V: INVENTION


NEUROTECH AND THE ETHICS OF PROGRESS

Scientific research transforms society as inventors, engineers, and companies translate discoveries into goods and services. Rapidly, technologies that were once science fiction are becoming science fact. As neuroscience makes possible artificial intelligence, genetically modified minds, and cognition-boosting medication, where does the buck stop? What are the ethics of creating brain-linked telepaths, smart robots, and dramatically enhanced minds?

Activities:

1. Students get to try on Emotiv brainwave-reading headsets to create music, catalyze chemical reactions, and fly toy helicopters using only their minds. In the process, they gain an appreciation for the increasingly blurry boundaries at the interface of neuroscience, technology, engineering, and computational mathematics.

2. The class is confronted with a live ethical dilemma: Is it moral to turn an insect into a neuron-controlled cyborg? If students vote “yes,” then they are allowed to control an actual insect using their smartphones. If students vote “no,” the class performs an alternative activity.