Cognitive Enhancement: How Questionable Assumptions can Shape Science Policy Making

By Simon Michael Outram.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The use of pharmaceuticals for the purposes of cognitive enhancement has attracted considerable bioethical and policy-making attention. While the definition of cognitive enhancement remains unclear and empirical evidence of cognitive enhancement practices is sparse, assumptions concerning both the science and technology of cognitive enhancement and its potential social implications are beginning to shape policy initiatives. The author argues that in order to establish a pro-active science and technology policy with respect to cognitive enhancement, we need to approach the controversy surrounding this issue from the perspective of empirical realism. From this perspective, it will be possible to re-investigate current assumptions made concerning cognitive enhancement and offer an alternative interpretive framework by which to develop policy if required.

Keywords: Cognitive Enhancement, Bioethics, Policy, Pharmaceuticals

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.41-50. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 457.733KB).

Dr. Simon Michael Outram

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Novel Tech Ethics, Bioethics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Simon Outram is a postdoctoral fellow at Novel Tech Ethics, Dalhousie University funded by States of Mind: Emerging Issues in Neuroethics, and Therapeutic Hopes and Ethical Concerns: Clinical Research in the Neurosciences. Simon has a background in Social Anthropology (MA University of Manchester) and Environmental Epidemiology (MSc London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). He completed his PhD in May 2007 (St George’s Hospital Medical School, University of London). His PhD explored the use of racial and ethnic categories in genetics and biomedical research. Since completing the PhD, Simon joined the Open University Innogen Research Centre in September 2007 to conduct research exploring biotechnology and science communication within sub-Saharan Africa. His current research at Dalhousie includes critically analysing the bioethical discussion surround cognitive enhancement practices, media representations of bipolar behaviour in children, and understanding male health and help-seeking behaviours.