated, extended and slowly, slowly turned from transhumanist speculation into mainstream policy. But we who consider many enhancements to be ethically acceptable better participate at an early stage, lest Leon Kass and the others take over.

At the same time I worry that every new field is going to be saddled with its own -ethics: immunoethics, wireless ethics, space ethics, quantum ethics, you name it. Acting morally is necessary in all areas, but not all areas require their own ethics. There is a very real risk that we splinter the field of ethics into a myriad of subdisciplines with little contact with each other, each engaged in discovering or at least debating ethics as it relates to a particular subject but without any overall consistency. That many modern ethicists are far more interested in discussing rather than taking a normative stand or suggest general frameworks contributes to this.

What we need is a general perspective (or several) of what we want to achieve and become, and what we do not want to achieve and become. From such a perspective one can always go down an look at how it could be implemented within quantum ethics or the ethics of soil mechanics. One cannot start from them and go the other way around. Such general perspectives are not necessarily ethical systems per se, but rather goals and visions of what kind of future, humans, society and indivdual lives we want. It is up to us all to formulate them and try to see what fits together.

Posted by Anders at July 1, 2004 01:12 PM

Waldemar Ingdahl pointed out to me that he had actually written a very early neuroethics article too at Tech Central Station: http://www.techcentralstation.com/071103M.html

Just goes to show that 1) people saw the importance of neuroethics fast once it appeared, 2) it is easy to forget what friends and co-workers write.

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