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Smarter than us?
Success with brain doping?
Do we - in an increasingly complex world - need more intelligent people? And how could this be achieved? With pills that permanently increase attention and concentration? With genetic manipulations that lastingly improve the intellectual abilities of our offspring? With highly developed technical aids such as brain-computer interfaces?
“Neuro-enhancement” is the magic word on the way to hyperintelligence. But how realistic are the visions and promises of its proponents? And more fundamentally: How is intelligence actually defined? Do we even get to grips with what we want to increase?
Thomas Grüter examined these questions with a critical eye. It describes what we know today about human intelligence and where the perspectives and limits of pharmacological, genetic or technical optimization of our cognitive performance lie. A look at research on artificial intelligence (AI) and the futuristic vision of a mind upload rounds off the highly topical and exciting book.
The philosopher Hans Magnus Enzensberger believes that anyone who wants to apply something today must first and foremost be intelligent. So it's no wonder that more and more people want to improve their intelligence by all means. “Neuro-Enhancement” is the new German catchphrase under which artificial processes to increase brain performance are being discussed vehemently.
In Smarter than us? Doctor and neuroscientist Thomas Grüter first explains what intelligence actually is and how it is measured. It proves that there is neither a uniform definition nor a reliable measurement method. Comparisons of the intelligence quotient over generations are hardly meaningful, comparisons between peoples and races are grossly misleading. Then he describes the development of human intelligence from its beginnings and shows that the idea of the superiority of humans over animals due to their unique intelligence is a myth. Only the development of certain social structures at the end of the Paleolithic made this possible homo sapiens decisive advantages. It was not so much his individual intelligence, but in particular his ability to divide up labor in a complex manner that enabled man to rule over the earth.
For this reason, the currently much invoked individual neuro-enhancement will not have a major effect - especially since, according to Grüter's assessment, none of the currently discussed methods can lead to success at all. There is no universal “intelligence pill”, and certainly none without undesirable side effects. Intelligence cannot be increased even through a direct interface between the brain and the computer. Although the impressive successes of direct stimulation of the auditory nerve in deafness prove that perceptions can be generated via computers and passed on to the brain, a general increase in cognitive performance is not possible in this way. And genetic manipulations to increase brain performance harbor more dangers than opportunities. Finally, the author is still looking into the question of whether the mind upload proposed by some researchers, the transfer of the human mind into a supercomputer, is possible and what consequences it could have. And he takes a skeptical look at research on artificial (hyper) intelligence.
Grüter writes lively and repeatedly illustrates the difficult subject with short stories. His critical inventory provides an important orientation in the partly unreflected discussion about neuro-enhancement, cognitive performance enhancement and hyperintelligence.
About the authors
Thomas Grueter is a doctor and neuroscientist. He conducts research in the field of neurocognition on disorders of visual face recognition and has published several scientific papers on this topic in recent years. After teaching at the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Vienna from 2006 to 2008, he has been an affiliate at the Department of General Psychology at the University of Bamberg since 2009. Grüter also writes non-fiction and magazine articles on neuroscientific and psychological topics.
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