This page contains the presentation schedule and abstracts for talks and posters presented by GSU students enrolled in my NEUROENHANCEMENT course in Spring 2015.
The first three of the last four classes are reserved for talks. These will be delivered by postgraduate students. 10 min is slated for presentation time, and 5 min is set aside for questions and swap-over to the next speaker. The last class of the semester is when the undergraduate students will display their posters. Abstracts for the talks and posters can be accessed by clicking on the student’s surname (if the student has made their abstract available).
All talks and posters will be written-up and submitted as the students’ final piece of assessment for this course.
Monday, April 13: TALKS (1 of 3)
19.15 Nick BELLO
19.30 Greg BLAKEMORE: The relationship between memory and authenticity
19.45 Robert BOUDREAU
20.00 Katherine CHENG
20.15 Scott COLLISON: The ethical parity principle and epistemic disparity
Wednesday, April 15: TALKS (2 of 3)
19.15 Mark GILBERT
19.30 Nathan HOUCK
19.45 Maria MEJIA
20.00 Jumana MORCIGLIO: How moral enhancement will ruin our lives
20.15 Razia SAHI: Live and Learn: concerning the efficacy of anti-love biotechnology
Wednesday, April 22: POSTERS
Posters by the following undergraduate students will be on display during this session:
• Miguel DIAZ
• Micah EVANS
• Laura FALLEY
• Lluvia FRIAS
• Rebecca HEIKKILA
• Kenneth HEROCK
• Spencer KINSEY
• Armin MIRZAKHANLOU
• Michelle PARK
• Laquanne PATTERSON
• Kimberley RICHARDSON
• Adrienne SCHUCHMAN
• Marvin TURNER
• Peter YANG
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MEMORY AND AUTHENTICITY
by Greg BLAKEMORE
In “Does Memory Modification Threaten our Authenticity?” Alexandre Erler examines ways in which memory modification can be inauthentic (2011). Erler distinguishes between memory enhancement and memory editing, and claims that while memory enhancement may be authentic, that memory editing is, in principle, inauthentic. Erler also identifies a distinction amongst types of memory editing, viz. a) memory removal and b) memory blunting. In order to establish the claim that memory editing is inauthentic, Erler distinguishes between wholehearted, existentialist, and true-self versions of authenticity, and further claims that the true-self account illustrates that memory editing is inauthentic across the board.
In this paper I will argue against Erler’s contention that memory blunting is inauthentic in principle. Specifically, I will claim that Erler’s argument that memory blunting is inauthentic falters for at least three reasons. First, Erler’s argument relies on the problematic counterfactual claim that abstaining from memory editing could be praiseworthy. Second, his account of authenticity commits him to the claim that if a person blunts her memories by responding to reasons then this would be authentic. Third, Erler’s true-self account of authenticity may still demonstrate that memory blunting is inauthentic when instantiated via non-rational means. However, other models of authenticity such as Neil Levy’s self-creation model would provide one a way to justify that the decision to undergo memory blunting via non-rational means could be authentic. Furthermore, Erler is tacitly committed to accepting the self-creation model. Yet, provided that Erler denied his commitment to the self-creation model, he currently lacks the conceptual resources to explain why the true-self model of authenticity is preferable to the self-creation model in all cases. As a result Erler’s true-self model of authenticity is in a dialectical stalemate with Levy’s self-creation model, and it can simply illustrate situations where undergoing memory blunting is inauthentic, but it fails to demonstrate that it is inauthentic across the board.
THE ETHICAL PARITY PRINCIPLE AND EPISTEMIC DISPARITY: SKEPTICAL CAUTION FOR DIRECT NEURO-INTERVENTIONS
by Scott COLLISON
HOW MORAL ENHANCEMENT WILL RUIN OUR LIVES: TWO CONCERNS ABOUT THOMAS DOUGLAS’S CONCEPTION OF MORAL ENHANCEMENT
by Jumana MORCIGLIO
There are two types of neuroenhancement that can potentially make people “better”: cognitive enhancement, which will increase the likelihood that people will engage in better practical reasoning (i.e. attention, problem solving, recognizing salient features, etc.), and moral enhancement, which will increase the likelihood that people will engage in morally better behavior. Although Thomas Douglas (2008) recognizes that the permissibility of cognitive enhancement is controversial (he takes no position on the topic), he does believe that moral enhancement is permissible. More specifically, he argues that (under certain conditions) it will be permissible to morally enhance people by attenuating certain “counter-moral” emotions.
I will present two concerns regarding Douglas’ claim that moral enhancement (via attenuating certain counter-moral emotions) is permissible and argue that successful moral enhancement will require cognitive enhancement. The first concern I have is a practical one, namely, that the strategy of attenuating counter-moral emotions will result in affecting other non-moral functions of that same emotion. A clinical example that illustrates this worry is the case of SM, a patient who exhibits certain behavioral deficits associated with the incapacity to properly process fear due to a calcified amygdala. Fear is the underlying emotion of implicit racial bias, as well as other negative social associations. SM’s deficit in properly processing fear results in the lack of implicit racial bias (i.e. morally salient behavior), but also in the lack of general negative social associations and a lack of natural aversion to dangerous situations (i.e. non-moral behavior). It doesn’t seem feasible that we can devise a way to target only certain functions (i.e. the moral ones) of a given emotion.
In anticipation of the response that future technology might develop such a function-targeting technology, my second concern is purely conceptual. Agents encounter both moral and non-moral contexts, so whether it will be morally beneficial to attenuate some counter-moral emotion will depend on the situation. In order for some form of neuroenhancement to successfully enhance moral behavior, either the neuroenhancement itself or the practical judgment that motivates the behavior must be context-sensitive. Furthermore, since no static neuroenhancement (e.g. a single pill) can be context-sensitive, then developed practical reason skills will be required to successfully produce morally enhanced behavior and thus moral enhancement is achievable only through cognitive enhancement.
LIVE AND LEARN: CONCERNING THE EFFICACY OF ANTI-LOVE BIOTECHNOLOGY
by Razia SAHI
Advancements in modern neuroscience which uncover the brain systems underlying the experience of love open up the prospects of developing more direct ways of intervening in romantic relationships. In “If I Could Just Stop Loving You: Anti-Love Biotechnology and the Ethics of a Chemical Breakup,” Brian Earp and colleagues discuss the potential uses of anti-love biotechnology in facilitating the termination of harmful romantic relationships, for example in cases of domestic abuse. Although Earp et al. do not spell out in detail how such anti-love bio-technologies might work, one way to do this might be to dampen emotional memories associated with a particular individual in order to decrease romantic attachment. In this paper, I argue that while in the short term such a method might yield beneficial results, in the long term it might do more harm than good. First, such interventions could obstruct people’s ability to develop self-knowledge in the pursuit of personal growth. Second, such interventions could obstruct people’s ability to recognize and address environmental input contributing to their own harmful behaviors and decisions. Third, such interventions could interfere with people’s ability to develop self-determined reasons to refrain from or to engage in particular behaviors, negatively impacting their ability to live autonomously. My central claim is that there is good reason to worry that, overall, such interventions would hinder people’s ability to modify their behavior and lifestyle in a manner that would be conducive to their overall well-being and long-term life satisfaction.
MAKE ME GAY: NEURO-INTERVENTIONS ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION
by Andrew VIERRA
There is a debate in neuroethics on whether or in what circumstances it is permissible to change someone’s sexual orientation. However, as of yet, no philosopher has raised any ethical concerns with neuro-intervening on the sexual orientation of heterosexuals. In fact, Brian D. Earp and colleagues went so far as to list this possibility as an advantage of neuro-interventions on sexual orientation. In Earp et al’s words, “it (neurointerventions) could be used in a process of self-creating for those who wanted to experience alternative sexual and/or relational orientations” (10). In other words, heterosexuals could change their sexual orientation, temporarily or permanently, simply for recreation or for an exotic weekend. However, before this neuro-intervention becomes available, it is essential to (1) determine which aspects of heterosexuality can be changed by neurointerventions, and (2) consider possible ways such neuro-interventions could be harmful. Towards this end, I begin this paper by outlining the extant neuroscientific and genetic research on sexual orientation and offering a brief overview of current neuro-interventions and their implementation. I then argue that sexual identity is distinct from sexual desire, and hence that it does not follow that neuro-interventions which could modify or influence the latter would necessarily be able to change the former. Building on this argument, I raise the concern that neuro-interventions on heterosexuals’ sexual desires risk (1) trivializing homosexuals’ sexual identities, (2) harming already marginalized groups of people, (3) being a form of cultural appropriation, and (4) promoting homophobia. For these reasons I conclude that if we should ever develop ways of making straight people gay, pace Earp et al, we would still have good reasons to regulate access to such interventions.