An Important Affirmation of our Long-Term Vision (Posted in 2005)
Awareness that freedom of thought would be a critical issue in the new millennium led us, in 2000, to found a non-profit center devoted to cognitive liberty. When we began, “freedom of thought” was an important but dusty principle buried in the pages of Supreme Court opinions, and “cognitive liberty” was an unknown term. The relationship between a person’s thought processes and his or her underlying neurochemistry was a hot scientific topic, but what this relationship said about our fundamental legal rights and ethical duties was almost entirely unexplored. When we began in 2000, no one was talking about rights of the mind, no one was grappling with “neuroethics,” and no one was working to advance important principles such as brain privacy, autonomy, and choice.
Almost five years later, this has all changed for the better. The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics has brought the phrase “cognitive liberty” into the lexicons of scientists, legislators, legal scholars, and human rights organizations in the U.S. and around the world. Through analyzing a wide range of contemporary social issues, we’ve championed the right to freedom of thought by introducing it into national and international policy discussions, by presenting it before national agencies and federal courts (including the U.S. Supreme Court), and by educating numerous media outlets and other non-profit organizations about this basic human right.
As we approach the end of our fifth year of operations, awareness of what we have accomplished, and of what remains to be achieved, has helped us to clarify our priorities for the next five years.
Today, an increasing array of drugs and other neurotechnologies are quite literally changing how we think about rights of the mind. We believe that these new technologies will change freedom of thought as much as the printing press and the Internet have changed freedom of speech. Harnessing the opportunities, while avoiding the pitfalls, will be the challenge of our age. Doing so requires a far-reaching vision and demands nuanced analysis; we prefer productive discourse rather than sound bites.
With a core staff of just three people and a small and fragie budget, it is essential that we restructure our work in accordance with our long-term goals and in ways that emphasize our strengths. While we believe that it is important to address immediate social issues, our limited resources have frequently forced us to choose between advancing our broader agenda and responding to an endless stream of current and seemingly pressing issues. While we are proud of the short-term projects that we’ve engaged in over the past five years, a review of our operations has clarified the wisdom of recommitting to the long-term vision of helping to craft a future in which freedom of thought is widely respected, and protected as a fundamental legal and human right.
In line with this vision, we will endeavor over the next five years to pursue projects that give preeminence to the broader scope over the pressure to respond to immediate events. Only if an issue threatens to block or seriously impede our mission will we allocate our resources to addressing that immediate concern. Our principle focus will instead be on advancing freedom of thought at the highest levels, and on securing cognitive liberty for the long- term.
As we recommit to developing the future dimensions of cognitive liberty, you may be less aware of our work on a day-to-day basis. However, we encourage your continued financial support for the unique mission and work of the CCLE.
Rest assured that we will be advancing cognitive liberty in the most promising, preeminent contexts possible. As we reach major milestones, announcements concerning our work will continue to be available on the CCLE Web site and to all those who are subscribed to our e-mail announcements list.