book-movieNeuroethics confronts us with profound questions about human existence: What does it mean to be human?  To be the same person over time?  What does it mean to be normal?  What is the good life?  Can we tell illusion from reality?  What makes an experience or a memory authentic?  Are we really no more than our brains? Are we responsible for our actions if they are all physically caused?

While science and philosophy offer the most rigorous approaches to these questions, the literary imagination is an important source of insight as well.  Indeed, it is not uncommon for the rigorous approaches to rely, at certain junctures in their arguments, on distant extrapolations of current trends or assertions about which counterfactuals are or are not plausible.  As long as we are conjuring imaginary scenarios – for example, by projecting that a mood-enhanced population might become emotionally shallow, or that humans with sufficiently augmented cyborg brains might consider themselves a new species – we might as well draw upon the extrapolations and counterfactuals created by real authors of fiction!  The short stories, novels and films listed here contain interesting insights on the many ways in which our growing understanding of the brain, and our advancing ability to manipulate it, could alter the future of humanity.

When brain modification has been featured in books and film, the scenarios have generally been dystopian.  Beginning with Aldous Huxley’s (1932) Brave New World, in which a totalitarian state controls its citizens by manipulating brain development and brain chemistry, through the current genres of Cyberpunk (e.g., the Matrix) and Biopunk (e.g., Gattaca), we have seen mainly the dark side of neurotechnology.  Judging from fictional portrayals, the idea of neurotechnology seems much more threatening than the idea of space travel, an earlier sci fi mainstay.  This is not all that surprising.  Our brains are us.  Exile me to another star system and my life may be rough, but reprogram my brain and I’m not even sure whose life it is.

Of course, “yesterday’s science fiction is today’s science fact” is a cliché, and often wrong to boot.  Most of the scenarios envisioned by science fiction authors have never eventuated, often for good reasons involving physical laws that cannot be violated!  But some imagined technologies have been realized many decades after their appearance in a work of science fiction, and this teaches us something:  What is pure fiction at one point in time – unrealistic, far out, silly – can be reality a generation or two later.  Some of the readers of this website were alive when the idea of a “test tube baby” was so far beyond the capabilities of medicine as to be purely science fiction.  Other readers were conceived by in vitro fertilization.

So, explore the books and movies listed here by clicking the tabs at the top of this page for the enjoyment they offer as well as the insights they may contain, and please contact us with additional suggestions for inclusion!

Narrative Perspectives: Films

The films listed here treat neuroethical issues such as mind control, brain enhancement, personal identity after brain alteration, brain-machine hybrids, and artificial mind/brains. Those that engage these issues particularly insightfully are marked with a “*“. Unless otherwise noted, movie descriptions are directly from imdb.com or blockbuster.com.

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Director Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence was not only a box-office disappointment, it also did something that his previous films have rarely or never done — it alienated the audience and divided the critics. Perhaps with the release of the film onto DVD, Spielberg’s misunderstood science fiction fairy tale will find a more receptive audience. Dreamworks Home Entertainment has released the film as a two-disc special edition, in either its preferred letterboxed version (1.85:1 enhanced) or in a pan-and-scan format. The image on the letterboxed version is excellent throughout. The soft smoky interiors of the first part of the film have a nice auburn glow to them, which nicely contrasts the sultry colors that take over for the second part. There is no evidence of color bleeding or flaring up and the image is consistently balanced. Many scenes, which are filmed purposefully dark, still manage to keep a richness and depth that is difficult to replicate outside of a movie theater. The disc also comes equipped with various soundtrack options, including an English language 5.1 track, 2.0 Dolby Surround, and a 5.1 DTS option. The first two tracks are vigorous and active, though always keeping the dialogue clear. The first disc contains the film itself and a short ten-minute documentary on the making and origins of the film. But it’s with the second disc that one finds a plethora of supplemental material. The disc contains numerous mini-documentaries on all stages of A.I.’s production, from its initial planning stage with Kubrick to its final release. There are some nice interviews with actors Jude Law, Haley Joel Osment, and others. Also of interest are the interviews with the storyboard artists, production designers, and the many special effects technicians from Stan Winston’s factory of wonders and Lucasfilm’s ILM studio. The disc also contains a couple of theatrical trailers, a multitude of storyboard sketches, production photographs, some interesting interviews with sound designer Gary Ryndstrom and composer John Williams, and much more. ~ Derek Hill, All Movie Guide 

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The war on drugs has been lost, and when a reluctant undercover cop is ordered to spy on those he is closest to, the toll that the mission takes on his sanity is too great to comprehend in director Richard Linklater’s rotoscoped take on Philip K. Dick’s classic novel. With stratospheric concern over national security prompting paranoid government officials to begin spying on citizens, trust is a luxury and everyone is a suspected criminal until proven otherwise. Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is a narcotics officer who is issued an order to spy on his friends and report back to headquarters. In addition to being a cop, though, Arctor is also an addict. His drug of choice is a ubiquitous street drug called Substance D, a drug known well for producing split personalities in its users.

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A blend of science fiction and noir detective fiction, Blade Runner (1982) was a box office and critical bust upon its initial exhibition, but its unique postmodern production design became hugely influential within the sci-fi genre, and the film gained a significant cult following that increased its stature. Harrison Ford stars as Rick Deckard, a retired cop in Los Angeles circa 2019. L.A. has become a pan-cultural dystopia of corporate advertising, pollution and flying automobiles, as well as replicants, human-like androids with short life spans built by the Tyrell Corporation for use in dangerous off-world colonization. Deckard’s former job in the police department was as a talented blade runner, a euphemism for detectives that hunt down and assassinate rogue replicants. Called before his one-time superior (M. Emmett Walsh), Deckard is forced back into active duty. A quartet of replicants led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) has escaped and headed to Earth, killing several humans in the process. After meeting with the eccentric Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel), creator of the replicants, Deckard finds and eliminates Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), one of his targets. Attacked by another replicant, Leon (Brion James), Deckard is about to be killed when he’s saved by Rachael (Sean Young), Tyrell’s assistant and a replicant who’s unaware of her true nature. In the meantime, Batty and his replicant pleasure model lover, Pris (Darryl Hannah) use a dying inventor, J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson) to get close to Tyrell and murder him. Deckard tracks the pair to Sebastian’s, where a bloody and violent final confrontation between Deckard and Batty takes place on a skyscraper rooftop high above the city. In 1992, Ridley Scott released a popular director’s cut that removed Deckard’s narration, added a dream sequence, and excised a happy ending imposed by the results of test screenings; these legendary behind-the-scenes battles were chronicled in a 1996 tome, Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide

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Unlike most teen horror movies, Brainscan relies more on atmosphere and plot than gore and bloodsoaked effects. Edward Furlong plays Michael, a 16-year-old horror movie fan, computer whiz, and misfit who responds to an ad for Brainscan, an CD-ROM virtual reality game that promises to “interface with your unconscious.” Once involved with the game, Michael dreams that he brutally stabs a stranger and slices off his foot — only to awaken and find the foot in his refrigerator. Out of Michael’s computer comes Trickster (T. Ryder Smith), a sardonic, malevolent creation who advises Michael to keep playing new editions of Brainscan to evade capture by a suspicious cop (Frank Langella). With a death count that is relatively low and mostly offscreen (amputated feet notwithstanding), Brainscan doesn’t make up for its lack of onscreen violence with a particularly original script, although it should be commended for not taking the easy way out. ~ Don Kaye, All Movie Guide

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The second feature from director Michel Gondry (Human Nature) finds the filmmaker reteaming with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman for this off-the-wall romantic comedy. Jim Carrey stars as Joel Barish, a man who is informed that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had her memories of their relationship erased from her brain via an experimental procedure performed by Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). Not to be outdone, Joel decides to have the same procedure done to himself. As Mierzwiak’s bumbling underlings Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Patrick (Elijah Wood) perform the operation on Joel — over the course of an evening, in his apartment — Joel struggles in his own mind to save the memories of Clementine from being deleted. Kirsten Dunst, David Cross, and Jane Adams also star. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide

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In the wake of his success on the hit NBC sitcom Scrubs, actor Zach Braff made his debut behind the camera writing, directing, and starring in this bittersweet romantic comedy. Braff plays Andrew Largeman, a young man who has just received word of his mother’s passing. With this news, Andrew returns to the town in which he grew up, where he is greeted by his father, Gideon (Ian Holm), a psychiatrist. In addition to mourning the loss of his mother, Andrew is also attempting to adjust to life without the emotionally numbing antidepressants that he has recently opted to discontinue using. Gradually, with the absence of the pills, his reconnection with his past, and the introduction of Sam (Natalie Portman), a woman who would seem to have little in common with him, into his life, Andrew is able to see the potential for some positive changes. Also starring Jean Smart and Peter Sarsgaard, Garden State was once titled Large’s Ark and premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide

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In his stylish, vividly realized movie Her, Oscar-nominated director Spike Jonze imagines a not-too-distant future in which these seismic shifts lead to love between man and machine. Likewise, by working within the framework of a romantic drama, Jonze creates an emotionally honest film that feels endearingly familiar, yet enticingly unique. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

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Director Alex Proyas (Dark City, The Crow) helmed this sci-fi thriller inspired by the stories in Isaac Asimov’s nine-story anthology of the same name. In the future presented in the film, humans have become exceedingly dependent on robots in their everyday lives. Robots have become more and more advanced, but each one is preprogrammed to always obey humans and to, under no circumstances, ever harm a human. So, when a scientist turns up dead and a humanoid robot is the main suspect, the world is left to wonder if they are as safe around their electronic servants as previously thought. Will Smith stars as Del Spooner, the robot-hating Chicago cop assigned to the murder investigation. Bridget Moynahan, Bruce Greenwood, James Cromwell, and Chi McBride also star. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide

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In a near-future world in which the fast-paced digital lifestyle has given rise to a worldwide plague called Nerve Attenuation Syndrome, Johnny (Keanu Reeves), a data courier, accepts an assignment that he hopes will allow him to pay for the restoration of the childhood memories he dumped in order to outfit his brain with the microchip necessary for him to carry out his profession. Narrowly escaping a Yakuza ambush in which his employers are killed and the mnemonic trigger capable of unlocking the data in his brain is partially destroyed, Johnny travels from Beijing to New Jersey, where he hopes to recover the data before “neural seepage” destroys his mind. Teaming up with would-be bodyguard Jane (Dina Meyer) and a rebel group known as the LoTeks who live in an abandoned bridge, he tries to outrun the assassins of mysterious businessman Takahashi (Beat Takeshi Kitano) — and the Street Preacher (Dolph Lundgren), a bionic madman. Along the way, he meets a mysterious electronic entity, a sentient dolphin, and Spider (Henry Rollins), a cybernetics expert, all of whom attempt, with various degrees of success, to learn why the data in Johnny’s head is so important. Science fiction author William Gibson’s original short story Johnny Mnemonic helped usher in the age of cyberpunk when it appeared in Omni magazine in 1981; it later appeared in the collection Burning Chrome (alongside the story that provided the basis for Abel Ferrara’s New Rose Hotel). Although Gibson himself wrote the screenplay for Johnny Mnemonic, the film diverges considerably from the story. Molly Mirrors, a recurring character in Gibson’s fiction, was replaced by the figure of Jane to fend off licensing conflicts with any future film version of Neuromancer, the author’s most celebrated novel. Other plot elements — most notably the LoTeks’ bridge habitat — were borrowed from later Gibson fiction such as the novel Virtual Light. ~ Brian J. Dillard, All Movie Guide

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In an age where the greatest baseball players of their era are being kept out of the Hall of Fame for taking performance-enhancing drugs as millions of uninsured Americans struggle to pay for medications they need to live, Neil Burger’s Limitless certainly has topicality on its side. The movie stars Bradley Cooper as Eddie Morra, a disheveled struggling writer scraping out a meager living in New York City while he procrastinates starting his novel, even though he’s already spending the advance he’s been given. After his girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), dumps him for being so directionless, Eddie bumps into his ex-brother-in-law, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), a shady drug dealer who gives Eddie a new pill. Turns out NZT, as it’s called, fills Eddie with the capability to not only fulfill his potential, but it makes him smarter, more observant, and gives him encyclopedic recall of anything he’s ever read or heard. He finishes his novel in one day, the publisher loves it, and now Eddie just needs more of the super-drug. That becomes problematic when Vernon is killed. Eddie finds the stash of NZT, and starts to turn his life around; however, he also begins to suffer seriously adverse side effects. On top of that, there’s a ruthless Russian gangster on the hunt for the same drug. Limitless is absolutely fun to watch.~ Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide

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Following in the recent tradition of high-concept sci-fi action thrillers like Inception, Lucy is at its best when it’s either reveling in explosive action sequences, or delving into deep, metaphorical philosophy. The moments in between, when the characters actually attempt to explain the pseudo-science that drives the plot, as always, are this genre’s weak points. But while you’re in the middle of enjoying the ride, it probably won’t matter. The story rests entirely on the oft-quoted factoid that human beings only use 10% of their brains, proposing that thus, activating that unused 90% could offer us wild and crazy superpowers. Of course, any nerd worth their salt knows this figure isn’t even true — it’s a bastardization of the assertion by early 20th century neurologists that they only understoodhow we use around 10% of the brain. But in the end, this probably isn’t a deal-breaker for most viewers, because director and writer Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Professional) is adept at distracting us with sweet car chases and tense shootouts. ~Cammila Collar, All Movie Guide

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Jonathan Demme directed this updated remake of John Frankenheimer’s 1962 cult favorite The Manchurian Candidate, a pioneering examination of political conspiracy and psychological reconditioning. Major Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington) and Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) are two soldiers who served in the same company during Operation Desert Storm, but their paths following their tours of duty have been very different. Shaw, the son of powerful congresswoman Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep), has used his reputation as a war hero to quickly scale the ladder of American politics, and with the help of his mother earns the Vice Presidential nomination. Marco, on the other hand, has been troubled with mental illness, and is convinced that something strange happened to him and his compatriots during the war. As Marco struggles to find the truth behind his nightmares and emotional torment, he unearths some disturbing facts about how his mind and body have been reworked by shadowy forces, as well as those of his fellow soldiers — including Raymond Shaw. Featuring a stellar supporting cast (including Jon Voight, Miguel Ferrer, Ted Levine, and Dean Stockwell), The Manchurian Candidate credits George Axelrod’s screenplay for the 1962 film as its source, as opposed to Richard Condon’s 1959 novel from which Axelrod adapted his script. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

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What if virtual reality wasn’t just for fun, but was being used to imprison you? That’s the dilemma that faces mild-mannered computer jockey Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) in The Matrix. It’s the year 1999, and Anderson (hacker alias: Neo) works in a cubicle, manning a computer and doing a little hacking on the side. It’s through this latter activity that Thomas makes the acquaintance of Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who has some interesting news for Mr. Anderson — none of what’s going on around him is real. The year is actually closer to 2199, and it seems Thomas, like most people, is a victim of The Matrix, a massive artificial intelligence system that has tapped into people’s minds and created the illusion of a real world, while using their brains and bodies for energy, tossing them away like spent batteries when they’re through. Morpheus, however, is convinced Neo is “The One” who can crack open The Matrix and bring his people to both physical and psychological freedom. The Matrix is the second feature film from the sibling writer/director team of Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski, who made an impressive debut with the stylish erotic crime thriller Bound. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

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After creating an international sensation with the visually dazzling and intellectually challenging sci-fi blockbuster The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers returned with the first of two projected sequels that pick up where the first film left off. Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) have been summoned by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) to join him on a voyage to Zion, the last outpost of free human beings on Earth. Neo and Trinity’s work together has been complicated by the fact the two are involved in a serious romantic relationship. Upon their arrival in Zion, Morpheus locks horns with rival Commander Lock (Harry J. Lennix) and encounters his old flame Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith). Meanwhile, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) has returned with some surprises for Neo, most notably the ability to replicate himself as many times as he pleases. Neo makes his way to The Oracle (Gloria Foster), who informs him that if he wishes to save humankind, he must unlock “The Source,” which means having to release The Key Maker (Randall Duk Kim) from the clutches of Merovingian (Lambert Wilson). While Merovingian refuses to cooperate, his wife, Persephone (Monica Bellucci), angry at her husband’s dalliances with other women, offers to help, but only in exchange for a taste of Neo’s affections. With The Keymaker in tow, Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus are chased by Merovingian’s henchmen: a pair of deadly albino twins (Neil Rayment and Adrian Rayment). Filmed primarily in Australia and California (the extended chase scene was shot on a stretch of highway build specifically for the production outside of San Francisco), The Matrix Reloaded was produced in tandem with the third film in the series, The Matrix Revolutions. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

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Back-to-back with The Matrix Reloaded, the third and final installment of Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski’s sci-fi action saga picks up where the second film left off. Neo (Keanu Reeves) remains unconscious in the real world, caught in a mysterious subway station that lies between the machine world and the Matrix, and Bane (Ian Bliss) is still a conduit for Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), who continues to grow out of control, threatening to destroy both worlds. Meanwhile, as the sentinels get closer and closer to Zion, the citizens of the earth’s last inhabited city prepare for the inevitable onslaught. By bargaining with The Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) are able to free Neo who, after meeting with The Oracle (Mary Alice stepping in for the late Gloria Foster), decides that he must leave Zion and head for the machine mainframe. As Neo and Trinity venture into the dangerous machine world, with hopes of stopping both the machines and Agent Smith, their comrades in Zion attempt to fight off the attacking sentinels with the odds stacked greatly against them. Other cast members returning include Monica Bellucci, Ngai Sing, and Harold Perrineau Jr. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide

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Steven Soderbergh often fills what seem to be his lightest projects with unexpectedly meaty themes, but while his psychological thriller Side Effects features hot-button issues like mental health, drug companies, and the country’s economic woes, it’s more or less a straightforward popcorn movie — a smart piece of escapist entertainment. Rooney Mara stars as Emily Taylor; her husband Martin (Channing Tatus) is a young businessman who, as the film opens, is soon to be released from prison after serving a few years for financial fraud. Overcome with stress, the mentally fragile Emily performs a quasi-suicide attempt and is put in the care of Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), a workaholic psychiatrist who convinces Emily to see him once a week for therapy. Jonathan is intrigued enough by Emily’s story to seek counsel from her former therapist, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones). One night Emily commits a horrific act that she claims not to remember because she was taking the medication prescribed to her by Jonathan. This leads to a criminal and ethical examination of the psychiatrist that digs up past indiscretions and also forces him to eventually consider that he might not be getting the whole story from his patient. Side Effects is the third collaboration between Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns. ~ Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide

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Les Franken (Michael Rapaport) leads a painfully unremarkable life as a metermaid until he enrolls in a drug study for an experimental anti-depressant. An unexpected side effect of the drug convinces Les he is developing special powers and must quit his job to answer his new calling in life… as a superhero. A very select group of people in life are truly gifted. Special is a movie about everyone else.

The Terminal Man

As the result of a head injury, brilliant computer scientist Harry Benson begins to experience violent seizures. In an attempt to control the seizures, Benson undergoes a new surgical procedure in which a microcomputer is inserted into his brain. The procedure is not entirely successful.

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The second sequel to the 1984 sci-fi action classic, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is the first film without the involvement of director James Cameron. Instead, Jonathan Mostow, the man behind Breakdown and U-571, has stepped in to fill the shoes left vacant by Cameron. In addition, the role of John Connor from the second film has been recast, with In the Bedroom’s Nick Stahl taking over for Edward Furlong. Set ten years after the events of 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the film finds Connor living on the streets as a common laborer. Sarah Connor, his mother, has since died, and their efforts in the second film have not stopped the creation of SkyNet artificial intelligence network. As he will still become the leader of the human resistance, Connor is once again targeted by a Terminator sent from the future by SkyNet. This new Terminator, T-X (Kristanna Loken), is a female and is more powerful than any of her predecessors. To protect Connor, the human resistance sends a new T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back from the future. Also starring Claire Danes, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines had its world premiere when it showed out of competition at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide

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In Paul Verhoeven’s wild sci-fi action movie Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a 21st-century construction worker who discovers that his entire memory of the past derives from a memory chip implanted in his brain. Schwarzenegger learns that he’s actually a secret agent who had become a threat to the government, so those in power planted the chip and invented a domestic lifestyle for him. Once he has realized his true identity, he travels to Mars to piece together the rest of his identity, as well as to find the man responsible for his implanted memory. Verhoeven has created a fast, furious action film with Total Recall, filled with impressive stunts and (literally) eye-popping visuals. Though the film bears only a passing resemblance to the Philip K. Dick short story it was based on (“We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”), the movie is an entertaining, if very violent, ride. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Movie Guide

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With a thorough scan of his own brain, a mad genius can use the data to create a simulated version of himself, which is usually intended to make his knowledge and expertise available after his death via the spiffy/creepy interface of his own voice and personality. In some cases, this act prompts very little reaction from others, aside from some clunky exposition to explain the deus ex machina of him being there and a general appreciation for his helpful pointers. But in other cases, the mere idea that a person’s inner self can be replicated via a machine freaks everyone out, and poses terrifying questions related to the existence of the soul and the ultimate meaning of the human experience (see: Transcendence). The scientist who embarks on the ill-advised adventure in this instance is Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), whom we first see giving a sort of TED Talk about his work with artificial intelligence. He explains, with guileless optimism, how he just can’t wait for that moment when computers become self-aware — a concept often called the “technological singularity,” which you may remember from the Terminator and Matrix franchises as the reason for the apocalypse. But Will isn’t worried; he thinks that humans will evolve to accommodate this leap and usher in a new era of human/machine consciousness. ~ Cammila Collar, All Movie Guide

Narrative Perspectives: Books

The books listed here treat neuroethical issues such as mind control, brain enhancement, personal identity after brain alteration, brain-machine hybrids, and artificial mind/brains.

Prozac-like drugs are being prescribed not only for their original purposes but increasingly to alter individual personalities to currently valued norms. With dead-on accuracy and the prescience of tomorrow’s headlines, Robin Cook explores the perilous intersection where fame and unfathomable lucre waylay and seduce the very best and brightest of those sworn to do no harm. When neuroscientist Edward Armstrong begins dating Kimberly Stewart, a descendant of a woman who was hanged as a witch at the time of the Salem witch trials, he takes advantage of the opportunity to delve into a pet theory: that the “devil” in Salem in 1692 had been a hallucinogenic drug inadvertently consumed with mold-tainted grain. In an attempt to prove his theory, Edward grows the mold he believes responsible from samples taken from the Stewart estate. In a brilliant designer-drug transformation, the poison becomes Ultra, the next generation of antidepressants with truly startling therapeutic capabilities. Acceptable Risk is a story of quest: a researcher’s quest for the ultimate drug and a woman’s quest for self-understanding. Unbeknownst to either person, the two seemingly separate quests collide with devastating consequences.
“In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person’s consciousness can now be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or “sleeve”), making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen.” Ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Dispatched one hundred eighty light-years from home, resleeved into a body in Bay City (formerly San Francisco, now with a rusted, dilapidated Golden Gate Bridge), Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards of a society that treats “existence” as something to be bought and sold. For Kovacs, the shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning.
Global unrest spreads as mass protests advance throughout the US and China, Nexus-upgraded riot police battle against upgraded protestors, and a once-dead scientist plans to take over the planet’s electronic systems. The world has never experienced turmoil of this type, on this scale.They call them the Apex – humanity’s replacement. They’re smarter, faster, better. And infinitely more dangerous.

Humanity is dying. Long live the Apex.

“Written with care, intelligence, and grace, [Aristoi] depicts a future society based on highly developed computers and biological engineering, the key skills of which are controlled by an elite known as the Aristoi. This world is depicted meticulously and vividly, and so is the near war of all against all that is unleashed when one of the Aristoi falls prey to the corruption of power. A fine, thoughtful work, highly recommended; Williams seems to grow with each book.-Roland Green, Chicago Sun-Times
In a world where the slightest edge can mean the difference between success and failure, Leisha Camden is beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent … and one of an ever-growing number of human beings who have been genetically modified to never require sleep. Once considered interesting anomalies, now Leisha and the other “Sleepless” are outcasts-victims of blind hatred, political repression, and shocking mob violence meant to drive them from human society … and, ultimately, from Earth itself. But Leisha Camden has chosen to remain behind in a world that envies and fears her “gift”-a world marked for destruction in a devastating conspiracy of freedom … and revenge.
Australian writer Turner provides a chilling tale of genetic manipulation. Raised in a state orphanage, David Chance is working as a journalist in rural Australia when experimental scientist Arthur Hazard reveals himself to be David’s father and commands David to undertake a strange mission. Hazard explains that he is one of 12 people conceived without parents, the result of gene experimentation conducted by the government in an attempt to create geniuses. A success was scored with four of the so-called vitro kids, but they all committed suicide in 2023, shortly before David was born, possibly leaving a hidden legacy of knowledge. David is now enjoined to track down this legacy. He travels through the political and physical environments of Australia in 2047, looking for evidence and being either helped or hampered by people driven by secrets or expectations of their own. Turner, whose Drowning Towers won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, uses the test-tube geniuses to spotlight the deficiencies and the triumphs of being “merely” human. His future world is believable, the imagined scientific breakthroughs he postulates are intriguing and his characters are real enough to make us care about the issues he raises. (Publisher’s Weekly)
Attorney Joe Watson had never been to court except to be sworn in. He was a Webhead, a cybernerd doing support work for the lawyers in his firm who did go to court. And he was good at it. He was on track to become one of the youngest partners in the firm, and he was able – by a hair – to support his wife and children in an affluent neighborhood. Then he got notice that the tyrannical Judge Whittaker J. Stang had appointed him to defend James Whitlow, a small-time lowlife with a long rap sheet accused of a double hate crime: killing his wife’s deaf black lover. When Watson stubbornly decides not to plead out his client, he is soon evicted from his comfortable life: His boss fires him, his wife leaves him and takes the children, and the Whitlow case begins to consume all of his time. Watson’s finished. Or is he? To answer that question requires, among many other things, a brain scan for Watson in a state of strapped-down arousal, a Voice Transcription Device to eavesdrop on a dead deaf man’s conversation, two chimpanzees who have no choice but to love each other; and a blind news vendor who demonstrates a real touch when it comes to making money. Once a deliberate yes-man at home and in the office, Joe Watson finds himself fighting not only to save his marriage and his career but also to hold intact his conviction that a person is more than a series of chemical reactions.
Aldous Huxley’s tour de force Brave New World is a darkly satiric vision of a ‘utopian’ future – where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthesized to passively serve a ruling order. A powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations, it remains remarkably relevant to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying entertainment.
Six months have passed since the release of Nexus 5. The world is a different, more dangerous place.
In the United States, the terrorists – or freedom fighters – of the Post-Human Liberation Front use Nexus to turn men and women into human time bombs aimed at the President and his allies. In Washington DC, a government scientist, secretly addicted to Nexus, uncovers more than he wants to know about the forces behind the assassinations, and finds himself in a maze with no way out.
In Thailand, Samantha Cataranes has found peace and contentment with a group of children born with Nexus in their brains. But when forces threaten to tear her new family apart, Sam will stop at absolutely nothing to protect the ones she holds dear.
In Vietnam, Kade and Feng are on the run from bounty hunters seeking the price on Kade’s head, from the CIA, and from forces that want to use the back door Kade has built into Nexus 5. Kade knows he must stop the terrorists misusing Nexus before they ignite a global war between human and posthuman. But to do so, he’ll need to stay alive and ahead of his pursuers.
And in Shanghai, a posthuman child named Ling Shu will go to dangerous and explosive lengths to free her uploaded mother from the grip of Chinese authorities.
The first blows in the war between human and posthuman have been struck. The world will never be the same.
Imagine a drug that makes your brain function with perfect efficiency, tapping into your most fundamental resources of intelligence and drive, releasing all the passive knowledge you’d ever accumulated. A drug that made you focused, charming, fast, even attractive. Eddie Spinola is on such a drug. It’s called MDT-48, and it’s Viagra for the brain-a designer drug that’s redesigning his life. But while MDT is helping Eddie achieve the kind of success he’s only dreamed about, it’s also chipping away at his sanity-splitting headaches, spontaneous blackouts, violent outbursts. And now that he’s hooked and his supply is running low, Eddie must venture into the drug’s dark past to feed his habit. What he discovers proves that MDT, once a dream come true, has become his worst nightmare.
On December 8 1995, Elle magazine editor-in-chief Bauby suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma. He awoke 20 days later, mentally aware of his surroundings but physically paralyzed with the exception of some movement in his head and left eye. Bauby had Locked-in-Syndrome, a rare condition caused by stroke damage to the brain stem. Eye movements and blinking a code representing letters of the alphabet became his sole means of communication. It is also how he dictated this warm, sad, and extraordinary memoir. Bauby’s thoughts on the illness, the hospital, family, friends, career, and life before and after the stroke appear with considerable humor and humanity. Actor Rene Auberjonois’s narration adds to the poignancy of the story. Sadly, Bauby died of his condition in 1997. This is a fine companion to works like Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face (LJ 7/94). For all audio collections.?Stephen L. Hupp, Univ. of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Lib. ~ Library Journal.
The most consistently brilliant science fiction writer in the world.” —John Brunner THE INSPIRATION FOR BLADERUNNER. . . Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was published in 1968. Grim and foreboding, even today it is a masterpiece ahead of its time. By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . . They even built humans. Emigrees to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn’t want to be identified, they just blended in. Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results. “[Dick] sees all the sparkling and terrifying possibilities. . . that other authors shy away from.” —Paul Williams Rolling Stone
What does it truly mean to be a thinking being? What if you could sleepwalk through life: faster, smarter, and more creative than you could ever be consciously? Could you face who you truly are? Vincent Thorndike is a former human test subject who is forced to face these questions. He shares his mind with his augmented sub-consciousness: the Sleepwalker. Together, they wage a one-man campaign of industrial espionage against the corrupt government and ruthless corporations of New Columbia. However, Vincent begins to find other survivors of similar experiments, prototypes for a larger project. Together, they are drawn into a sinister plan to forever alter the human mind.
Charlie Gordon is about to embark upon an unprecedented journey. Born with an unusually low IQ, he has been chosen as the perfect subject for an experimental surgery that researchers hope will increase his intelligence-a procedure that has already been highly successful when tested on a lab mouse named Algernon.

As the treatment takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment appears to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance, until Algernon suddenly deteriorates. Will the same happen to Charlie?

Bringing his twin gifts of scientific speculation and scathing satire to bear on that hapless planet, Earth, Lem sends his unlucky cosmonaut, Ijon Tichy, to the Eighth Futurological Congress. Caught up in local revolution, Tichy is shot and so critically wounded that he is flashfrozen to await a future cure.

When Chicagoan Russell Stone finds himself teaching a Creative Nonfiction class, he encounters a young Algerian woman with a disturbingly luminous presence. Thassadit Amzwar’s blissful exuberance both entrances and puzzles the melancholic Russell. How can this refugee from perpetual terror be so happy? Won’t someone so open and alive come to serious harm? Wondering how to protect her, Russell researches her war-torn country and skims through popular happiness manuals. Might her condition be hyperthymia? Hypomania? Russell’s amateur inquiries lead him to college counselor Candace Weld, who also falls under Thassa’s spell. Dubbed Miss Generosity by her classmates, Thassa’s joyful personality comes to the attention of the notorious geneticist and advocate for genomic enhancement, Thomas Kurton, whose research leads him to announce the genotype for happiness. Russell and Candace, now lovers, fail to protect Thassa from the growing media circus. Thassa’s congenital optimism is soon severely tested. Devoured by the public as a living prophecy, her genetic secret will transform both Russell and Kurton, as well as the country at large. What will happen to life when science identifies the genetic basis of happiness? Who will own the patent? Do we dare revise our own temperaments? Funny, fast, and finally magical, Generosity celebrates both science and the freed imagination. In his most exuberant book yet, Richard Powers asks us to consider the big questions facing humankind as we begin to rewrite our own existence.

The Golden Age is 10,000 years in the future in our solar system, an interplanetary utopian society filled with immortal humans. Phaethon, of Radamanthus House, is attending a glorious party at his family mansion celebrating the thousand-year anniversary of the High Transcendence. There he meets an old man who accuses him of being an imposter, and then a being from Neptune who claims to be an old friend. The Neptunian tells him that essential parts of his memory were removed and stored by the very government that Phaethon believes to be wholly honorable. It shakes his faith. Is he indeed an exile from himself? He can’t resist investigating, even though to do so could mean the loss of his inheritance, his very place in society. His quest must be to regain his true identity and fulfill the destiny he chose for himself.
Rachel Whitman has everything. Her husband and she have a big new house and all the brand-name toys that go along with wealth. And they have a gorgeous, sweet little six-year-old son named Dylan. But Dylan has learning disabilities. Although intelligence isn’t everything, Rachel lives in a community where the rewards for brainpower are conspicuous. She fears her son will grow up never fully appreciating the wonders of life. Like so many middle-class parents who would do anything to improve life for their children–whether it means fixing hair, teeth, or nose-Rachel cannot accept that her child is less than perfect. Tortured by the idea that something she did in the past caused Dylan’s problems, Rachel becomes obsessed with a secret and expensive medical procedure that claims to turn slow children into geniuses. Should she and her husband sacrifice their new fortune on the risky, experimental procedure? Unaware of the real consequences of the brain enhancement procedure, Rachel can’t know that the costs of the operation go far beyond financial ones.
Cormac is a legendary Earth Central Security agent, the James Bond of a wealthy future where “runcibles” (matter transmitters controlled by AIs) allow interstellar travel in an eye blink throughout the settled worlds of the Polity. Unfortunately Cormac is nearly burnt out, “gridlinked” to the AI net so long that his humanity has begun to drain away. He has to take the cold-turkey cure and shake his addiction to having his brain on the net. Now he must do without just as he’s sent to investigate the unique runcible disaster that’s wiped out the entire human colony on planet Samarkand in a thirty-megaton explosion. With the runcible out, Cormac must get there by ship, but he has incurred the wrath of a vicious psychopath called Arian Pelter, who now follows him across the galaxy with a terrifying psychotic killer android in tow. And deep beneath Samarkand’s surface there are buried mysteries, fiercely guarded. This is fast-moving, edge-of-the-seat entertainment–an American debut that’s sure to make a splash and launch Neal Asher in a big way.
There’s no way William A. Cozzano can lose the upcoming presidential election. He’s a likable midwestern governor with one insidious advantage. An advantage provided by a shadowy group of backers. A biochip in his head hardwires him to a computerized polling system. The mood of the electorate is channeled directly into his brain. Forget issues. Forget policy. He’s more than the perfect candidate – he’s a special effect.
Scientist Charles Neumann loses a leg in an industrial accident. It’s not a tragedy. It’s an opportunity. Charlie always thought his body could be better. He begins to explore a few ideas. To build parts. Better parts.

Prosthetist Lola Shanks loves a good artificial limb. In Charlie, she sees a man on his way to becoming artificial everything. But others see a madman. Or a product. Or a weapon.

A story for the age of pervasive technology, Machine Man is a gruesomely funny unraveling of one man’s quest for ultimate self-improvement.

Everyone knows the controversial 1962 film of The Manchurian Candidate starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury, even though it was taken out of circulation for 25 years after JFK’s assassination. Equally controversial on publication, and just as timely today, is Richard Condon’s original novel. First published in 1959, The Manchurian Candidate is Condon’s riveting take on a little-known corner of the cold war, the almost sci-fi concept of American soldiers captured, brainwashed, and programmed by their Chinese captors to return to the states as unsuspected political assassins. Condon’s expert manipulation of the book’s multiple themes – from anticommunist hysteria to megalomaniacal motherhood – makes this one of the most dazzling, and enduring, products of an unforgettable time. This classic of cold war paranoia includes a new introduction by Pulitzer Prize winning author Louis Menand.
Robert J. Sawyer’s Hominids, the first volume of his bestselling Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, won the 2003 Hugo Award, and its sequel, Humans, was a 2004 Hugo nominee. Now he’s back with a pulse-pounding, mind-expanding standalone novel, rich with his signature philosophical and ethical speculations, all grounded in cutting-edge science. Jake Sullivan has cheated death: he’s discarded his doomed biological body and copied his consciousness into an android form. The new Jake soon finds love, something that eluded him when he was encased in flesh: he falls for the android version of Karen, a woman rediscovering all the joys of life now that she’s no longer constrained by a worn-out body either. But suddenly Karen’s son sues her, claiming that by uploading into an immortal body, she has done him out of his inheritance. Even worse, the original version of Jake, consigned to die on the far side of the moon, has taken hostages there, demanding the return of his rights of personhood. In the courtroom and on the lunar surface, the future of uploaded humanity hangs in the balance. Mindscan is vintage Sawyer–a feast for the mind and the heart.
Twenty years ago, it was as if someone turned on a light. The future blazed into existence with each deliberate word that William Gibson laid down. The winner of Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards, Neuromancer didn’t just explode onto the science fiction scene—it permeated into the collective consciousness, culture, science, and technology. Today, there is only one science fiction masterpiece to thank for the term “cyberpunk,” for easing the way into the information age and Internet society. Neuromancer’s virtual reality has become real. And yet, William Gibson’s gritty, sophisticated vision still manages to inspire the minds that lead mankind ever further into the future.

Psychology professor Tom Bible is surprised to find the FBI on his doorstep, asking for help analyzing the prime suspect in a series of gruesome murders.  That’s not what Tom does—he’s just a teacher, not a profiler.  But in this case, the FBI feels Tom has special knowledge.

The suspect is his best friend Neil Cassidy.

Using the neuroscience he developed at the NSA, Neil can control the human brain. With just the flip of a switch, he can manipulate pain, pleasure, faith, morality….even love. He taunts the FBI with videos, forcing them to watch as his victims destroy themselves at the direction of their captor. He leaves no clues and the FBI cannot predict his next victim. Only Tom Bible has insight into his mind.

The illegal drug Nexus—made of nanites in a liquid suspension—creates temporary telepathic and empathic abilities and is feared and revered. Naam’s first dip into fiction covers much the same territory as his pop science debut, More than Human: a discussion of the pros and cons of technology that can “upgrade” people, and of posthumanism in general. A rich cast of characters serves to argue all angles of the debate, led by Kaden Lane, a sweet if frequently naïve everyman who is thrust into international spy games and black market warfare as he wrestles with the morality of open-sourcing his own permanent and programmable Nexus variant. While the philosophizing is sometimes painfully heavy, the action scenes are crisp, the glimpses of future tech and culture are mesmerizing, and Naam does an admirable job of giving the reader no easy answer for the problem he’s posing. (Publisher’s Weekly)
When brilliant neuroscientist Chal Davidson is called in to assist, the third android is just hours from being awakened. By the time she realizes the vast implications of her work, it’s too late to stop the prototype’s development. Torn by her moral and scientific responsibilities, Chal is even more confused by the emotional connection she is starting to feel with the newly-created man. The only hope she has is escape–for her and the android–and time is running out…
During a break at a professional conference, Dr. Charlie Peruzzi, an English general practitioner, stumbles on the truth of the “personality theory” expounded by a Swedish brain specialist. Peruzzi observes for himself that people often have a distorted view of how others perceive them. He is convinced that if individuals could view themselves as others do, their basic personality problems might be solved, and decides to abandon his medical practice and instead conduct psychological research. Eventually, an entrepreneur offers to fund Peruzzi’s “personality surgery.” The doctor opens a laboratory where he formalizes his studies through the use of sophisticated computer technology. The story ends as he begins to gain recognition for developing what is called “the most exciting theory since Freud.”(Publisher’s Weekly)
“If I had not been what I am, what would I have been?” wonders Lou Arrendale, the autistic hero of Moon’s compelling exploration of the concept of “normalcy” and what might happen when medical science attains the knowledge to “cure” adult autism. Arrendale narrates most of this book in a poignant earnestness that verges on the philosophical and showcases Moon’s gift for characterization. The occasional third-person interjections from supporting characters are almost intrusive, although they supply needed data regarding subplots. At 35, Arrendale is a bioinformatics specialist who has a gift for pattern analysis and an ability to function well in both “normal” and “autistic” worlds. When the pharmaceutical company he works for recommends that all the autistic employees on staff undergo an experimental procedure that will basically alter their brains, his neatly ordered world shatters. All his life he has been taught “act normal, and you will be normal enough”-something that has enabled him to survive, but as he struggles to decide what to do, the violent behavior of a “normal friend” puts him in danger and rocks his faith in the normal world. He struggles to decide whether the treatment will help or destroy his sense of self. Is autism a disease or just another way of being? He is haunted by the “speed of dark” as he proceeds with his mesmerizing quest for self-“Not knowing arrives before knowing; the future arrives before the present. From this moment, past and future are the same in different directions, but I am going that way and not this way…. When I get there, the speed of light and the speed of dark will be the same.” His decision will touch even the most jaded “normal.” (Publisher’s Weekly)
Harry Benson suffers from painful, violence-inducing seizures. In an effort to alleviate this problem, Benson undergoes an experimental medical procedure in which electrodes are attached to his brain’s trouble spots — if all goes well, timed jolts of electricity will correct his disability. But when Benson learns to turn up the juice whenever he pleases, his murderous rampage begins.
When Dr. Tom More is released on parole from state prison, he returns to Feliciana, Louisiana, the parish where he was born and bred, where he practiced psychiatry before his arrest. He immediately notices something strange in almost everyone around him: unusual sexual behavior in women patients, a bizarre loss of inhibition, his own wife’s extraordinary success as bridge tournaments, during which her mind seems to function like a computer. With the help of his attractive cousin, Dr. Lucy Lipscomb, Dr. More begins to uncover a criminal experiment to “improve” people’s behavior by drugging the local water supply. But beyond this scheme are activities so sinister that Dr. More can only wonder if the whole world has gone crazy — or he has …