The Age of Enhancement

I didnt’ realize this was new, but OK…

Investigation of PTSD has been an important cause of new research into memory. And our understanding of memory is, in turn, propelling a debate about what is known as enhancement, or the boosting of human capacities beyond a normal level. The first issue to emerge was physical enhancement, such as doping in sports and mood enhancement with drugs like Prozac. Then came varieties of cognitive enhancement, as aids to concentration like Ritalin or newer “neuroenhancing” drugs like Adderall which are used by stressed students or harried office workers. Most contentiously, scientists now see possibilities to modify our moral character, using neurological techniques to make us ethically better—or perhaps worse. And the latest research holds out the promise of drugs to help forget traumatic memories, or even to stay devoted to our sexual partners. Many people—notably some religious leaders, doctors, scientists, politicians and philosophers—have misgivings about much of this. But when they spell out their qualms, their reasoning is often shakier than it first appears. Nonetheless, this is not a debate we can ignore. What scientists are now discovering about memory presents us with an interesting set of dilemmas.

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