In 1968, Jürgen Habermas claimed that, in an advanced technological society, the emancipatory force of knowledge can only be regained by actively recovering the ‘forgotten experience of reflection’. In this article, we argue that, in the contemporary situation, critical reflection requires a deliberative ambiance, a process of mutual learning, a consciously organised process of deliberative and distributed reflection. And this especially applies, we argue, to critical reflection concerning a specific subset of technologies which are actually oriented towards optimising human cognition (neuro-enhancement). In order to create a deliberative ambiance, fostering critical upstream reflection on emerging technologies, we developed (in the context of a European 7th Framework Programme project on neuro-enhancement and responsible research and innovation, called NERRI) the concept of a mutual learning exercise (MLE). Building on a number of case studies, we analyse what an MLE involves, both practically and conceptually, focussing on key aspects such as ambiance and expertise, the role of ‘genres of the imagination’ and the profiles of various ‘subcultures of debate’. Ideally, an MLE becomes a contemporary version of the Socratic agora, providing a stage where multiple and sometimes unexpected voices and perspectives mutually challenge each other, in order to strength-en the societal robustness and responsiveness of emerg-ing technologies.
NanoEthics – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 24, 2017
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