A confluence of factors makes this the perfect time to ask questions about how neurotechnologies that influence behavior, moral cognition and religious experiences should be used in the future. People on the Christian Right are embroiled in a debate about whether to accept scientific evidence for a biological basis for sexual orientation, and if they do, whether parents should “fix” their gay children in utero. Psychologists and economists are researching the genetic, life course and environmental factors that influence well-being, yielding findings such as cosmetic surgery being as strong a contributor to happiness as religious participation. Bioethics have created the subgenre of neuroethics to examine brain fingerprinting, memory modification and other neurotechnologies.
Devices are being tested to measure empathy and vulnerability to temptation. Resistance is growing internationally to the disastrous policies of “warring” on psychoactive drugs, and in the process on cognitive liberty itself. Neurophilosophers are arguing for a thorough grounding of philosophy in neurology and evolutionary psychology. People of faith are increasingly entering into dialogue with human enhancement advocates about the theological significance of the transhumanist project.
So the IEET will be launching the Cyborg Buddha Project to combine our efforts and promote discussion of the impact that neuroscience and emerging neurotechnologies will have on happiness, spirituality, cognitive liberty, moral behavior and the exploration of meditational and ecstatic states of mind. This project will be under the direction of IEET Executive Director James Hughes, and IEET Board of Directors members Michael LaTorra and George Dvorsky.
James Hughes - a former Buddhist monk and attenuated Buddho-Unitarian - is writing a book tentatively titled Cyborg Buddha: Using Neurotechnology to Become Better People.
Mike LaTorra - a Zen priest and author of A Warrior Blends with Life: A Modern Tao - runs the Trans-Spirit list promoting discussion of neurotheology, neuroethics, techno-spirituality and altered states of consciousness.
George Dvorsky - a practicing Buddhist - writes and podcasts frequently from a rationalist, transhumanist, and Buddhist point of view, winning him an award this year as one of the best Buddhist blogs.
Despite the title and project leaders, the project is not strictly focused on Buddhism or Buddhist psychology, and we welcome feedback and collaboration from anyone from any faith or faithless point of view interested in these topics.