Brain dead

Short review of The 21st-Century Brain: Explaining, Mending and Manipulating the Mind by Steven Rose, in The Economist:

“The 21st-Century Brain” promises, in its subtitle, to explain how neuroscience will allow the mind to be mended and manipulated, and to categorise what the possible implications of this mending and manipulation may be. This is a fascinating topic; indeed, there are few more interesting questions in science today. It is a shame, then, that Mr Rose waits until the last quarter of his book to begin addressing the subject in earnest. And when he does, it is in prose that somehow manages to be both hurried and laggardly at the same time, jumping back and forth between scientific research papers, television popularisations of neuroscience, and apocalyptic novels (primarily Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”) in such a way that the thread of his argument is all too often lost.

More here. There is a rosier review in The Times:

Rose’s timely book warns of the self-fulfilling prophecies of reductionist explanations of human nature for future policy in mental-health and the criminal-justice system. In order to behave freely and responsibly, he argues, it is crucial we believe we are free. We have to grasp the authenticity, scope and limits of human freedom. The spread of “neurogenetic” determinism (the idea that everything is fated in our genes and brain chemistry), he warns, could lead to a state of affairs in which a Twinkie Defence could be invoked for any and every human action and circumstance. This is not a matter, as Rose points out, of merely excusing crimes: it could result in the not too distant future in our locking up as “dysfunctional” individuals diagnosed genetically or through brain scans before they have done anything deemed to be dangerous. “Our ethical understandings may be enriched by neuroscientific knowledge,” he asserts, “but not replaced.” Rose insists that only through confirming our belief in freedom and moral agency can we “manage the ethical, legal and social aspects of the emerging neurotechnologies”.

More here.