Should We Use Technologies to Enhance Morality?

Should we welcome biomedical technologies that could enhance our ability to tell right from wrong and improve behaviors that are considered immoral such as dishonesty, prejudice and antisocial aggression?

Photo by Asa Rodger on Unsplash

Our moral ‘hardware’ evolved over 100,000 years ago while humans were still scratching the savannah. The perils we encountered back then were radically different from those that confront us now. To survive and flourish in the face of complex future challenges our archaic operating systems might need an upgrade – in non-traditional ways.

Morality refers to standards of right and wrong when it comes to our beliefs, behaviors, and intentions. Broadly, moral enhancement is the use of biomedical technology to improve moral functioning. This could include augmenting empathy, altruism, or moral reasoning, or curbing antisocial traits like outgroup bias and aggression.

The claims related to moral enhancement are grand and polarizing: it’s been both tendered as a solution to humanity’s existential crises and bluntly dismissed as an armchair hypothesis. So, does the concept have any purchase? The answer leans heavily on our definition and expectations.

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Cohen Marcus Lionel Brown
Cohen Marcus Lionel Brown teaches and researches ethics and applied philosophy at UOW in Greater Sydney, Australia. Specifically, he works on questions in neuroethics, moral psychology, aggression studies, and human enhancement. He is a current member of the Australasian Association of Philosophy Postgraduate Committee, Sydney Health Ethics Network, and the International Society for Research on Aggression. Cohen also works as a judge of the International Ethics Olympiad, and volunteers with the not-for-profit organization Primary Ethics. Find him on Twitter @CohenMarcusLio1
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