Cognitive enhancement: a social experiment with technology

Nicole A. Vincent*, Emma A. Jane

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Cognitive enhancement (CE) medications and devices – for instance, so-called “smart drugs” and transcranial electrical and magnetic brain stimulators – may change society and our values in various not-obviously-positive ways. But because CE is framed as a medical topic – a bioethics and neuroethics niche – such social and moral hazards are almost completely overlooked, downplayed, or ignored. Accordingly, current US government policy on the design and regulation of CEs borders on reckless social and moral experimentation. To explain what current US policy overlooks and why these things are important, we re-frame CE as a philosophy of technology topic. Within this framing, we concede that social experimentation with emerging technologies like CE is not only inevitable but even necessary. However, we also offer a methodology for conducting such social experiments in a responsible manner, and suggest that this methodology has important implications for how all emerging technologies (not just CE) should be designed and regulated.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew perspectives on technology in society
Subtitle of host publicationexperimentation beyond the laboratory
EditorsIbo van de Poel, Lotte Asveld, Donna C. Mehos
Place of PublicationLondon ; New York
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781315468259, 9781315468242
ISBN (Print)9781138204010
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventInternational Conference on Experimenting with New Technologies in Society - Delft, Netherlands
Duration: 20 Aug 201522 Aug 2015


ConferenceInternational Conference on Experimenting with New Technologies in Society


  • cognitive enhancement
  • emerging technologies
  • social experimentation
  • regulation
  • design


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