Neuro-Enablement: Unique Issues Between the Scylla of Treatment and the Charybdis of Enhancement

The National Core for Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia recently put out a piece about cognitive enhancement in the military on their fine blog “Neuroethics at the Core.” I will offer some brief comments on the complicated “treatment v. enhancement” debate:

The use of neurotechnologies to alter cognitive, emotional and/or behavioral capabilities gives rise to mixed connotations about the meaning and value of treatment(s) and enhancement(s). I advocate a more context-dependent and situational notion that I have termed ‘enablement’: the employment of neurotechnology to facilitate aspects of human capabilities within a socio-legally and ethically sanctioned “silo” of activity and utility, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters, and of course, at least certain factions of the military. But we need not so limit these categories, as this list could well include airline pilots, physicians, et al, given that the ‘sanction’ refers to and reflects the responsibility (and capability) of those in these occupational silos to care for the safety, protection, and lives of persons in their charge.

Yet, enablement still gives rise to questions of: (1) who among these shall be enabled, and (2) to what extent can/should they be enabled? But, perhaps a larger ethical dilemma may arise when enablement is no longer an option, i.e. – the individual is no longer in a sanctioned silo of use. Will we see what our group has termed ‘post-enablement distress syndrome’ (PEDS)? And if so, how can and should it be addressed? Does PEDS dictate “treatment?” And are such treatments merely the provision of the “enablement” after-the-fact, and thus medicalized “enhancements”, or should we begin to develop unique and distinct approaches to PEDS?

While such questions are hypothetical and speculative, the trajectory toward “siloed enablement” is real, and thus I argue that it is important to attend to such questions early and often – and consider the ways that possible answers (and their implications) will affect those we choose to enable, disenable, and society at-large.

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One thought on “Neuro-Enablement: Unique Issues Between the Scylla of Treatment and the Charybdis of Enhancement

  1. That is a really good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
    Short but very accurate information Thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read article!

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