On Power: Neurophilosophical Foundations and Policy Implications

by Nayef R. F. Al-Rodhan

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The twenty-first century combines new configurations of power with new technologies of influence. Professor Nayef Al-Rodhan explores this combination of challenges, drawing on a gamut of disciplines ranging from neurochemistry to international relations. He comments on the addictive character of exercising power, and the seductive promise of human enhancement, and many other unsettling and important themes.

Onora Sylvia O’Neill, Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve
is a philosopher and crossbench member of the House of Lords. She is an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge and former President of the British Academy


A fascinating, multi-layered read on the nature of power and the human condition. Oxford University’s Nayef Al-Rodhan provides valuable insights into how political power is evolving in times of cyber-societies and artificial intelligence, when many highlight the increasing need for people to keep power in check and protect individual rights. ‘On Power: Its Nature and Future’ paints a conceptual and practical picture of power based on eye-opening interdisciplinary research that spans politics, neurochemistry and moral philosophy. A seminal work reminiscent in part of Henry Kissinger’s early writing, the book is a timely reminder of the perils of absolute and unchecked political power.

Franco Frattini
is two-time Italian Foreign Minister and former European Commissioner

‘On Power: Neurophilosophical Foundations and Policy Implications’ seeks to provide a historical, contemporary and predictive analysis of power. It aims to explain the history of political power in a unique way by approaching the concept of power through the lens of neurophilosophy – the application of neuroscientific principles to practical questions of governance, ethics, political and moral philosophy.

In this book, Professor Nayef Al-Rodhan provides an accessible, incisive, and provocative take on the history, nature, and future of power. His insights go beyond conventional wisdom by exploring some of the themes that will become increasingly relevant to analysing power in the decades to come.

A central idea of the book is the highly addictive universal nature of power at the neurochemical level, the craving for it, and the intense resistance to giving it up in all walks of life and circumstances. This can be applied directly to thinking about governance, political change, public policy, national and international peace, security, and prosperity. Al-Rodhan formulates an innovative conceptual picture of power by integrating the findings of neuroscience with the broader implications of power in the era of digital connectivity and cognitive and physical enhancement technologies. In doing so, he guides our approach to political power and public policy, influenced by ubiquitous, disruptive, and intrusive technologies.

This book will appeal to students and scholars of neuroscience, philosophy, government, business, and international relations. It will also hold particular interest for politicians, public servants, think-tankers, policy-makers, and journalists, as well as senior executives from the corporate, sports, media and entertainment world.

List of Figures

Introduction

Part I. Power, Past and Present

1. Power in History

2. Power in the Twentieth Century

3. Power in the Twenty-First Century

Part II. Power and the Post-human Future

4. Neuroscience and the New Understanding of Power

5. Human Enhancement

6. Power beyond the Human

Conclusion

Endnotes

Bibliography

About the Author

Acknowledgements

Index

Nayef R. F. Al-Rodhan is a neuroscientist, philosopher and geostrategist. He is an Honorary Fellow at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Philosophy at the University of London, and a Senior Fellow and Head of the Geopolitics and Global Futures Programme at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

Al-Rodhan began his career as a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist. Since 2002, he has shifted his scholarly focus to the interplay between neuroscience and international relations. Through several publications, he has pioneered the application of neuroscience, namely the neurochemical mechanisms that underpin emotions, to the understanding of trends in contemporary geopolitics and global security.

Through many innovative books and articles, he has made significant conceptual contributions to the application of the field of neurophilosophy to human nature, contemporary geopolitics, international relations, and outer space security.

National security; global security; sustainable security; cascading risks; global justice; human dignity; international order; international relations; sustainable history; history of ideas; neurophilosophy; human nature; power; transformative technologies; artificial intelligence; international cooperation; existential risk

See also

Bibliographic Information

Book Title
On Power: Neurophilosophical Foundations and Policy Implications
ISBN
978-1-64889-145-8
Edition
1st
Number of pages
354
Physical size
236mm x 160mm
Illustrations
22 B&W
Publication date
September 2021
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