Sahakian and Morein-Zamir's Commentary 'Professor's little helper' (Nature 450, 1157–1159; 2007) makes an important contribution to the neuroethics of enhancement, as much for what it doesn't say as for what it does.
Much of the debate over neurocognitive enhancement has been guided by the so-called 'wisdom of repugnance'. We are encouraged to focus on our gut reaction to perfectly healthy individuals drugging themselves (or worse, their healthy children) for the sake of satisfying oversized ambitions. This highlights issues such as the need to earn one's success and self-esteem, and respect for our natural limitations.
Shouldn't we attempt a more rational analysis of the different contexts, methods and motives for neurocognitive enhancement and their likely outcomes, including the likely impact on society and human values?
Sahakian and Morein-Zamir provide a cautious yet open-minded assessment of risks and benefits, without any obeisance to the wisdom of repugnance. They have done us a service in framing the issues in this way.
All Correspondence this week responds to Barbara Sahakian and Sharon Morein-Zamir's Commentary 'Professor's little helper' (Nature 450, 1157–1159; 2007) and the related discussion at http://network.nature.com/forums/naturenewsandopinion. This week, Nature launches an anonymous online survey to build on the informal questionnaire that the Commentary authors sent academics on the usage of brain-boosting drugs. In aggregate, the survey results will guide future editorial content on this topic. To take part, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/yq7nn3. Contributions to Correspondence may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Published contributions are edited. Readers are welcome to contribute to this discussion and many others at http://network.nature.com.
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Farah, M. Rationality is a better basis for ethics than repugnance. Nature 451, 521 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/451521d