Ghost in the Machine: A Philosophical Analysis of the Relationship Between Brain-Computer Interface Applications and their Users

Dissertation, University of Twente (2009)

This Master’s thesis explores the relationship between Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) and their human users from a functional, epistemological and phenomenological perspective. The analysis has four steps. I start out with a technical description of BCI systems in which I conceptually analyze different types of BCI applications. This results in the development of a taxonomy of applications which is the point of departure for further philosophical analysis. Thereafter, I explore the functional relationship between BCI applications and their users. That is to say, I analyze functions of BCI applications, relate them to abilities of their users and explore how they extend these abilities. After that, the epistemological relation between BCI systems and their users is conceptualized by analyzing how they contribute to cognitive processes of their users, which is done by using the distributed cognition framework. And lastly, a postphenomenological framework is adapted to investigate how BCIs mediate the experiences of their users. This thesis ends with a reflection in which (1) possible developments in BCI research are placed in a broader historical-anthropological perspective, and (2) a moral consideration is given on the desirability of BCIs.
Keywords Brain-Computer Interfaces  Postphenomenology  Distributed Cognition  Philosophy of Technology
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