Neural engineering technologies such as implanted deep brain stimulators and brain-computer interfaces represent exciting and potentially transformative tools for improving human health and well-being. Yet their current use and future prospects raise a variety of ethical and philosophical concerns. Devices that alter brain function invite us to think deeply about a range of ethical concerns—identity, normality, authority, responsibility, privacy, and justice. If a device is stimulating my brain while I decide upon an action, am I still the author of the (...) action? Does a device make the interiority of my experience accessible to others? Will the device change the way I think of myself and others think of me? Such fundamental questions arise even when a device is designed for only a relatively circumscribed purpose, such as restoring functioning via a smart prosthetic. We are part of a National Science Foundation-funded Engineering Research Center tasked with investigating philosophical and social implications of neural engineering research and technologies. Neural devices already in clinical use, such as deep brain stimulators for Parkinson's disease or essential tremor, have spurred healthy debate about such implications. Devices currently under development—such as the BrainGate System of implanted brain sensors coupled to robotics in persons with paralysis, exoskeletons for augmented movement, transcranial do-it-yourself stimulators, closed-loop brain stimulating systems, or even brain-to-brain interfacing—promise to extend and deepen these debates. At our center, brain-computer interfaces are the principal focus of work. Even acknowledging that the clinical translation of neural devices and seamless integration by end users may still largely reside in the future, the potential these devices hold calls for careful early analysis. The launching of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative in April 2013 provides further impetus for this work. (shrink)
Advancements in novel neurotechnologies, such as brain computer interfaces and neuromodulatory devices such as deep brain stimulators, will have profound implications for society and human rights. While these technologies are improving the diagnosis and treatment of mental and neurological diseases, they can also alter individual agency and estrange those using neurotechnologies from their sense of self, challenging basic notions of what it means to be human. As an international coalition of interdisciplinary scholars and practitioners, we examine these challenges and make (...) recommendations to mitigate negative consequences that could arise from the unregulated development or application of novel neurotechnologies. We explore potential ethical challenges in four key areas: identity and agency, privacy, bias, and enhancement. To address them, we propose democratic and inclusive summits to establish globally-coordinated ethical and societal guidelines for neurotechnology development and application, new measures, including “Neurorights,” for data privacy, security, and consent to empower neurotechnology users’ control over their data, new methods of identifying and preventing bias, and the adoption of public guidelines for safe and equitable distribution of neurotechnological devices. (shrink)
In this paper, I look at several examples that demonstrate what I see as a troubling tendency in much of mainstream bioethics to discount the views of disabled people. Following feminist political theorists who argue in favour of a stance of humility and sensitive inclusion for people who have been marginalized, I recommend that bioethicists adopt a presumption in favour of believing rather than discounting the claims of disabled people. By taking their claims at face value and engaging with disabled (...) people in open dialogue over impairment and disadvantage, bioethicists may take to heart an important lesson about human fragility and resilience. (shrink)
Brain–Computer Interface research is an interdisciplinary area of study within Neural Engineering. Recent interest in end-user perspectives has led to an intersection with user-centered design. The goal of user-centered design is to reduce the translational gap between researchers and potential end users. However, while qualitative studies have been conducted with end users of BCI technology, little is known about individual BCI researchers’ experience with and attitudes towards UCD. Given the scientific, financial, and ethical imperatives of UCD, we sought to gain (...) a better understanding of practical and principled considerations for researchers who engage with end users. We conducted a qualitative interview case study with neural engineering researchers at a center dedicated to the creation of BCIs. Our analysis generated five themes common across interviews. The thematic analysis shows that participants identify multiple beneficiaries of their work, including other researchers, clinicians working with devices, device end users, and families and caregivers of device users. Participants value experience with device end users, and personal experience is the most meaningful type of interaction. They welcome end-user input, but are skeptical of limited focus groups and case studies. They also recognize a tension between creating sophisticated devices and developing technology that will meet user needs. Finally, interviewees espouse functional, assistive goals for their technology, but describe uncertainty in what degree of function is “good enough” for individual end users. Based on these results, we offer preliminary recommendations for conducting future UCD studies in BCI and neural engineering. (shrink)
New parents suddenly come face to face with myriad issues that demand careful attention but appear in a context unlikely to provide opportunities for extended or clear-headed critical reflection, whether at home with a new baby or in the neonatal intensive care unit. As such, their capacity for autonomy may be compromised. Attending to new parental autonomy as an extension of reproductive autonomy, and as a complicated phenomenon in its own right rather than simply as a matter to be balanced (...) against other autonomy rights, can help us to see how new parents might be aided in their quest for competency and good decision making. In this paper I show how a relational view of autonomy – attentive to the coercive effects of oppressive social norms and to the importance of developing autonomy competency, especially as related to self-trust – can improve our understanding of the situation of new parents and signal ways to cultivate and to better respect their autonomy. (shrink)
The essays in this volume apply philosophical analysis to address three kinds of questions: What are the implications of genetic science for our understanding of nature? What might it influence in our conception of human nature? What challenges does genetic science pose for specific issues of private conduct or public policy?
: Genetics researchers often work with distinct communities. To take moral account of how their research affects these communities, they need a richer conception of justice and they need to make those communities equal participants in decision-making about how the research is conducted and what is produced and published out of it.
As a philosopher interested in biomedical ethics, I find recent advances in genetic technologies both fascinating and frightening. Future technologies for genetic therapies and elimination of clearly deleterious genes offer us the ability to get rid of the cause of much human suffering, seemingly at its physiological root. But memories of past eugenics programs gone horribly awry must make cautious our initial optimism for these generally well-intentioned programs. Most often the scientist proceeds in research with the best of intentions, but (...) that does not make all scientific investigation worth pursuing. (shrink)
Bioethics has already had a rich interaction with the relatively new field of neurotechnology. Scholars have wondered whether neurotechnological interventions, such as deep brain stimulation, are threats to personal identity, lead to alienation or create dilemmas between authenticity and autonomy, impact autonomy, detract from agency, or lead to self-estrangement. Many of these ethical investigations are concerned not with the targeted health benefits of neurotechnology but with whether and how they fit into users' lives in more personal and profound ways.In some (...) ways, this focus on general bioethical issues... (shrink)
In the United States, health disparities have been framed by categories of race. Racial health disparities have been documented for cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and numerous other diseases and measures of health status. Although such disparities can be read as symptoms of disparities in healthcare access, pervasive social and economic inequities, and discrimination, some have suggested that the disparities might be due, at least in part, to biological differences based on race. Or, to be more precise, if race itself (...) has no determined biological meaning, race may nonetheless be a proxy that collects a group of individuals who share certain physiological or genotypic features that affect health. (shrink)
Brain-computer Interface (BCI) research is rapidly expanding, and it engages domains of human experience that many find central to our current understanding of ourselves. Ethical principles or guidelines can provide researchers with tools to engage in ethical reflection and to address practical problems in research. Though researchers have called for clearer ethical principles or guidelines, there is little existing data on what form these should take. We developed a prospective set of ethical principles for BCI research with specific guidelines and (...) shared them, via a survey, to participants at the 6th International BCI Meeting at the Asilomar Conference Center in 2016. Respondents were broadly supportive of principles of Care for Subjects, Modesty, Participation, Inclusivity, Relationality, Justice, and Social Impact. Principles more traditionally aligned with responsible conduct of research showed higher levels of endorsement. Researcher support for specific principle-based ethical guidelines varied with respect to stringency of researcher obligations. (shrink)
Implanted medical devices—for example, cardiac defibrillators, deep brain stimulators, and insulin pumps—offer users the possibility of regaining some control over an increasingly unruly body, the opportunity to become part “cyborg” in service of addressing pressing health needs. We recognize the value and effectiveness of such devices, but call attention to what may be less clear to potential users—that their vulnerabilities may not entirely disappear but instead shift. We explore the kinds of shifting vulnerabilities experienced by people with Parkinson’s disease who (...) receive therapeutic deep brain stimulators to help control their tremors and other symptoms of PD. (shrink)
This article highlights Gareth Matthews's contributions to the field of philosophy for young children, noting especially the inventiveness of his style of engagement with children and his confidence in children's ability to analyze perplexing issues, from cosmology to death and dying. I relate here my experiences in introducing philosophical topics to adolescents, to show how Matthews's work can be successfully extended to older students, and I recommend taking philosophy outside the university as a way to foster critical thinking in young (...) students and to improve the public status of the profession. (shrink)
Recent advancements in neuroengineering research have prompted neuroethicists to propose a variety of “ethical guidance” frameworks (e.g., principles, guidelines, framing questions, responsible research innovation frameworks, and ethical priorities) to inform this work. In this chapter, we offer a comparative analysis of five recently proposed ethical guidance frameworks (NIH neuroethics guiding principles, Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Global Neuroethics Summit Delegates, the Center for Neurotechnology’s neuroethical principles and guidelines, and the Neurotechnology Ethics Taskforce’s ethical priorities). We identify some common themes among these (...) frameworks, making explicit significant areas of convergence. We also highlight three areas of ethical consideration that have not received sufficient attention across these frameworks (extended care for research participants, cultural salience, and stakeholder input). Further attention and analysis of these three areas would improve the breadth and scope of ethical considerations for neuroengineering research. (shrink)
Implantable neurotechnology devices such as Brain Computer Interfaces and Deep Brain Stimulators are an increasing part of treating or exploring potential treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders. While only a few devices are approved, many promising prospects for future devices are under investigation. The decision to participate in a clinical trial can be challenging, given a variety of risks to be taken into consideration. During the consent process, prospective participants might lack the language to consider those risks, feel unprepared, or (...) simply not know what questions to ask. One tool to help empower participants to play a more active role during the consent process is a Question Prompt List. QPLs are communication tools that can prompt participants and patients to articulate potential concerns. They offer a structured list of disease, treatment, or research intervention-specific questions that research participants can use as support for question asking. While QPLs have been studied as tools for improving the consent process during cancer treatment, in this paper, we suggest they would be helpful in neurotechnology research, and offer an example of a QPL as a template for an informed consent tool in neurotechnology device trials. (shrink)
Goering argues that children, at any age, have the potential to utilize logic and generate philosophical thinking through role-playing yet challenging games. This activity fosters a philosophical imagination for children.
The formal justice model proposed by Anita Silvers in Disability, Discrimination, and Difference emphasizes the social model of disability and the need for full equality of opportunity, and it suggests that a distributive model of justice that gives special benefits to individuals with disabilities is self-defeating. Yet in that work, Silvers allows an exception for the "profoundly impaired." In this paper, I show how the formal justice theory falls short when it comes to defining and dealing with "profoundly impaired" individuals (...) and explore the ways in which making the exception raises serious theoretical concerns for the grounding of the formal justice model. (shrink)
This paper presents an overview of the goals, structure, and results of an annual, week-long, summer philosophy institute for high school students. Inspired by other similar programs, the Summer Philosophy Institute of Colorado was designed for a culturally diverse group of students, aiming to expose college-track high school students to philosophy, to encourage students in lower-track classifications to pursue college, to offer advising to students on how to make college a reality, to expose both groups of students to critical thinking (...) skills, and to promote cultural diversity in philosophy as a discipline. After explaining why philosophy encourages students in education and why high school students are so well-primed to study it, the authors give a detailed overview of the structure of the institute, including schedule, lesson plan, texts and themes studied, funding, and student demography. The authors conclude by discussing an outreach program that grew out of the SPI-CO and a summary of the initial results of the program. (shrink)