IEET > Rights > HealthLongevity > CognitiveLiberty > Directors > Mark Walker > Staff > J. Hughes > Enablement
Mark Walker and James Hughes on Cognitive Enhancement in Free Inquiry
Jul 29, 2009  

Pick up a copy of Free Inquiry. They have a special issue out on Designer Moods: The Ethics of Neurochemical Enhancement with pieces by IEET ED James Hughes and IEET Board member Mark Walker.

David Koepsell: “Designer Moods: The Ethics of Neurochemical Enhancement”

James J. Hughes: “Social Pressures for Technological Mood Management”

Mark Alan Walker: “The Case for Happy-People Pills”

Ronald A. Lindsay: “The Uncharted Moral Landscape of Designer Personalities”


As I understand Walker’s article, he argues that we don’t have a false dichotomy where we have to choose either happiness or achievement, but not both. Instead, the empirical evidence seems to show that happy people tend to achieve more than unhappy people through a virtuous synergy, though we don’t understand all the feedback loops. If we could make less happy people more like the successful “hyperthymic” people through pharmacology, then we might see more achievement all around. And all this without postulating some woo-woo “law of attraction” like in “The Secret”!

I wonder about the scarcity of the high achievement spots, however. We already see plenty of perfectly good engineers, scientists, mathematicians and programmers in the U.S. who can’t find the jobs they trained for, and who’ve therefore had to take stupid-people’s service jobs just to have some income. I have yet to see an accounting of the opportunity costs this trend imposes on our economy. These technically capable people did consume valuable resources in their educations which they can’t replenish now given their low wages and inability to pay much in taxes. Would happy-people pills just add more frustrated techies to their ranks?

I don’t think high achievement means being a techie, it could mean being a better electrical contractor or making more or better dresses or cakes.

While it’s a pity if scientists have to struggle, it is possible that educating a lot of scientists, engineers or programmers is a misallocation of resources.  I’m not sure more scientists efficiently leads to more real breakthroughs even if they are employed as scientists

This is because the paths to new ground might be hard to find leading most scientists and engineers working on basicallyold stuff.

If we’ve reached diminishing returns from further investments into science and engineering, then that pretty much discredits the prospect of a “singularity,” along with many other science-fictional scenarios for humanity’s future.

In fact, I’ve wondered how foolish Ray Kurzweil would look if the very smart people he’s drawn to his Singularity University study the facts and trends carefully, then announce to the world their conclusion that further technological won’t make much difference.

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