Forget enhanced memory

Tomorrow’s Bioethics class will have to be a bit foreshortened, I’ve just been invited to speak with MTSU’s Student National Medical Association (SNMA) chapter at 5:30 (Student Union room 224). Last time I visited them, on the last class date of the Fall ’13 semester, the pizza-to-student ratio was impressive.

Last-minute invitations are good in one way: they offer no opportunity to over-prepare.I’ll probably just tell them what we’ve been doing in the Bioethics class so far, what we’ll do next, and what it all has to do with the MCAT’s new emphasis on the social (“sociological”) and psychological dimensions of medical practice.
We wrap up our reading and discussion of Bioethics: The Basics with ch.6 on justice. I’m particularly interested in this chapter’s discussion of vaccination/immunization, immersed as I am at the moment in Seth Mnookin’s Panic Virus.

We’ll be explicitly tackling this issue more intensively when we get to Eula Biss’s book:

“If we imagine the action of a vaccine not just in terms of how it affects a single body, but also in terms of how it affects the collective body of a community, it is fair to think of vaccination as a kind of banking of immunity.”

But first, to follow up on last time’s discussion of “enhancement” and to anticipate next time’s commencement of Michael Sandel’s Case Against Perfection: over the weekend I saw a chilling fictional representation of how future mental/cognitive enhancements might lead to dystopia. It was episode three of the British series “Black Mirror,” in which everyone is equipped with an implant called a “grain” – it’s kind of a subcutaneous Google Glass, with instant access to one’s entire archival memory (and with f/forward and rewind). Tipped by the Times, I’ve joined the bandwagon of latecoming enthusiasts for this show who wonder why we didn’t think of that.

Like most everyone in my demographic these days, I’m prone to complaining about flagging memory. But before I find myself someday tempted to gouge the man in the mirror, I think I’d prefer to go against the grain and just forego the upgrade. Please remind me, if I forget. 

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