, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 301–313 | Cite as

Are Better Workers Also Better Humans? On Pharmacological Cognitive Enhancement in the Workplace and Conflicting Societal Domains

  • Tony Pustovrh
  • Franc MaliEmail author
  • Simone Arnaldi
Original Paper


The article investigates the sociocultural implications of the changing modern workplace and of pharmacological cognitive enhancement (PCE) as a potential adaptive tool from the viewpoint of social niche construction. We will attempt to elucidate some of the sociocultural and technological trends that drive and influence the characteristics of this specific niche, and especially to identify the kind of capabilities and adaptations that are being promoted, and to ascertain the capabilities and potentialities that might become diminished as a result. In this context, we will examine what PCE is, and how and why it might be desirable as a tool for adaptation within the workplace. As human beings are, or at least should be allowed to be, more than merely productive, able-bodied and able-minded workers, we will further examine how adaptation to the workplace niche could result in problems in other domains of modern societal life that require the same or other cognitive capabilities. In this context we will also focus on the concept of responsibility and how it pertains to PCE and the modern workplace niche. This will shed some light on the kind of trends related to workplace niche construction, PCE and capability promotion that we can expect in the future, and on the contexts in which this might be either beneficial or detrimental to the individual as a well-rounded human being, and to other members of society.


Technological development Cognitive capabilities Pharmacological cognitive enhancement Modern workplace Bioethics 



From Franc Mali and Simone Arnaldi: This is a slightly revised and edited version of the paper presented by our friend and colleague Toni Pustovrh at the Mutual Learning Workshop on “Responsibility and Human Enhancement”, held in Padova (Italy) on 22 May 2017. The workshop was organized within the framework of the research project “Responsibility and Human Enhancement. Concepts, Implications and Assessments” in which Toni participated. The paper was Toni’s final piece of work for the project before he suddenly passed away. We are grateful to Springer, to the journal ‘NanoEthics’ and to its editor Christopher Coenen for agreeing to publish the paper and for their assistance in the publication process. We remember Toni as a gifted young colleague and a dear friend.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia
  2. 2.Department of Political and Social SciencesUniversity of TriesteTriesteItaly

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