5. The Reversal Test: Eliminating Status Quo Bias in Applied Ethics (2006)

By Nick Bostrom and Toby Ord

In this article we argue that one prevalent cognitive bias, status quo bias, may be responsible for much of the opposition to human enhancement in general and to genetic cognitive enhancement in particular. Our strategy is as follows: first, we briefly review some of the psychological evidence for the pervasiveness of status quo bias in human decision making. This evidence provides some reason for suspecting that this bias may also be present in analyses of human enhancement ethics. We then propose two versions of a heuristic for reducing status quo bias. Applying this heuristic to consequentialist objections to genetic cognitive enhancements, we show that these objections are affected by status quo bias. When the bias is removed, the objections are revealed as extremely implausible. We conclude that the case for developing and using genetic cognitive enhancements is much stronger than commonly realized.

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