Brit Boffins Ponder Bioethics of Brain Manipulation

by David Solomonoff

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics today launched a consultation on the ethics of new types of technologies that ‘intervene’ in the brain, such as brain-computer interfaces, deep brain stimulation, and neural stem cell therapy.

Often developed for treatment of conditions including Parkinson’s disease, depression and stroke, they could also be used in military applications to develop weapons or vehicles that are controlled remotely by brain signals. Commercial possibilities in the gaming industry include computer games controlled by people’s thoughts.

“These challenge us to think carefully about fundamental questions to do with the brain: what makes us human, what makes us an individual, and how and why do we think and behave in the way we do,” Thomas Baldwin, Chair of the Council’s study and Professor of Philosophy at the University of York.

“For example if brain-computer interfaces are used to control military aircraft or weapons from far away, who takes ultimate responsibility for the actions? Could this be blurring the line between man and machine?” he said.


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