Recently what does improvement mean

Cognitive and Moral Enhancement

Table of Contents


1 enhancement
1.1 Concept of enhancement
1.1.1 Potential of enhancement
1.1.2 Distinctions Moderate and radical measures Reversible and irreversible measures
1.2 Problems and Risks
1.2.1 Formation of a class society
1.2.2 Compulsion to perfect
1.3 Mental enhancement
1.3.1 Possibilities
1.3.2 Distant future or approaching reality?
1.3.3 Possible effects Controllable Risks?

2 personality
2.1 Influencing the personality
2.1.1 Limbic system
2.1.2 Memory and Personality
2.2 Interim conclusion

3 Ethical consideration
3.1 Conservative and Liberal Viewpoints
3.2 Utilitarian Aspects
3.2.1 Radical Mental Enhancement
3.2.2 Moderate cognitive enhancement




The topic of ›mental enhancement‹ is to be dealt with in the present work. This will include changes both more cognitive as well as more emotional Properties counted because - as will be shown - they are closely linked. The aim of the work is to provide an overview of enhancement, its opportunities and risks, and finally to provide an ethical assessment. Possible dangers that affect the individual are discussed at appropriate points, but are often excluded, since the work is primarily devoted to possible social risks.

To this end, general enhancement will be presented in the first section, whereby some important potentials and risks are also dealt with. However, the focus here is on the final part, in which the mental enhancement is discussed, building on what has already been worked out.

In the second chapter that follows, the focus is on the human personality. The aim is to show the relationship between the personality of the individual and his or her brain. Because only in the awareness of this connection can one explain why an intervention in the cognitive abilities or the emotional sensations is ultimately also an influence on the personality. In order to make this clear, current results from neurobiology are used in particular.

Finally, in the third chapter, various points of view of the debate and their position on enhancement are presented. The main focus is the consideration of whether mental enhancement is more an individual or a social issue. The focus here is on the risks and effects that mental enhancement can bring with it. After all, the decision about it is important for the question of whether mental enhancement should be generally permitted, prohibited or only accessible with restrictions.

1 enhancement

The following is the topic Enhancement are briefly presented in general to give an overview of the various aspects. A complete presentation cannot be provided due to the large scope. Rather, this chapter serves to form the basis for the present work. For this purpose, a rough outline of the subject area should be made by presenting its possibilities and technical aids as well as the controversy surrounding the subject itself. It becomes particularly clear that both a clear definition and a sharp demarcation from “normal” medicine is difficult. Some sub-areas that are particularly important for the present work are examined in more detail so that they can be taken up at the end of the chapter.

1.1 Concept of enhancement

The term Enhancement is interpreted and interpreted differently in the field of bioethics, but generally applied to interventions and therapies that do not restore or maintain normal human characteristics and performance, but rather exceed them.1 In order to classify and evaluate enhancement, a comparison with other medical treatments is useful: First there is necessary treatmentswhich are directed against clinical pictures and to which a patient is entitled to a doctor and his health insurance company. In contrast to the other interventions, these treatments are called “therapy”.2 Furthermore, treatments that do not promise success are referred to as pointless treatments. They do not help the patient and are therefore not really needed.

In contrast to this, medical interventions that are not directly directed against a clinical picture are3 however, it does not result in ineffectiveness, referred to as ›enhancement‹. A clear and distinct, always valid separation is not possible because of the flowing transitions between therapy and enhancement.4

By definition, the term “enhancement” already includes an improvement, whereby it must be clarified whether the consequences of these “improvements” ultimately also bring about good. Because doubts about the moral values ​​of enhancement are not directly related to the intrinsic value of the changed Property together, but with the goals that are to be achieved through the change.5 Because enhancement is often seen as an unfair abbreviation, as a form of fraud.6 On the one hand, there is a lack of effort and effort that would otherwise be necessary to achieve a similar improvement. On the other hand, a person who allows himself to be “enhanced” definitely gains an unfair competitive advantage over other people.7 Some of the problems and conflicts to be expected from enhancement are exemplified in section 1.2.

1.1.1 Potential of enhancement

The relatively young area of ​​enhancement opens up almost unimagined possibilities, but also very pragmatic solutions to health problems that have been striven for since time immemorial. The latter certainly includes efforts to cure diseases with the help of genetic engineering. For example, a genetic immunization against known diseases would be conceivable here, very similar to today's vaccinations - only more profound and hereditary.8 Curing hereditary diseases by changing human DNA would also be conceivable and could definitely bring advantages.9

Ultimately, however, the potential of enhancement also includes - even precisely - the improvement of human characteristics and skills. This can represent an increase in intelligence, an increase in alertness, physical performance or an extension of human life. Many of the restrictions that existed from birth could be removed and the unequal distribution of skills through the ›natural lottery‹ could be corrected through enhancement. Theoretically, this would make it possible to artificially create absolute equality of opportunity. But also completely new, previously non-human properties10 like seeing UV light or a connection between the brain and the computer11 are already conceivable, at least in theory.

1.1.2 Distinctions Moderate and radical measures

After the concept of the Enhancements differentiated from other medical treatments and the potential outlined, it should now be briefly structured internally, since clear differences must also be taken into account here. So first of all between moderate and radical Measures are differentiated.12 Classification is not primarily based on the severity of the intervention, but rather on its effects.

Of a moderate enhancement should therefore be spoken of when human characteristics are changed that are already there. In addition, these may only be improved in small steps, ie not beyond what is known. As a clue for moderate enhancement it would be conceivable that all of the potentially achieved results could also have been achieved using conventional methods - such as education and learning, psychotherapy or even training.13

Opposite it is from radical enhancement spoken, if the results of the treatment could not be achieved with conventional means. This includes both an increase in existing talents beyond previous limits, as well as the creation of new skills that are not human.14 Examples of this are, in addition to “seeing UV radiation”, a non-tiring brain with greatly increased memory or other artificial “extensions” of the human being. Such interventions in human nature seem to be a distant future music, but in view of medical advances some of these ideas - such as implants for the brain as an interface to computers - do not seem too improbable.15 Reversible and irreversible measures

Another distinction between enhancement is the classification in reversible and irreversible16 cited. While the latter conceals final interventions, such as changing the DNA, the former can be deactivated again, i.e. reversed, at any time. This type of enhancement includes taking medication, but also using implants that can be removed or removed. This approach offers a certain security and also makes wrong decisions revisable. However, there is a certain residual risk, especially before the topic of ›mental enhancement‹, which is yet to be examined in more detail. Because an intervention can perhaps be reversed here, too, but it cannot be undone. The experiences that a person has made with his new artificial abilities on a cognitive and, in particular, on an emotional level, remain with him in any case.17 As will be shown in Section 2.1.2 of the present work, this can change the person permanently, despite the cancellation of the enhancement.

1.2 Problems and Risks

The possibility of enhancement raises some problems, which will probably only arise in their full strength in the future. In the following, not all risks can be shown, but only two of the most far-reaching are described.

1.2.1 Formation of a class society

Free access to enhancement, especially to radical measures, could result in massive social problems. Because the costs for such treatments could not be covered by everyone who wanted an improvement. This in turn means that the ability to artificially and rapidly increase various qualities and skills would only be available to a financially strong group within society.18 Since the latter could in turn increase their chances of finding well-paid jobs through the use of enhancement, the financial gap within society would grow and thus enable even greater differences in the area of ​​enhancement.

Assuming that convinced parents also improve their own children in their own way and that some techniques would also be hereditary, a division of society into a technically modified and a natural class in the case of unregulated enhancement seems to be only a matter of time .19

1.2.2 Compulsion to perfect

In order to mitigate this development, funding from the state could come into play. This would make it possible for everyone to have any kind of enhancement carried out on them and the formation of classes would be less likely. At the same time it would be possible to use the potential20 to use these techniques for a broad population and to establish real equality of opportunity. With regard to the affordability, it could be assumed that the “improved” people subsequently finance these treatments through higher wages and thus also higher taxes.21 However, regardless of the costs that would arise from government-sponsored enhancement, other problems could arise from this approach.

In a society that accepts and supports technical interventions in the human body, it can be assumed that a state-sponsored practice will also be used extensively. As a result, for example in the area of ​​intelligence, the average population should rise rapidly. However, this in turn means two things: People who were born with a certain quality slightly above average lose this advantage. In this way - artificially - a kind of equal opportunities would be created. In itself, this would not necessarily be a disadvantage, but in this society full of gifted people there would not be enough jobs for highly qualified people after a short time, while there would no longer be any workers in the field of simpler activities.22 Such a development would possibly have considerable effects on the social structure and the associated world of work, but this problem could certainly be regulated in the long term through experience in the field and ultimately also solved.

Assuming that enhancement is ultimately not limited to the individual who makes use of it, but also has social effects as it becomes more widespread, another aspect must be considered. Because the second, more profound consequence of state-sponsored enhancement is the growing need to make use of it. If large parts of the population make use of it, people will (have to) take part who have concerns about it and actually reject such interventions. Despite their skepticism, they would be forced to participate in this "arms race"23 to participate if they do not want to decline in the social fabric. It would be an enhancement in order to be able to maintain equal opportunities at all - in other words, not improving oneself with the aim of gaining an advantage. Rather, the critics would also have to try to avoid a disadvantage through enhancement, since otherwise - seen with a rising average level - their productivity would become worse than the rest of society.24

1.3 Mental enhancement

After a few things have already been said on the subject of ›general enhancement‹, the sub-area of ​​›mental enhancement‹ will now be presented. This type of change includes all measures that the cognitive People's abilities, their perception, their ability to think and remember, and even improve certain behaviors.25 Possibilities of the emotional Enhancements on this.


1 See JUENGST, Eric T .: What does enhancement. In: SCHÖNE-SEIFERT and TALBOT (2009), p. 25.

2 See JUENGST (2009), p. 28. IN THE LIFE SCIENCES (ed.): Enhancement: The ethical discussion about biomedical improvements in humans. Bonn 2002, (drze-Sachstandsbericht; 1), p. 65. or JUENGST (2009), p. 30 f.

3 In the case of strict restrictions, there is a risk that new clinical pictures will be “created” in response to demand. See GERMAN REFERENCE CENTER FOR ETHICS

4 See JUENGST (2009), p. 26.

5 See JUENGST (2009), p. 27f.

6 See, for example, JUENGST (2009), p. 37f .; or GERMAN REFERENCE CENTER FOR ETHICS IN THE LIFE SCIENCES (2002), pp. 68ff.

7 The problem of doping in competitive sport is often used as a comparison. Cf. GERMAN REFERENCE CENTER FOR ETHICS IN THE LIFE SCIENCES (2002), Chap. 6 .; or SCHÖNE-SEIFERT and TALBOT (2009), chap. 2.

8 See JUENGST (2009), p. 30.

9 Cf. GESANG, Bernward: Perfecting the human being. Berlin 2007, p. 3.

10 See GESANG (2007), p. 3.

11 Compare SCHWAN, Ben: Brain controls computer, In: Technology Review /Gehirn-steuert-Computer-937587.html (24.02.2010).

12 See GESANG (2007), p. 39f. and p. 63ff.

13 See GESANG (2007), p. 40.

14 See GESANG (2007), pp. 40f.

15 See GESANG (2007), p. 26.

16 See GESANG (2007), p. 11.

17 See GESANG (2007), p. 89.

18 See GESANG (2007), p. 49.

19 See SANDEL, Michael J .: A plea against perfection - ethics in the age of genetic engineering. Berlin 2008, p. 36.

20 See section 1.1.1, p. 3.

21 However, this aspect should not be considered in more detail here. For more information, see GE-SANG (2007), p. 53ff. referenced.

22 See GESANG (2007), p. 57.

23 GESANG (2007), p. 56.

24 See GESANG (2007), pp. 55ff.

25 See WHITEHOUSE, Peter J. et al .: Improving cognition in intellectually normal people. In: SCHÖNE-SEIFERT and TALBOT (2009), p. 213.

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