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Topic and aims

The Ethical, Legal, and Social Aspects of Cognitive Enhancement Strategies

24-26 August, 2021 virtual meeting
(2pm-7pm CEST, 8am-1pm EDT, 12pm-18pm UTC)


Certain prescription drugs, transcranial magnetic stimulation, brain-computer interfaces, and even genetic modifications are all discussed as forms of potential cognitive enhancement. Cognitive neuroenhancement as a specific strategy can be defined as the improvement of brain functions with medications or other treatments when not medically necessary. This phenomenon has attracted increased media interest in recent years and is hotly debated in the public, professional, and scientific literature. It is often assumed that because of growing performance demands and the pursuit of success and perfection, an increasing number of people are turning to enhancement strategies (such as caffeine tablets, methylphenidate, or amphetamines) to improve their ability to concentrate, memorize, learn and make decisions. 
Thus, in light of globalization and digitalization with increasing competition and pressure for greater performance, proponents for cognitive enhancement view these strategies in a way similar to how they view education: the strategies are tools to foster the intellectual, technological, economic, and cultural wealth of nations. Opponents criticize the use and subsequent achievements as unauthentic and unfair, especially when access to the means of enhancement is restricted. This is accompanied by the fear that such technologies have a negative impact on social equality and threaten our evolution as a species or jeopardize significant cultural practices. 

This interdisciplinary conference aims at:

  • a) discussing new technological possibilities of cognitive enhancement; 
  • b) engaging in a debate about ethical, legal, and social issues associated with it; 
  • c) presenting empirical studies on the prevalence, willingness to use, and procurement strategies;
  • d) exploring drivers and hurdles of usage and procurement strategies as well as associated beliefs about risks and moral concerns; and 
  • e) deliberating visions regarding legal norms and the regulation of enhancement technologies as well as the prevention of health-endangering usage. 

We invite scholars from various disciplines such as sociology, psychology, philosophy, medicine, law, and the political sciences. The three-day program will include keynote lectures by renowned scholars on the current possibilities and limits of enhancement, its ethical dimension, etiology of usage, and prevention.

We are looking forward to an enriching conference!

The ENHANCE team