Nicole Vincent

Research Project Title: Cognitive Enhancement and the Social Side Effects of Emerging Technologies

Associate Professor of Philosophy, Law, and Neuroscience; Chief Investigator, Enhancing Responsibility Project

Georgia State University, Department of Philosophy

Atlanta, Georgia; United States of America

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Academic Biography

Nicole A Vincent obtained her PhD in the philosophy of tort law in 2007 from the University of Adelaide, Australia. She spent three years working in The Netherlands on a project entitled "The Brain and The Law." After returning to Australia for three years, she concurrently developed her work in the field of criminal law and neuroscience, as well as heading up the international inter-disciplinary project "Enhancing Responsibility: The Effects of Cognitive Enhancement on Moral and Legal Responsibility" based in Delft, The Netherlands and Oxford, UK. In August 2013 she joined Georgia State University as Associate Professor of Philosophy, Law, and Neuroscience. The concept of responsibility occupies center stage in Nicole's work in the fields of neuroethics, neurolaw, ethics, philosophy of tort and criminal law, and political philosophy. Her approach is analytic and empirically-informed, and her past work has devoted equal attention to tackling conceptual, normative, metaphysical and practical problems. She has written on such topics as the compatibility of responsibility and determinism, medical interventions to make criminal offenders competent for execution, how neuroscience and behavioural genetics fit into criminal responsibility adjudication procedures, tort liability for failure to use cognitive enhancement medications, and whether people who live unhealthy lifestyles should have de-prioritized access to public health care resources and to organ transplants.

Executive Summary

This project will develop four related ideas into a book with seven chapters. One, that unless as a society we start exercising greater foresight and managing the social uptake of emerging technologies through more sophisticated regulation, then in the near future we may all end up feeling pressured to use one of these technologies – cognitive enhancers – just to keep up with one another. Two, that such pressure to enhance would be regrettable because: on a daily basis we would lack substantive freedom to not enhance; over time we would hand over control in shaping society to the invisible hand of competition; and the resulting society would likely be toxic to human flourishing. Three, that it is helpful to view this pressure to enhance as an unexpected social side effect of an emerging technology — cognitive enhancement provides an example of a more general mechanism through which scientific and technological developments can shape our lives by gradually and imperceptibly changing our values and the moral, legal, and social landscape in which we operate as agents. And four, that for humans to flourish risks of such social side effects, not just medical ones, should also inform our regulatory schemes. The core hypothesis that ties the above four ideas together is that to enhance our lives, we must control our technologies in light of a broad range of values, rather than through the currently-favored minimalist regulatory approaches, since such minimalism allows technology's unintended effects on society to dictate how we should live our lives.