If you could undergo a riskless implantation of an electrode in your brain that would rid you of all negative emotion – without impairing intelligence and critical mind – would you do it? The Dali Lama would, and so would millions of others, according to Dr. Marcel Kinsbourne’s answer to the Edge question, “What Will Change Everything?”
Neurocosmetics – the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS) by which electrodes are inserted into the brain to electrically stimulate precisely specified locations – has the potential to allow people to change personalities and social behavior as well as to address brain disorders such as Parkinsonism and obsessive-compulsive disorder. DBS is not currently used to make relatively normal people “more thoughtful, agreeable, gentle or considerate,” but Kinsbourne argues that it could be, citing (a) any technology tends to become more “precise, effective and safe over time;” and (b) “anything that can be done ultimately will be done, philosophical and ethical considerations notwithstanding.”
Imagine visiting your DBS provider for personality tweaks, an “arms race” in affability, a “fashion industry” of psychological profiles you can try on, better mood, alertness, memory, willpower and more. We already have cosmetic surgery and implants for bodies. Why not cosmetic adjustments for brains as well? Ethicists will have a field day.