Developers of NBIC (Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno) technologies face a multitude of obstacles, not the least of which is navigating the public ethics of their applied research. Biotechnologies have received widespread media attention and spawned heated interest in their perceived social implications. Now, in view of the rapidly expanding purview of neuroscience and the growing array of technologic developments capable of affecting or monitoring cognition, the emerging field of neuroethics calls for a consideration of the social and ethical implications of neuroscientific discoveries and trends. To negotiate the complex ethical issues at stake in new and emerging kinds of technologies for improving human cognition, we need to overcome political, disciplinary, and religious sectarianism. We need analytical models that protect values of personhood at the heart of a functional democracy—values that allow, as much as possible, for individual decision-making, despite transformations in our understanding and ability to manipulate cognitive processes. Addressing cognitive enhancement from the legal and ethical notion of “cognitive liberty” provides a powerful tool for assessing and encouraging NBIC developments.
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