If you could permanently change your brain to work better, would you? Or, maybe more importantly, would you have the right to?
Over at _The Atlantic,_ there’s an excellent rundown of think-tank the Institute for the Future’s forecasts for the next 10 years, but one of the most fascinating is the idea of a “Magna Cortica”: a document that would legally protect the right to cognitive enhancement. Mood pills, brain stimulation, genetic modification — what should we be allowed to do to ourselves?
Institute for the Future distinguished fellow Jamais Cascio drew up this rough list:
You’ll notice immediately: it’s not question of if _this should be permitted, but _to what extent. As Cascio makes the point to _The Atlantic’s _Alexis Madrigal: “Are we going to treat this like doping in sports, and create a criminal culture around it? Do we treat it as another version of a cell phone?”
As simple as those five items are, the implications of each are radical — and controversial. Each of these could be the starting point of a metaphysical sci-fi novel: What unforeseen consequences will come from modifying ourselves? Do we have a right to modify our children, who, under the law, can’t really consent to such procedures? If we were to draw up a modification database, what would we do with that information?
To be sure, it doesn’t seem like Cascio is suggesting these are hard and fast rules. They’re a starting point point for a productive conversation; Cascio calls them the Magna Cortica version 0.1. But if straightforward ideas like this still seem fraught and unwieldy, we have a long way to go before we come to any conclusions.