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I'm trying to do something that will really make a difference.

Neuroethics

One of the things that I had to grapple with was how scientists and engineers look at ethics. I worry that scientists and engineers look at ethics like an oversight, like a finger-shaker, "you can't do that" regulatory hurdle or obstacle to the work that they're doing. I want it to be a collaborative practice of trying to think through the big questions about the research. I want to be able to criticize and critique the direction of the research, rather than thinking we need people to figure out it's a good for them.


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Maybe it's not, and then maybe we want to redirect what we're doing. So this is not a disaster, but it's a tension that is involved in the kind of work that I'm doing. Non-disabled people often see disability as a bad thing: It's an individual problem, a pathology or deficit of the person. A lot of the disability studies work that I've done focuses on a more socio-political association with disability.

That's not to say you ignore differences in the body, but you instead emphasize the ways in which environment can be accommodating or not to different ways of getting through the world.

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It's surprising to most non-disabled people because they never thought of disability that way. In this work in the center, one of our priorities has been to include what we call "end-user" perspective early on in the process.

Topic areas

An end-user is someone who will be using these new technologies. It's important to reach out beyond your main discipline, whatever it happens to be. Doing purely theoretical work isn't going to be productive. You need to know something about other fields. That might mean putting yourself in contact with a lab or getting in touch with a hospital — whatever your specific area of interest is — so that you have that real experience, so you make sure anything you're theorizing about touches down somewhere, that it can make a difference. There are lots of unanswered questions about what neural technologies mean for identity, and moral, legal, privacy issues.

If the robotic device could extend away from me, is there a way in which now my identity is co-located? It's fascinating what that could do to our notions of identity.

Neuroethics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

It's just unexplored, uncharted territory at this point. These are technologies that are likely coming. We want to be really clear about what direction they go in, what concerns they bring and how we might address those concerns. The latter arm, led by applied ethicists and scientists, considers the scientific basis and societal implications of neuroscience research and technologies, including psychopharmacology, neuroimaging, forensic neuroscience, and computer-brain interfaces.


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The essays in Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives in Neuroethics generally fall into one of these two camps and often represent top-shelf contributions to the field. One of the strengths of this volume is its strong, concise introduction to the philosophy of mind.

Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives in Neuroethics

Yet for all its strengths, Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives in Neuroethics recapitulates a weakness in the field at large: the lack of robust clinical work. One possible exception to this trend is the essay on pain medicine by James Giordano, which is republished from an early volume of the journal Neuroethics. Using ideas from the philosophy of mind and applied ethics, Giordano demonstrates how the radically subjective nature of pain informs our duties, while deconstructing the imposing, technologically driven political economy of clinical pain medicine.

This is a particularly impressive feat, knowing how insufficient the discipline of bioethics has been on the topic of pain. In psychiatry, for example, there are references to the use of cortisol testing and neuroimaging in the assessment of depression and its response to therapy; such techniques have little or no place in practice despite the allure of progress they embody.

There are frequent mentions of the dangers of overprescribing drugs for childhood psychiatric disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disease, but no discussion of the risks and benefits of using such drugs or non-pharmacological treatments in developing brains and persons.

Spotlight on Ethics: Neuroethics

National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Yale J Biol Med. Reviewed by Ryan W. Ryan W.