Brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies are no longer hypothetical, yet there are fundamental aspects of the technology that remain unaddressed by both ethicists and policy-makers. Two new papers address these issues by outlining the outstanding ethical issues, offering guidance for addressing those issues, and offering particular insight into the field of BCI tech for cognitive enhancement.
“BCI devices can be non-invasive devices that users wear, or they can be invasive devices, which are surgically implanted,” says Veljko Dubljevi, an assistant professor in NC State’s Science, Technology & Society program and co-author of both papers. “The invasive devices are more efficient, since they can read signals directly from the brain. However, they also raise more ethical concerns.
“For example, invasive BCI technologies carry more associated risks such as surgery, infection, and glial scarring — and invasive BCI devices would be more difficult to replace as technology improves.”
Ethical Aspects of BCI Technology: What Is the State of the Art? (Philosophies). From the abstract:
- Brain–Computer Interface (BCI) technology is a promising research area in many domains. Brain activity can be interpreted through both invasive and non-invasive monitoring devices, allowing for novel, therapeutic solutions for individuals with disabilities and for other non-medical applications. However, a number of ethical issues have been identified from the use of BCI technology. In this paper, we review the academic discussion of the ethical implications of BCI technology in the last five years. We conclude that some emerging applications of BCI technology—including commercial ventures that seek to meld human intelligence with AI—present new and unique ethical concerns … we identify two key areas of BCI ethics that warrant further research: the physical and psychological effects of BCI technology.
The Authenticity of Machine-Augmented Human Intelligence: Therapy, Enhancement, and the Extended Mind (Neuroethics). From the abstract:
- Ethical analyses of biomedical human enhancement often consider the issue of authenticity — to what degree can the accomplishments of those utilizing biomedical enhancements (including cognitive or athletic ones) be considered authentic or worthy of praise? As research into Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology progresses, it may soon be feasible to create a BCI device that enhances or augments natural human intelligence through some invasive or noninvasive biomedical means. In this article we will (1) review currently existing BCI technologies and to what extent these can be said to enhance or augment the capabilities of the respective users, (2) describe one hypothetical type of BCI device that could augment or enhance a specific aspect of human knowledge — namely, mathematical ability, and (3) relate these concepts to the active externalism view of the extended mind as espoused by Clark and Chalmers in order to (4) argue that knowledge of mathematics derived from the usage of a BCI and the application thereof constitutes authentic knowledge and achievement.
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