News  |    |  July 24, 2019

The Ethics of Brain–Computer Interfaces

News article by Liam Drew.
Published in Nature.

Excerpt:

As technologies that integrate the brain with computers become more complex, so too do the ethical issues that surround their use.

“It becomes part of you,” Patient 6 said, describing the technology that enabled her, after 45 years of severe epilepsy, to halt her disabling seizures. Electrodes had been implanted on the surface of her brain that would send a signal to a hand-held device when they detected signs of impending epileptic activity. On hearing a warning from the device, Patient 6 knew to take a dose of medication to halt the coming seizure.

“You grow gradually into it and get used to it, so it then becomes a part of every day,” she told Frederic Gilbert, an ethicist who studies brain–computer interfaces (BCIs) at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia. “It became me,” she said.

Gilbert was interviewing six people who had participated in the first clinical trial of a predictive BCI to help understand how living with a computer that monitors brain activity directly affects individuals psychologically. Patient 6’s experience was extreme: Gilbert describes her relationship with her BCI as a “radical symbiosis”. [ . . . ]


This article is part of Nature Outlook: The brain, an editorially independent supplement produced with the financial support of third parties.