In the journal nature a commentary was published on December 7th this year that took a different perspective on the use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by healthy persons. While in the past it was mainly regarded as disuse, as doping, the perspective taken by authors from universities in the USA and the UK is that cognitive enhancement can be beneficial to the individual and even society. They argue that "we should welcome new methods of improving our brain function", if three ethical concerns are taken into account:
- The use of the drugs has to be safe for healthy people. This calls for studies on the long-term effects in healthy people, especially in children using an evidence-based approach.
- No one should be coerced to enhance his cognition. This is not as obvious as it sounds state the authors. For example education, another approach to enhance cognition, is required among school children.
- Access to safe cognitive enhancement methods should be fair to minimize socioeconomic disparities.
This comment in nature follows a quite generic argumentation string that opens the doors to any kind of enhancements to human nature whether it be drugs, genetics, or ... Having solid research on the short- and long-term effects - desired or adverse - on the individual and the society as a whole is a necessity. The results - benefits and risks - must be communicated in a way that all individuals can make their own informed choices. This will be quite a challenge considering the economic interests of companies and providers of (cognitive) enhancement services. Here are very well defined policies required.
Read the comment in nature: Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy