February 21, 2019 | The Neuroethics Blog

Why Is Congress Afraid Of Consciousness?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed an apparent reluctance among the U.S. government agencies that fund neuroscience (e.g., the Defense Advanced Projects Agency and the National Institutes of Health) to be associated with projects that explicitly describe work on the nature of consciousness— or at least anything that suggests greater understanding and the potential of manipulating our awareness of the world. The strategic avoidance of such language appears to be true of both military and civilian government sources of funding for neuroscience. And forget any project that uses words like “enhancement.” That’s just too far over the line of political acceptability.

It might be a bum rap, and I appreciate that the plural of anecdotes is not data, but I’ve not only heard colleagues mention their sensitivities about giving elected officials the impression that their studies involve consciousness. I have also experienced it myself when hearing agency officials talk about that hot potato.

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