COMMENT: Brave new era in technology needs new ethics –

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Back in March of 2012 I wrote a post entitled Is There An Objectification Double Standard? In this post I suggested that we as a society tend to condemn athletes who use performance enhancing drugs (i.e., steroids) on the field while at the same time encourage our kids to use performance enhancing drugs (i.e., Ritalin) in the classroom. In my view, to objectify is to take “part” and make it “whole.” By making the “performance part” a whole, performance enhancing drugs lead to objectification both on the field and in the classroom. But it would seem that objectification on the field is frowned on while objectification in the classroom is quickly becoming the norm. Is it possible that voices condemning athletic objectification are designed to be loud so as to draw our attention away from classroom objectification? What’s that Shakespearean saying? The lady protests too much, methinks.

I did not receive much in the way of comments on my objectification double standard post. But that idea has stayed with me as reports continued to pour in telling of students abusing drugs typically used to treat ADHD (i.e., Ritalin and Adderall) to enhance their study habits. And then just the other day I read the following article by John Thornhill:

Brave new era in technology needs new ethics –

by John Thornhill, January 20th, 2016

What caught my attention was the following passage by Thornhill:

Developments in healthcare also create new dilemmas. Should cognition-enhancing drugs be banned for casual users? In their book Bad Moves, the neurologists Barbara Sahakian and Jamie Nicole LaBuzetta highlight the ethical challenges of using smart drugs to boost academic performance.

Why, they ask, do we take such a dim view of athletes who use steroids to cheat in the Olympic Games but ignore students who use smart drugs to boost their performance when they are about to take university entrance exams?

Yeow! It would appear that this is a topic that has caught the attention of prominent neurologists. The full title of Sahakian and LaBusetta’s 2013 book is Bad Moves: How Decision Making Goes Wrong, and the Ethics of Smart Drugs. Here’s a bit of biographical information on the authors from

Barbara J Sahakian is a world-renowned researcher in the fields of neurology and psychiatry, and is currently based at University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine in the Department of Clinical Neuropsychology.

Jamie Nicole LaBuzetta received her medical degree from UCSD, and is currently in the midst of her residency training at the Harvard-affiliated hospitals in Boston, USA. She is a neurology resident at the Partners program (Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s, two of the Harvard-affiliated hospitals).

So, if you’d like to read more about what I’m calling an objectification double standard, by all means, grab a copy of Bad Moves. It’s already in my Kindle cue. Again, I’m glad to see that neurology experts are taking this issue seriously. If you condemn objectification on the field, you should also condemn it in the classroom. Just saying…. What do you think? Have you read Bad Moves? If so, what’s your take? Feel free to leave a comment.