/The Future Is Now: Wrestling with Ethics, Policy and Brain-Computer Interfaces

The Future Is Now: Wrestling with Ethics, Policy and Brain-Computer Interfaces

Key idea:  A new book, Policy, Identity, and Neurotechnology: The Neuroethics of Brain-Computer Interfaces, explores the ethical issues of new technologies.

Original author and publication date: Matt Shipman – April 28, 2023

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: It is interesting that we begin to talk about ethics only after the new technologies are already in use.

From the article:   

Devices that allow computers to interface with the human brain are already here – close to 200,000 people have cochlear implants in the U.S. alone. And a wide range of additional brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies are in development. As these technologies become more common, so do questions related to ethics and policy – with agencies from the Federal Trade Commission to the FDA already facing regulatory decisions about BCI devices.

A new book, Policy, Identity, and Neurotechnology: The Neuroethics of Brain-Computer Interfaces, explores these issues and more. The book was co-edited by Veljko Dubljević, an associate professor at NC State who leads the NeuroComputational Ethics Research Group; and by Allen Coin, a former graduate student at NC State.

To learn more about what BCI devices are on the horizon, and the questions those technologies raise, we spoke with Coin and Dubljević.

The Abstract: Before we talk about the book itself, I have a threshold question: What exactly are BCIs? How common are they? Can you give me some examples?

Allen Coin: In short, BCIs are a class of technology that can read and translate brain activity into a format digestible by a computer. BCI devices use brain activity as input to provide some sort of output, or to pass information back to the user as feedback – sometimes directly to the user’s brain. These devices have a lot of applications in medicine and are increasingly being adapted for widespread commercial use.

For instance, there are BCI devices in clinical trials that can warn a user when they are about to have a seizure. And you may know somebody with one type of BCI device that has been around for a long time: the cochlear implant.

This technology is rapidly advancing, with a lot of investment from commercial ventures that aim to popularize this technology for everyday use – perhaps BCIs will become as common as smartphones.

Read here the complete article