Too Smart for Our Own Good. Will cognitive enhancement destroy the human race? Ronald Bailey

Could using technology to enhance our cognitive functions make people too smart for our own good? The problem, as Oxford University philosophers Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson see it [PDF], is that enabling people to become smarter via drugs, implants, and other biological (or genetic) interventions will speed up scientific and technological progress which in turn will increase the ability of smart evil people to make and deploy novel weapons of mass destruction.

“We may not have yet reached the state in which a single satanic character could eradicate all life on Earth," they rather dramatically write, "but with cognitive enhancement by traditional means alone, we may soon be there.” The only thing we have to fear is ourselves. 

“This growth of knowledge will be instrumentally bad for us on the whole, by unacceptably increasing the risk that we shall die soon,” they argue. “It will be bad for us that scientific knowledge continues to grow by traditional means, and even worse if this growth is further accelerated by biomedical or genetic enhancement of our cognitive capacities.” In other words, it’s already bad that our species has become so smart, but speeding up technological progress poses an even greater existential threat to humanity. Specifically, they worry that making people smarter will enable the creation of things like ever cheaper nuclear bombs or more potent weaponized pathogens.



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