Shook – Technologies for Educating Brains, Without Reducing Smarts to Neurons

John Shook

Bowie State University

Neuroscience and neurotechnology has the potential to improve views of cognitive functioning and learning processes, and help refine learning techniques contributing to educational attainment. Optimism about productive dialogue and collaboration between neurotech and education is highly recommendable. Some skepticism, if not cynicism, is also urged in the short term. Overhyped claims about potential “cognitive enhancers” through brain stimulation, in the wake of pharmacological “smart pills,” have arrived. It has already been popularly imagined that neurotech for improving mental abilities won’t necessitate any tough learning or formal education, or much conscious effort at all. Little about developmental psychology, cognitive science, or neurology supports this fantasy, but the fundamental problem is a collective forgetfulness that education itself is already a technology, among the oldest wielded by humanity. By keeping Hickman’s pragmatic philosophy of technology in mind, we can avoid reductionist fallacies about the psychology of learning, and cautiously evaluate how neurotech may best serve genuine education. Tools should improve persons, without making persons into tools.

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