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BRAIN: Addressing the benefits, burdens, risks and responsibilities.  A call for neuroethics.  Prof. James Giordano PhD
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BRAIN: Addressing the benefits, burdens, risks and responsibilities. A call for neuroethics. Prof. James Giordano PhD


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Aug 6 Cafe Scientifique Arlington

Aug 6 Cafe Scientifique Arlington

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  • 1. BRAIN: Addressing the benefits, burdens, risks and responsibilities. A call for neuroethics. Prof. James Giordano PhD
  • 2. Precis • The brain and its functions have long been both enigmatic and a focus of human inquiry, invention and intervention. Since the early 19th century, this inquiry has involved the iterative use of ever more sophisticated tools of science that have been harnessed to investigate perdurable philosophical questions about the nature of mind, self, free will and human identity. The past forty years has borne witness to this tide of theoretical and technical momentum within the titular field of neuroscience, which as a consequence of conjoining the natural, physical and social sciences – and humanities – has become a discipline of broad, deep and far-reaching social influence. The newly proposed Brain Activity Map (BAM) and Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiatives represent the most contemporary instantiation of this pursuit, seeking to achieve heretofore unparalleled knowledge through technics to assess, access and target neural substrates of cognition, emotion and behavior in ways that offer potential translation in medicine, public life, international relations, and national security and defense.
  • 3. Precis 2 • The technical capability and theoretical revision afforded by contemporary neuroscientific advances – inclusive of those leveraged in the BRAIN agenda – have potential to incur profound change in various realms of human knowledge and prompt questions about the boundaries of scientific intervention and effect, and the ethical, legal and socio-cultural (inclusive of economic and political) implications and ramifications of each and any discovery.
  • 4. Precis 3 • While history may provide salient object lessons against frank misuse of neuroscience and its technologies, the historical record also upholds the reality that “change happens” and is reflective of human progress. Simply put, the more that is known, the more that can – and is – done with such knowledge. This then incurs the potential for not only great benefit, but also considerable burdens, risks and harms, and in so doing, mandates responsibility for oversight, guidance and governance of the ways that neuroscientific research is conducted and employed. Thus, it is argued that agendas such BRAIN must entail an equally strong dedication to 1) elucidating what neuroscience will be focused upon and most likely enable in the short and intermediate term; 2) depicting the realities of the situations that will be produced at these waypoints; and 3) elucidating the true benefits, burden, risks, harms – and controls that can and should be implemented upon arrival.
  • 5. Precis 4 • To wit, the field and practices of neuroethics could be invaluable to these tasks. But, in order to be authentic and meaningful, any and all neuroethical focus should not be esoteric or agnostic, but rather should direct a pragmatic appraisal of the positive, neutral and negative trajectories that might realistically result from specific undertakings of BRAIN.
  • 6. Precis 4 • Toward this end we call for a paradigmatic approach to neuroethics, HISTORY, that grounds neuroethical address to: • Historicity of science and technology as exemplar of potential trajectories and valences of use; • Implications of current and near future developments of neuroscience; • Science, as a non-neutral, intentional human endeavor; • Technology, as the tools for and of scientific development as a social force; • Ombudsmanship executed through pragmatic assessment of actual problems and issues at hand; • Responsibility to sustain both realistic appraisal of the science, as well as its users; • Yeomanry, to execute any ethico-legal analyses and actions as globally sensitive and responsive.
  • 7. Precis 5 • In this way, we assert neuroethics as fundamental to an innovative neurotechnology – not in an abstract sense, but literally – as innovative engagement of neuro-techne logos: a rational accounting of neuroscientific tools’ development, articulation, and uses; as well as an accounting of the human enterprises that drive and divert any such applications in the social spheres of the twenty-first century.
  • 8. Precis 6 • Working in our group at the Neuroethics Studies Program at the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics of Georgetown University, affiliated scholar Dr. Roland Benedikter, and researchers Timothy Brindley, Liana Buniak, Taisa Coleman, Christine Fitzpatrick, Anne Garcia, and Rachel Wurzman remain dedicated to these pursuits. • Additionally, we are collaborating with colleagues at the Human Science Center of the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany to study the ways that neuroscience, neurotechnology and neuroethics will affect - and be affected by - socio-cultural forces across generations upon the world stage
  • 9. For additional information, please see: • Georgetown’s Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics Neuroethics Program website: • and •
  • 10. To read more about this and related work, please see: • Giordano J. (Ed.) Neurotechnology: Premises, Potential and Problems. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2012. • Advances/dp/1439825866 • Giordano, J. and Gordijn, B. (Eds.) Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives in Neuroethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. • Neuroethics- Giordano/dp/0521703034/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=137639308 2&sr=1- 1&keywords=Scientific+and+Philosophical+Perspectives+in+Neuroethics • Nuffield Council on Bioethics Report. Novel Neurotechnologies: Intervening in the Brain. London: Nuffield Council, 2013. •
  • 11. Prof. James Giordano PhD • Prof. James Giordano PhD is Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program in the Edmund D. Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, and is on the faculty of the Division of Integrative Physiology in the Department of Biochemistry, Inter-disciplinary Program in Neurosciences, and the Inter-disciplinary Graduate Studies Program of Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA. • He is Clark Faculty Fellow in Neurosciences and Ethics, and Director of the Neurotechnology and Neuroethics Program at the Human Sciences Center of Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, where he previously was JW Fulbright Foundation Visiting Professor of Neuroscience, Neurotechnology and Neuroethics, is William H. and Ruth Crane Schaefer Distinguished Visiting Professor of Neuroscience and Neuroethics at Gallaudet University, Washington, DC, USA, and is a Senior Fellow and Regent of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Arlington, VA, USA.
  • 12. Giordano • His ongoing and moral decision-making, and the neuroethical issues that arise in and from the use of advanced neuroscientific techniques and technologies in research, medicine, public life, international relations, and national security, intelligence and defense. • • The author of over 200 peer-reviewed publications, his recent books include Neurotechnology: Premises, Potential and Problems (CRC Press); Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives in Neuroethics (with Bert Gordijn; Cambridge University Press); Maldynia: Multi-disciplinary Perspectives on the Illness of Chronic Pain (Routledge/Informa), and Pain Medicine: Philosophy, Ethics and Policy (with Mark Boswell, Linton Atlantic Books). He is Editor-in-Chief of the international journals Philosophy, Ethics and Humanities in Medicine; and Synesis: A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics and Policy; Associate Editor of the journals Neuroethics; and Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine, and Executive-Editor-in-Chief of the book series Advances in Neurotechnology: Ethical, Legal and Social Issues (published by CRC Press).
  • 13. Giordano • In recognition of his work, Prof Giordano was awarded Germany’s 2012 Klaus Reichert Prize in Medicine and Philosophy (with collaborator Dr Roland Benedikter), was named 2012-2014 Distinguished National Lecturer for both Sigma Xi (the national research honor society) and IEEE, and was elected to the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in 2008. • He and his wife Sherry, an artist, editor, and naturalist divide their time between Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, USA, and the Bavarian town of Bad Tölz, a suburb of Munich, Germany. • Contact: Prof. James Giordano at