BY Nayef Al-Rodhan
Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
Originally published July 2, 2015
The radically accelerating development of emerging strategic technologies (ESTs) poses important questions for the future of human societies.
On the one hand, ESTs promise great benefits. For example, newly developed forms of biotechnology, synthetic biology, and nanopharmaceuticals will begin to aid medical interventions, including those associated with psychological disorders. Drugs and nano-scaled mechanical delivery systems that enhance our memory and mental capacity will one day assist us in performing functions outside of our natural capabilities. On the other hand, cognitive enhancement presents us with numerous ethical dilemmas and raises fundamental questions about how we understand ourselves. Such ideas have until recently been consigned to the realm of the imagination, but the likelihood of having a roomful of superior beings with hyper-memory—or an army of them—is fast becoming technologically possible. These developments complicate longstanding debates in both philosophy and cognitive science. Cognitive enhancement questions our notions of self-understanding, as well as those aspects of our nature with which we tend to feel most familiar.
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