Via the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, J. Hughes on the use of new technologies in genetics and neurology to suppress vice and accelerate spiritual progress:
The Buddhist tradition recognizes that we are not all born with equal propensities to wisdom or moral behavior, and that Enlightenment is only possible for the very few […] A fully virtuous life is biologically impossible for most people. But, given the rapid advance of neurotechnologies, “if these cognitive shortcomings could be compensated for, or balanced, through the use of safe and voluntary enhancement techniques, then it would be morally desirable to do so.” If specific, consistent moral behavioral orientations – truthfulness, compassion and so on – can be identified, and our likelihood of manifesting them is strongly influenced by inherited genetic predispositions or persistent neurochemistry, then it might be possible to use future neurotechnologies to systematically make ourselves more truthful or compassionate.
A question raised about the use of neurotechnology to achieve “spiritual” ends is whether the result would be “authentic.” Sometimes a distinction is made between praise-worthy “natural” methods of self-transformation, and “unnatural” methods. But which is more natural, gossiping around the fire or sitting silently for hours, having visions in a sweat lodge, and taking peyote? In other words taking a drug to control one’s cravings or sharpen one’s mind is no more or less natural for homo sapiens than many spiritual practices.
So long as the neurotechnologies are drugs they may be restricted to being a temporary adjunct rather than the principal method of self-improvement. But eventually we will have the capacity to change genes that affect the brain permanently, and install neurodevices that constantly monitor and direct our thoughts and behavior. At that point the distinction between traditional methods of self-change and neurotechnology may become moot.
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