Technology is used as a prostheses and supplement which ‘could become a sign of excess and enhancement.’ (Geary, p30, 2002). Certain drugs and medications are methods used to increase the cognitive ability of an individual with a disability or mental illness. These enhancements can also be used on ‘improving the cognition of a cognitively normal person.’ (Farah, M,J). Nootropics such as mental enhancements have been proven to increase the brains capacity and make individuals focus more. Students taking exams are an example of the use of nootropics in turn giving them aspects of the idea of super human. Another aspect of cognitive enhancement can be used in treating mental illness such as schizophrenia and these may be seen as mind prostheses.
The stereotype for a ‘normal’ image immediately stigmatizes those who don’t conform to the stereotype, particularly those with impairment, even if it doesn’t affect the day to day activities such as individuals with a mental illness. ‘Medically the term a ‘human being’ should be defined by the presence of an active human brain.’ (Goldenring, 1985). This leads to questioning the concept that people with a mental illness don’t conform to the idea of having a normally functioning brain in turn making them appear less like a conventionally definition of what a human being is. Cognitive enhancements allow these people to have a normally functioning brain allowing them to fix the problems they are having with their brains. ‘People with mental health problems are the subject of social oppression, exclusion and discrimination.’ (Vandekinderen, p12, 2012). They are no seen as being conventionally normal to the social construction of what a normal person is. Everett Hughes, a sociologist, formulated a concept called a ‘Master Status’ which is a person’s most defining characteristic in a society. (Khan, S, 2014). Disability or impairments are often seen as an individual’s Master Status despite all their other qualities. Using and treating these mental impairments allows the person to have a normal brain by letting their other characteristics shine through. They are seen as something the world needs to fix in order to become a ‘normal’ human being.
‘For Holgersen, technology as an appendage of his body is an everyday reality.’ (Geary, p31, 2002). We have become so used to technology as a prostheses it has become part of our everyday with very little questioning. When someone is ill the automatic response is to try and fix the problem through technology and medication. People with mental health such as schizophrenia form a separate reality in which they are seeing things that may not be true. They need medication in order to come back into this reality. Whereas people who are normal use these cognitive enhancements to create a super reality as what they can do while on these drugs are beyond the realistic strengths in which a normally functioning brain can. This leads to the questioning of the control we have over our own bodies and minds if the cognitive enhancements are producing different realities and is technology controlling our concept of reality and humanness?
Farah, M,J. Cognitive Enhancements. Centre of Neuroscience and Society. [Video]. Available from: http://neuroethics.upenn.edu/portfolio-items/cognitive-enhancement-martha-farah-phd/ [Accessed on: 17/10/2014]
Goldenring, J.M., 1985. The brain-life theory: towards a consistent biological definition of humanness, [e-journal] 11 (4). Abstract only. Available on: Journal of Medical Ethics.< http://jme.bmj.com/content/11/4/198.short> [Accessed on: 15/10/2014].
James Geary (2002) chapter 6 “Touch” from The Body Electric: An Anatomy of the New Bionic Sense, London: Wiedenfeld and Nicholson
Khan, S. (06/12/2013). Slide Share: Master Status. Available From: http://www.slideshare.net/samadkhan39/master-status [Accessed on 16/10/2014]
Vandekinderen, C. 2012. Mapping Encounters: Tracing Otherness and Chasing Humanness. A Critical Disability Studies Perspective on Mental Health Care Realities and Constructions. P13