A Case for Memory Enhancement: Ethical, Social, Legal, and Policy Implications for Enhancing the Memory

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Paul Muriithi


The desire to enhance and make ourselves better is not a new one and it has continued to intrigue throughout the ages. Individuals have continued to seek ways to improve and enhance their well-being for example through nutrition, physical exercise, education and so on. Crucial to this improvement of their well-being is improving their ability to remember. Hence, people interested in improving their well-being, are often interested in memory as well. The rationale being that memory is crucial to our well-being. The desire to improve one's memory then is almost certainly as old as the desire to improve one's well-being. Traditionally, people have used different means in an attempt to enhance their memories: for example in learning through storytelling, studying, and apprenticeship. In remembering through practices like mnemonics, repetition, singing, and drumming. In retaining, storing and consolidating memories through nutrition and stimulants like coffee to help keep awake; and by external aids like notepads and computers. In forgetting through rituals and rites.Recent scientific advances in biotechnology, nanotechnology, molecular biology, neuroscience, and information technologies, present a wide variety of technologies to enhance many different aspects of human functioning. Thus, some commentators have identified human enhancement as central and one of the most fascinating subject in bioethics in the last two decades. Within, this period, most of the commentators have addressed the Ethical, Social, Legal and Policy (ESLP) issues in human enhancements as a whole as opposed to specific enhancements. However, this is problematic and recently various commentators have found this to be deficient and called for a contextualized case-by-case analysis to human enhancements for example genetic enhancement, moral enhancement, and in my case memory enhancement (ME). The rationale being that the reasons for accepting/rejecting a particular enhancement vary depending on the enhancement itself. Given this enormous variation, moral and legal generalizations about all enhancement processes and technologies are unwise and they should instead be evaluated individually.Taking this as a point of departure, this research will focus specifically on making a case for ME and in doing so assessing the ESLP implications arising from ME. My analysis will draw on the already existing literature for and against enhancement, especially in part two of this thesis; but it will be novel in providing a much more in-depth analysis of ME. From this perspective, I will contribute to the ME debate through two reviews that address the question how we enhance the memory, and through four original papers discussed in part three of this thesis, where I examine and evaluate critically specific ESLP issues that arise with the use of ME. In the conclusion, I will amalgamate all my contribution to the ME debate and suggest the future direction for the ME debate.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2014