Tag: enhancement technologies

Bioethics Blogs

What can neuroethicists learn from public attitudes about moral bioenhancement?

By Peter Reiner

Dr. Reiner is Professor and co-founder of the National Core for Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia where he is a member of the Department of Psychiatry and the Centre for Brain Health. Dr. Reiner began his research career studying the cellular and molecular physiology of the brain, with particular interests in the neurobiology of behavioural states and the molecular underpinnings of neurodegenerative disease. In 1998, Dr. Reiner became President and CEO of Active Pass Pharmaceuticals, a drug discovery company that he founded to tackle the scourge of Alzheimer’s disease. Upon returning to academic life in 2004, Dr. Reiner refocused his scholarly work in the area of neuroethics, co-founding the National Core for Neuroethics with Dr. Judy Illes in 2007. Dr. Reiner has championed quantitative analysis of public attitudes towards diverse issues in neuroethics including the propriety of cognitive and moral enhancement, the contours of autonomy in the real world, and the neuroethical implications of Technologies of the Extended Mind.

Moral behavior is fundamental to human society. Wherever one goes on the planet, one finds a set of norms that guide behavior, and following these norms is a basic tenet of peaceful coexistence with one’s fellow humans. Despite abundant evidence that the arc of human history trends towards decreased violence (Pinker, 2011), a proxy for moral behavior, scholars have suggested that society might be better off were we to enhance our moral capacities, and that using biological methods to do so is warranted (Douglas, 2008; Persson and Savulescu, 2008). This has engendered a vigorous debate that goes beyond the usual divide between bioconservatives and technoprogressives (Reiner, 2013a); in this arena, even ardent proponents of enhancement technologies have registered dissent (Harris, 2010).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

I <3 Intended Use (and why some new technologies may fall within FDA jurisdiction)

Cross-posted on Objective Intent

A few news stories over the past week or so—one in the Wall Street Journal about “neurotech,” one in Geek Gadget about “neuroscience wearables,” one in the Washington Post about baby monitors for measuring an infant’s vital signs, and one in Gizmodo about “vaginal wellness products” marketed on Etsy—reminded me how much I enjoy questions of intended use.  As I wrote more about here, intended use is a critical concept in FDA law, in part because a product’s intended use is crucial to determining whether it meets the law’s definition of drug or device within the FDA’s jurisdiction.  And, for whatever reason, I have an unabashed and—as far as I can tell—limitless love for thinking through questions about whether, and how, products fall with the definition of a drug or device.

As for the reported neurotech, neuro-wearable, baby monitor, and vaginal wellness products, it seems to me that many of these products may fall within the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act’s (FDCA) definitions of drugs or devices.  Why is that?

The FDCA defines drugs and devices as products “intended for use” in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of diseases, or “intended to affect the structure or any function of the body.”  And this definition is very broad.

The “disease” piece of the definition captures things like cancer therapies and artificial heart valves—products that fit comfortably within what many commonly understand to be drugs and devices subject to FDA regulation.  But, because implicit claims about addressing disease can also cause a product to fall with the definition of a drug or device, this part of the definition also might capture things like baby monitors marketed as measuring breathing and oxygen levels.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Public Opposes Human Germline

The public is firmly — overwhelmingly — opposed to using gene editing for heritable “enhancement&rdquo; purposes. Many people, if pressed, will support the concept of heritable “cures&rdquo; that for the foreseeable future, at least, are not practical and rarely needed, if at all. It is not clear, however, how many of the public (and perhaps the pollsters) have an adequate grasp of the issues involved in heritable human genetic modification (HGM).

CGS has for a decade been collecting polling data going back to 1986: over 50 polls, some of them international, on HGM and/or human cloning are summarized here. Assessing that data, however, has always been tricky.

Polls tend to show that public sentiment about human biotechnologies is strongly ambivalent. Most people value their potential to alleviate suffering, yet are apprehensive about the social consequences of some applications. Public opinion on HGM is particularly difficult to assess because of the ambiguity of some of the questions and the terminology used. Opposition decreases with increased emphasis on cures, and increases with emphasis on non-medical or “enhancement&rdquo; uses, such as&nbsp; improving intelligence.

Interpreting the data is now of much more than academic interest. Many scientists and policymakers have begun looking for a “broad societal consensus&rdquo; to guide decision-making about the limits that should be put in place for human genetic applications.

Prompted by this, Robert Blendon, Mary Gorski and John Benson published a survey article, “The Public and the Gene-Editing Revolution” in the New England Journal of Medicine on April 14th. It analyzes, and links, 17 U.S.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

A New Edition of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics Is Now Available

May 4, 2016

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics (vol. 37, no. 1, 2016) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Human Vulnerability in Medical Contexts” by Steve Matthews and Bernadette Tobin
  • “The New Enhancement Technologies and the Place of Vulnerability in Our Lives” by John G. Quilter
  • “Dependence and a Kantian Conception of Dignity as a Value” by Philippa Byers
  • “Fragility, Uncertainty, and Healthcare” by Wendy A. Rogers and Mary J. Walker
  • “Diagnosing True Virtue? Remote Scenarios, Warranted Virtue Attributions, and Virtuous Medical Practice” by Justin Oakley
  • “On the Fragility of Medical Virtue in a Neoliberal Context: The Case of Commercial Conflicts of Interest in Reproductive Medicine” by Christopher Mayes, et al.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals — March 2016, Part I by Anna Zogas

Here is the first installment of articles published in March. There is a special issue of East Asian Science, Technology and Society on “Body and Enhancement Technology,” and I also want to note that there are reviews of several recently published books about disability collected in this month’s Sociology of Health & Illness.

BioSocieties

DSM over time: From legitimisation of authority to hegemony
Katia Romelli, Alessandra Frigerio and Monica Colombo

The proposed revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), has reignited a protracted debate in psychiatry and clinical psychology regarding the criteria used to diagnose and classify mental disorders. Drawing on the concepts of legitimisation and hegemony, the aim of this study is to deconstruct how the authoritativeness of the DSM was discursively constructed, legitimised and consolidated over time. To fulfil this purpose, we combine a critical psychology perspective with critical discourse analysis and adopt a multi-level model of analysis that embraces the notions of genre and repertoire in scientific discourse. The materials were approached considering the following interrelated dimensions: (a) semantic macro-areas; (b) discursive strategies; and (c) linguistic means. The data set is constituted by the Forewords and Introductions of different editions of the DSM, from the DSM-I through to the DSM-5. The analysis highlights the discursive strategies that play an important role in self-legitimisation and the construction of a dominant hegemonic discourse.

Ferreting things out: Biosecurity, pandemic flu and the transformation of experimental systems
Natalie Hannah Porter

At the end of 2011, microbiologists created a scientific and media frenzy by genetically engineering mutant avian flu viruses that transmitted through the air between ferrets, the animal most widely used to model human flu.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Human Gene Editing: A Global Discussion

Fran&ccedil;oise Baylis explains “On Human Gene Editing: International Summit Statement&rdquo; to the participants at the American Association for the Advancement of Science 2016 Annual Meeting.

__________________________________________

Last December, at the end of the three day International Summit on Human Gene Editing in Washington D.C., the Organizing Committee issued a closing Statement. This statement included four discrete conclusions. As the science and politics continue to evolve, a quick refresher is in order.

First, the Committee formally endorsed basic and preclinical research on any and all human cells, provided this was done in accordance with “appropriate legal and ethical rules and oversight.&rdquo; This would include lab research on somatic cells (i.e., body cells whose genomes are not transmitted to subsequent generations) as well as research on eggs, sperm and human embryos (i.e., germ cells whose genomes are transmitted to subsequent generations if they are used in reproduction).

This conclusion demonstrated approval for past and forthcoming gene editing research involving human embryos. Accordingly, the experiment involving the editing of human embryos published in April 2015 by a group of Chinese scientists would be considered “legitimate.&rdquo; This is not a comment on the ethics or the science of the research. This is merely to say that the research in non-viable human embryos using CRISPR-Cas9 technology to “repair&rdquo; the HBB gene that can cause beta-thalassemia was done in accordance with applicable rules in China (and, for that matter, applicable rules in a number of other countries). Similarly, the research approved in February 2016 by the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority in the United Kingdom, to better understand the basic biology of human development, would also be considered “legitimate.&rdquo;

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Toward a Typology of Transhumanism

Years ago, James Hughes sought to typify the emerging political debate over transhumanism with a three-axis political scale, adding a biopolitical dimension to the familiar axes of social and fiscal libertarianism. But transhumanism is a very academic issue, both in the sense that many transhumanists, including Hughes, are academics, and in the sense that it is very removed from everyday practical concerns. So it may make more sense to characterize the different types of transhumanists in terms of the kinds of intellectual positions to which they adhere rather than to how they relate to different positions on the political spectrum. As Zoltan Istvan’s wacky transhumanist presidential campaign shows us, transhumanism is hardly ready for prime time when it comes to American politics.

And so, I propose a continuum of transhumanist thought, to help observers understand the intellectual differences between some of its proponents — based on three different levels of support for human enhancement technologies.

First, the most mild form of transhumanists: those who embrace the human enhancement project, or reject most substantive limits to human enhancement, but who do not have a very concrete vision of what kinds of things human enhancement technology may be used for. In terms of their intellectual background, these mild transhumanists can be defined by their diversity rather than their unity. They adhere to some of the more respectable philosophical schools, such as pragmatism, various kinds of liberalism, or simply the thin, “formally rational” morality of mainstream bioethics. Many of these mild transhumanists are indeed professional bioethicists in good standing. Few,

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Shrewder speculation: the challenge of doing anticipatory ethics well

by Dr. Hannah Maslen 
Hannah Maslen is a Research Fellow in Ethics at the Oxford Martin School and the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. She currently works on the Oxford Martin Programme on Mind and Machine, where she examines the ethical, legal, and social implications of various brain intervention and interface technologies, from brain stimulation devices to virtual reality. 

In its Gray Matters report, the United States Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues underscored the importance of integrating ethics and neuroscience early and throughout the research endeavor. In particular, the Commission declared: 

“As we anticipate personal and societal implications of using such technologies, ethical considerations must be further deliberated.  

Executed well, ethics integration is an iterative and reflective process that enhances both scientific and ethical rigor.” 

What is required to execute ethics integration well? How can philosophers make sure that their work has a constructive role to play in shaping research and policy-making?

In a recent talk at the International Neuroethics Society Annual Meeting, I reflected on this, and on the proper place of anticipation in the work that philosophers and neuroethicists do in relation to technological advance. Anticipating, speculating and keeping ahead of the technological curve are all laudable aims. It is crucial that likely problems and potential solutions are identified ahead of time, to minimize harm and avoid knee-jerk policy reactions. Keeping a step ahead inevitably requires all involved to make predictions about the way a technology will develop and about its likely mechanisms and effects. Indeed, philosophers will sometimes take leave from discussion of an actual emerging or prototype technology and extrapolate to consider the ethical challenges that its hypothetical future versions might present to society in the near future.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Less cooperation, please

Written by Joao Fabiano

Since the idea of enhancing human morality was proposed &ndash; and perhaps long before then &ndash; there has been a great deal of scientific research directly or indirectly inspired by the goal of improving human moral dispositions. Manipulations which result in increased levels of cooperation, prosociality or altruism are often seen as promising discoveries towards the path of developing moral enhancement technologies. The fact that increasing cooperation between individuals would be going in the wrong direction seems to be ignored. The problem moral enhancement proposes to fix is large-scale cooperation &ndash; cooperation between groups of individuals &ndash; not between individuals inside a group. Issues like global warming and nuclear disarmament arise primarily in the interaction between large groups of individuals, not in the interaction of individuals within the same group.

In actuality, humans already cooperate well inside small groups. We have evolved many emotional and cognitive mechanisms which enable us to function quite satisfactorily in the context of small cooperative groups such as the ones more frequently studied in empirical research. Many have proposed local economies as the ideal design for producing sustainable management of common resources[1]. There is not that much room for improvement there.

On the other hand, when it comes to interactions between groups of different religions, nationalities and morals we can fail spectacularly. What&rsquo;s more, our ability to cooperate well inside groups seems to be directly correlated with our inability for cooperation between groups. Let me cite a few empirical results to substantiate this last claim.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Race, Gender, and Authenticity: Reflections on Rachel Dolezal and Caitlyn Jenner

The concept of authenticity has been receiving a lot of attention in the past few weeks due to two high profile cases. First, Caitlyn Jenner, a former Olympic gold medallist and TV personality who was until recently known as “Bruce”, debuted her new name and identity in an interview with the magazine Vanity Fair. Second, it was reported that Rachel Dolezal, the Spokane NAACP president, was allegedly born a white woman, and has been deceptively representing herself as a black woman.

The latter case has sparked a great deal of controversy that I do not intend to fully address here. Furthermore, although some commentators have drawn all things considered likewise comparisons between the two cases, it seems clear that Dolezal’s case involves a range of separate issues, which make an all things considered likewise comparison inappropriate; again, I do not intend to make such a comparison here. Rather, in this post, I shall explore one particular theme that has emerged in many discussions of these cases, namely the language of authenticity.

Authenticity, or living in accordance with one’s ‘true self’ is a highly cherished value in Western society. However, it is not always clear what living authentically amounts to; partly this is due to the fact that there are different ways in which we can understand the concept of authenticity. Broadly speaking, there are two ways in which one can understand authenticity. Consider first what has been termed an ‘essentialist’ understanding of authenticity, according to which authenticity is a matter of self-discovery. To live authentically on this account is to live in accordance with one’s essence, or to discover the nature of one’s extant and mainly static self, and to live in accordance with it.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.