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Available now! Self-esteem in a bottle.

If, as Fukuyama argues, we already have ‘therapies that blur the line between what we achieve on our own and what we achieve because of the levels of various chemicals in our brains’, the efficiency of these therapies implies that ‘what we achieve on our own’ also depends on the ‘levels of various chemicals in our brains’.

We are not being told, to quote Tom Wolfe, ‘Sorry, but Your Soul Just Died’: we are in effect being told that we never had a soul in the first place. If the claims of biogenetics hold, then the choice is between clinging to the illusion of dignity and accepting the reality of what we are. 

If, as Fukuyama says, ‘the desire for recognition has a biological basis and that basis is related to levels of serotonin in the brain,’ our awareness of this fact must undermine the sense of dignity that comes from being recognised by others. . Fukuyama writes:
The normal, and morally acceptable, way of overcoming low self-esteem was to struggle with oneself and with others, to work hard, to endure sometimes painful sacrifices, and finally to rise and be seen as having done so. The problem with self-esteem as it is understood in American pop psychology is that it becomes an entitlement, something everyone needs to have whether it is deserved or not. This devalues self-esteem and makes the quest for it self-defeating.
But now along comes the American pharmaceutical industry, which through drugs like Zoloft and Prozac can provide self-esteem in a bottle by elevating brain serotonin.

Imagine the following scenario: I am to take part in a quiz, but instead of working away at getting up the facts, I use drugs to enhance my memory. The self-esteem I acquire by winning the competition is still based on a real achievement: I performed better than my opponent who had spent night after night trying to memorise the relevant data. The intuitive counter-argument is that only my opponent has the right to be proud of his performance, because his knowledge, unlike mine, was the result of hard work. There’s something inherently patronising in that, or a war between old values and new. He has been gifted with more serotonin than me, we preume there has been a medical test for this, so why is it unfair, or cheating to make it a level playing field for me upping my Serotonin?
Again, we see it as perfectly justified when someone with a good natural singing voice takes pride in his performance, although we’re aware that his singing has more to do with talent than with effort and training. If, however, I can sing equally as well, in private but in public fall down through inhibition why can I not take a drug to increase my Serotonin and receive the same recognition,

The point is that both hard work and natural talent are considered ‘part of me’, while using a drug is ‘artificial’ enhancement because it is a form of external manipulation.

Which brings us back to the same problem: once we know that my ‘natural talent’ depends on the levels of certain chemicals in my brain, does it matter, morally, whether I acquired it from outside or have possessed it from birth?

To further complicate matters, it’s possible that my willingness to accept discipline and work hard itself depends on certain chemicals.

What if, in order to win a quiz, I don’t take a drug which enhances my memory but one which ‘merely’ strengthens my resolve? Is this still ‘cheating’?
One reason Fukuyama moved from his ‘end-of-history’ theory to a consideration of the new threat posed by the brain sciences is that the that has the potential to render the free autonomous subject of liberal democracy obso biogenetic threat is a much more radical version of the ‘end of history’, that wil make
the current subject obsolete

There is a deeper reason, however, for Fukuyama’s turn: the prospect of biogenetic manipulation has forced him, consciously or not, to take note of the dark obverse of the idealised image of liberal democracy. All of a sudden, he has been compelled to confront the prospect of corporations misusing the free market to manipulate people and engage in terrifying medical experiments, of rich people breeding their offspring as an exclusive race with superior mental and physical capacities, thus instigating a new class warfare. 
Maybe the problem is not biogenetics itself, but rather the context of power relations within which it functions: the liberal-democratic end of history immediately turns into its opposite, since, in the hour of its triumph, it starts to lose its foundation – the liberal-democratic subject.
Biogenetic (more generally, cognitivist-evolutionary) reductionism should be attacked from a different direction. Bo Dahlbom is right, in his 1993 critique of Daniel Dennett, to insist on the social character of ‘mind’. Theories of mind are obviously conditioned by their historical context: 
The problem is not how to reduce mind to neuronal activity, or replace the language of mind by that of brain processes, but rather to grasp how mind can emerge only from the network of social relations and material supplements.

  The real problem is not how, if at all, machines can imitate the human mind, but how the ‘identity’ of the human mind can incorporate machines. 

In March 2002, Kevin Warwick, a professor of cybernetics at Reading University, had his neuronal system directly linked to a computer network. He thus became the first human being to whom data could be fed directly, bypassing the five senses. This is the future: not the replacement of the human mind by the computer, but a combination of the two. In May 2002, it was reported that scientists at New York University had attached a computer chip directly to a rat’s brain, making it possible to steer the rat by means of a mechanism similar to that in a remote-controlled toy car.
What was new in the case of the rat was that, for the first time, the ‘will’ of a living agent, its ‘spontaneous’ decisions about its movements, were taken over by an external agency.

 The philosophical question here is whether the unfortunate rat was aware that something was wrong, that its movements were being decided by another power. And when the same experiment is performed on a human being (which, ethical questions notwithstanding, shouldn’t be much more complicated than it was in the case of the rat), will the steered person be aware that an external power is deciding his movements? And if so, will this power be experienced as an irresistible inner drive, or as coercion?

A year from now, Philips plan to market a phone-cum-CD-player woven into the material of a jacket, which can be dry-cleaned without damaging the digital machinery. This is not the innocent advance it may appear to be. The Philips jacket will represent a quasi-organic prosthesis, less an external apparatus with which we interact than part of our self-experience as a living organism. The parallel often drawn between the increasing invisibility of computer chips and the fact that when we learn something sufficiently well, we cease to be aware of it, is misleading.

The sign that we have learned a language is that we no longer need to focus on its rules: not only do we speak it spontaneously, but actively focusing on the rules would prevent us from speaking it fluently. We have, however, previously had to learn the language which we have now internalised: invisible computer chips are ‘out there’, and act not spontaneously, but blindly.
Hegel would not have shrunk from the idea of the human genome and biogenetic intervention, preferring ignorance to risk. Instead, he would have rejoiced at the shattering of the old idea that ‘Thou art that,’ as though our notions of human identity had been definitively fixed. Contrary to Habermas, we should take the objectivisation of the genome fully on board. Reducing my being to the genome forces me to traverse the phantasmal stuff of which my ego is made, and only in this way can my subjectivity properly emerge. 

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