The Future of Mind Control
The May 23, 2002 issue of the Economist,
has several articles constellated around neuroethics and the future of
Cover Story: The
Future of Mind Control
Additional Story: Open
Your Mind: The Ethics of Brain Studies
Read a letter to the editor of the
Economist by CCLE co-director Richard Glen Boire
Your cover story on “The Future of Mind Control”
raises a myriad of vital issues. Your article sends the siren call that we
must begin addressing these issues immediately if we hope to live in a
future that respects personal freedom and human rights.
One thing missing, however, was the impact of
today’s “war on drugs,” – a government policy that is, in
principle, all about mind control.
most fundamental level, today’s laws banning the use of certain
drugs are indistinguishable from yesterday’s laws aimed at banning
certain books. (Both text and drugs augment thinking.) Both types of laws
place barriers around and within the individual’s mind. Both types of
laws are inimical to the fundamental principles that animate democratic
society, and both types of laws violate basic notions of individual
freedom and self-determination. The
war on drugs is no more about “evil” pills, powders, and plants, than
the laws banning books were about paper and ink.
A neuroethical future must recognize that individuals
are entitled to cognitive liberty. As long as a person’s behavior does
not cause harm to others, the government has no authority to outlaw
certain knowledge, certain ways of thinking, or certain states of
consciousness. A corollary is cognitive autonomy—a person has the right
to remain free from the surreptitious or compelled use of technology
(including drugs) to manipulate, surveil or control the mind.
A future that does not recognize these fundamental
rights will be grimmer than any dystopia even Orwell could have imagined.
The right to control your own consciousness is the quintessence of
-- Dr. Richard Glen Boire
Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE)
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