Anticipating the future of neurotechnological enhancement

Nathan Higgins, Cynthia Forlini, Isobel Butorac, John Gardner, Adrian Carter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Otherpeer-review


Neuroscience promises to deliver a range of technological innovations that will allow individuals to enhance their behavior, cognition, and selfhood to achieve outcomes that would not otherwise be possible. These technologies include drugs or other psychoactive substances, brain imaging devices and wearables, monitoring devices to decode brain activity, and invasive and non-invasive brain stimulation technologies. Many of these technologies were developed to treat psychiatric and neurological disorders but have been adopted for a range of non-therapeutic purposes. This chapter briefly reviews these technologies and their clinical applications and offers some tentative predictions about the future of neurotechnological innovation based on an examination of the current state of the science. This review begins with a look at the history of psychopharmacological enhancement and considers the impact of exaggerated claims about the effectiveness and prevalence of drugs to enhance cognition. Next, these issues are explored in the context of more nascent neurotechnological innovations, such as direct-to-consumer or portable brain imaging and stimulating devices, and brain-computer interfaces. Finally, this chapter considers the role of speculation in “anticipatory ethics,” and the authors argue that speculating about the potential impacts of future neurotechnologies requires: (1) critically evaluating findings related to safety, efficacy, and prevalence, (2) engaging with a diverse group of stakeholders, and (3) pursuing multiple empirical avenues.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of the Ethics of Human Enhancement
EditorsFabrice Jotterand, Marcello Ienca
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781000901825, 9781003105596
ISBN (Print)9780367615796, 9780367615819
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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