Tag Archives: bioethics

QWOP, GIRP and the Construction of Video Game Realism


1: A Problematic Concept

Whenever mainstream news outlets mention video games I cringe. I cringe because every time traditional news outlets move beyond their traditional territory and reach out to an unfamiliar cultural milieu in an effort to appear plugged in, they invariably wind up making both themselves and that cultural milieu look awful. The awfulness comes from the fact that journalists in unfamiliar territory tend to take authority figures at face value and, in the world of video games, this generally results in precisely the sort of hyperbolic bullshit that makes video game journalism such an oxymoron. Continue reading QWOP, GIRP and the Construction of Video Game Realism

This is your brain on smart drugs…

Medical ethicists are starting to get worried about the possibility of employers requiring their workers take smart drugs to boost productivity. Hence this report entitled When the boss turns pusher” in the Journal of Medical Ethics:

…the possibility of discrimination by employers and insurers against individuals who choose not to engage in such enhancement is a serious threat worthy of legislative intervention. While lawmakers should not prevent individuals from freely pursuing neurocognitive enhancement, they should act to ensure that such enhancement is not coerced.

It’s an interesting question. Another point concerns the anti-egalitarian nature of smart drugs. If their use confers a genuine advantage, but they remain expensive, it will be yet another exclusive tool of advancement for the rich. The JME suggests:

…objectors argue that neurocognitive enhancement is anti-egalitarian because these technologies are expected to be costly and the wealthy will have significantly more access to them.

This is indeed likely to be the case—unless society chooses to subsidise enhancement, as it does public education and (outside the USA) healthcare.

However, similar inequalities are generated by private grammar schools and tutors for the SAT (a college and university admission test) and Ivy League universities, yet few suggest outlawing these threats to distributive justice.

So the issue of equality is another political ballgame (I’d love to be able to get some memory enhancers on the NHS). Anyway the approach suggested vis a vis smart drugs by the JME seems very positive and enlightened.

[When the boss turns pusher via article on Macleans.ca, via Sentient Developments][image fron jenlight on flickr]

Stem Cells show major breakthrough in treatment of Parkinson’s

Is this a cure or should we leave it alone?The UK parliament this week is considering a wide-reaching bill on stem-cell research. Under pressure from a number of religious groups, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has allowed MPs to have a ‘free vote’ on certain parts of the bill. There’s no doubt that stem cells are a tricky moral issue – are they to be considered alive, or just a group of cells like a skin transfusion?

Meanwhile, a study of stem cell use has shown that they can make a great deal of impact in reversing the effects and possibly curing Parkinson’s disease. Other degenerative diseases such as Alzheimers are also thought to be potentially cured by treatment with stem cells. The big advantage to this latest scientific discovery is that the mice in the study did not reject the stem cells, a major step forward in the useability of the treatment.

To be sure the issue is a very complex one. Is it better to not play around with cells taken from embryos, even those that would only be disposed of? Is it a can of worms best left alone or are the moral quandaries worth it for the difference that could be made to the many people with diseases stem cells are thought to help? It’s a difficult choice but one we’ll have to face in the coming decades. Scientists are making great advances in the field and sooner or later will produce cures for some diseases. We’ll have to choose whether it’s right to use them or not.

[picture via BBC]