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Neuroethics: Expectations vs Reality

When you think of the word 'neuroethics', what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Some would think of philosophy, ethics, piles of books, and a man in the dark with big glasses pondering over the existence of God. Now this might be true, but there are plenty of misconceptions and expectations that do not match up with reality when it comes to neuroethics. Here are a few:

Neuroethics is for neuroethicists Vs Neuroethics is for everyone

As mentioned before, neuroethics is not for neuroethicists, and philosophers only. Neuroethics is the study of the ethical and societal implications of neuroscience research and practice. That being said, any stakeholder or relevant individual or group of individuals that is in any way related to neuroscience, or neurotechnology should be concerned of emerging neuroethics discussions. If you are a neuroscientists, neurotech business owner, an engineer, a computer scientist, a consumer, a memeber of the general public (hence each and every one of us), then neuroethics is for you to reflect on.

Neuroethics is judgmental Vs Neuroethics is complimentary

Ethics is not equal to being judgemental and policing on the sciences. In fact ethics stresses and brings our attention to norms and values that we as a society consider as integral to our everyday lives. For example, neuroethicist shed light on concepts such as equality, fairness, autonomy and agency, among others. Neuroethics can be looked upon as complementary to neuroscience research and emerging neurotechnology, it ensures that the ethics is taken into account from the generation of a hypothesis, to the dessimination of results and marketing of neurotech products to consumers.

Neuroethics is very theoretical Vs Neuroethics can be practical & empirical

While neuroethics can be very theoretical focusing on neurophilosophical questions like "What is consciousness?" or "Do we have free-will?", there is an increase in practical or empirical neuroethics. Practical neuroethics looks at for instance claims made by neurotech companies concerning safety and efficacy of their products and analyse whether these hold true or whether the claims are exaggerated and unsuported by science. Additionally, neuroethicists work closely with neuroscientists investigating consciousness to better understand the underlying biology of the brain in order to better formulate philosophical questions/answers to emerging neuroscientific discoveries.

Neuroethics is boring Vs Neuroethics is thrilling

Neuroethics can indeed seem boring to some if you consider the scenario that I proposed earlier "...piles of books, a man in the dark with big glasses pondering over the existence of God." But it is not necessarily so. If you've watched Black Mirror and enjoyed it or had some critical questions following it, or if you've watched movies like GATTACA, Dawn of the Planet Apes or any other science-fiction movie and indulged in exciting and thought-provoking conversations with friends and family, then you've been having neuroethical discussions. Fun and exciting, isn't it?

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