An Anticipatory Approach to Ethico-Legal Implications of Future Neurotechnology

Science and Engineering Ethics 30 (3):1-15 (2024)
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Abstract

This paper provides a justificatory rationale for recommending the inclusion of imagined future use cases in neurotechnology development processes, specifically for legal and policy ends. Including detailed imaginative engagement with future applications of neurotechnology can serve to connect ethical, legal, and policy issues potentially arising from the translation of brain stimulation research to the public consumer domain. Futurist scholars have for some time recommended approaches that merge creative arts with scientific development in order to theorise possible futures toward which current trends in technology development might be steered. Taking a creative, imaginative approach like this in the neurotechnology context can help move development processes beyond considerations of device functioning, safety, and compliance with existing regulation, and into an active engagement with potential future dynamics brought about by the emergence of the neurotechnology itself. Imagined scenarios can engage with potential consumer uses of devices that might come to challenge legal or policy contexts. An anticipatory, creative approach can imagine what such uses might consist in, and what they might imply. Justifying this approach also prompts a co-responsibility perspective for policymaking in technology contexts. Overall, this furnishes a mode of neurotechnology’s emergence that can avoid crises of confidence in terms of ethico-legal issues, and promote policy responses balanced between knowledge, values, protected innovation potential, and regulatory safeguards.

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