Computer technologies are having a profoundly transforming effect on how the United States federal government operates. As technologies become more sophisticated, Federal agencies are becoming more innovative, devising creative ways to use these technologies for program delivery. One hopes that the near-term effect of these technology applications will be more efficient operation of government, the goal that generally leads to their implementation.
In recent years, two distinct trajectories of bioethical inquiry have emerged: neuroethics and nanoethics. The former deals with issues in neuroscience, whereas the latter deals with issues in nanoscience and nanotechnology. In both cases, the ethical inquiries have coalesced in response to rapidly increasing scientific and engineering developments in each field. Both also present major issues for contemplation in bioethics. However, the questions are (1) how different are the ethical issues raised, and (2) is it beneficial for neuroethics and nanoethics (...) inquiries to proceed on often-divergent trajectories by ethicists who otherwise might never interact? If, for example, ethical inquiry occurs only within the disciplinary confines of their predominant area(s) of science (which now seems to be the case) or by overlooking prior discussions in other scientific realms (like genetics), then the opportunity for a richer, more comprehensive discourse may be lost. I argue that this (1) is a disservice to bioethics, (2) is antithetical to some of the aims of bioethical inquiry, and (3) encourages the reductionism bioethicists’ claim that is counterproductive. (shrink)
Locked-in syndrome (LIS) is a severe neurological condition that typically leaves a patient unable to move, talk and, in many cases, initiate communication. Brain Computer Interfaces (or BCIs) promise to enable individuals with conditions like LIS to re-engage with their physical and social worlds. In this paper we will use extended mind theory to offer a way of seeing the potential of BCIs when attached to, or implanted in, individuals with LIS. In particular, we will contend that functionally integrated BCIs (...) extend the minds of individuals with LIS beyond their bodies, allowing them greater autonomy than they can typically hope for in living with their condition. This raises important philosophical questions about the implications of BCI technology, particularly the potential to change selves, and ethical questions about whether society has a responsibility to aid these individuals in re-engaging with their physical and social worlds. It also raises some important questions about when these interventions should be offered to individuals with LIS and respecting the rights of these individuals to refuse intervention. By aiding willing individuals in re-engaging with their physical and social worlds, BCIs open up avenues of opportunity taken for granted by able individuals and introduce new ways in which these individuals can be harmed. These latter considerations serve to highlight our emergent social responsibilities to those individuals who will be suitable for, and receive, BCIs. (shrink)
We have all heard a refrain much like this one over the last decade, increasingly so, as the cost of genetic sequencing has been drastically reduced with improvements in associated techniques and technologies. Already, discoveries are being made in laboratories that can help doctors determine from which drug a particular patient will receive the most efficacious treatment. The working presumption is that, eventually, individuals’ genetic sequence information will be included in each of their personal medical records.
The requirement by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that research proposals include plans for “broader impact” activities to foster connections between Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) research and service to society has been controversial since it was first introduced. A chief complaint is that the requirement diverts time and resources from the focus of research and toward activities for which researchers may not be well prepared. This paper describes the theoretical framework underlying a new strategy to pair NSF-funded nano (...) research centres with science museums in order to achieve greater success in the broader impact mission, and to transform the perceived burden of the requirement into an opportunity to provide enhanced value to the constituencies of the partnering organizations, as well as to the larger community. This partnership approach is presented as a model that also can be applied to NSF-funded research centres in other STEM fields, and to non-NSF-funded STEM research centres nevertheless looking to pursue broader impacts types of activities. The model also provides an opportunity to stretch the typical spectrum of broader impacts activities to include citizen engagement in science, technology and societal concerns. (shrink)
This commentary compares clinical aspects of ketamine with the amphetamine model of schizophrenia. Hallucinations and loss of insight, associated with amphetamine, seem more schizophrenia-like. Flat affect encountered with ketamine is closer to the clinical presentation in schizophrenia. We argue that flat affect is not a sign of schizophrenia, but rather, a risk factor for chronic schizophrenia.
In a recent contribution to this journal, Andrew Fenton and SheriAlpert have argued that the so-called “extended mind hypothesis” allows us to understand why Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs) have the potential to change the self of patients suffering from Locked-in syndrome (LIS) by extending their minds beyond their bodies. I deny that this can shed any light on the theoretical, or philosophical, underpinnings of BCIs as a tool for enabling communication with, or bodily action by, patients with (...) LIS: BCIs are not a case of cognitive extension. I argue that Fenton and Alpert’s claim to the contrary is the result of a widespread confusion about some related, but significantly different, approaches to cognition that all fall under the heading of “situated cognition.” I first provide a short taxonomy of various situated approaches to cognition, highlighting (some of) their important commonalities and differences, which should dissolve some of the confusions surrounding them. Then I show why the extended mind hypothesis is unsuitable as a model of BCI enhancements of LIS patients’ capacity to interact with their surroundings, and I argue that the situated approach with obvious bearings on the sort of questions that were driving Fenton and Alpert is not the idea that cognition is extended , but the idea that cognition is enacted. (shrink)
Summary Harry Alpert (1912?1977), the US sociologist, is best-known for his directorship of the National Science Foundation's social science programme in the 1950s. This study extends our understanding of Alpert in two main ways: first, by examining the earlier development of his views and career. Beginning with his 1939 biography of Emile Durkheim, we explore the early development of Alpert's views about foundational questions concerning the scientific status of sociology and social science more generally, proper social science (...) methodology, the practical value of social science, the academic institutionalisation of sociology, and the unity-of-science viewpoint. Second, this paper illuminates Alpert's complex involvement with certain tensions in mid-century US social science that were themselves linked to major transformations in national science policy, public patronage, and unequal relations between the social and natural sciences. We show that Alpert's views about the intellectual foundations, practical relevance, and institutional standing of the social sciences were, in some important respects, at odds with his NSF policy work. Although remembered as a quantitative evangelist and advocate for the unity-of-science viewpoint, Alpert was in fact an urbane critic of natural-science envy, social scientific certainty, and what he saw as excessive devotion to quantitative methods. (shrink)
Ram Dass is one of America's most renowned spiritual teachers. Born Richard Alpert, he received his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University and taught there and at Harvard University before going to India and receiving the name Ram Dass () from his guru. He has long been involved in many charitable service organizations, particularly those devoted to providing healthcare for underserved populations. Among his many books are BeHereNow (currently in its fortieth printing), HowCanIHelp, and CompassioninAction; his newest book is (...) StillHere:EmbracingAging,Changing,andDying (Putnam, 2000). (shrink)