I’ve written about ethical, legal, and accessibility considerations for the brain-computer interface (BCI) many times before, but it bears repeating after stumbling into this article from Calcalistech that treats just that.
Over the course of this article, a number of excellent questions are raised regarding topics ranging from the militarization of BCI technology, brain hacking and brain phishing, as well as speculative uses for the brain-computer interface in law enforcement and the judicial system.
It’s wonderful to see these questions being introduced beyond this blog and the EMPATHY series, but it feels like a good time to remind readers that postulations such as those featured in the article are merely the first step in working toward a world where we have a sound legal and ethical framework for the use of BCI.
Simply put, hurling questions into the abyss isn’t going to be enough.
If we’re to actually push for a just world in which BCI is safe and accessible to all of those who want it, we need to take additional steps to work with both public and private actors to help introduce these changes. So rather than simply ask questions and hope something is done about these matters, what might a concerned citizen do?
- Investigate who’s conducting BCI research near you. Ask them what they’re doing to address the possible ethical and legal concerns of their work in a positive, let’s tackle this together kind of way. For example, do they already have established protocols for how the technology is to be tested and used in their own labs? How do they guarantee those protocols are followed? What are the consequences for a failure to follow those protocols? Who is in charge of ethical oversight within their operation? Is it managed from within or without by a third party?
- Speak with your representatives in local, state, and federal government by email, phone, in person or by direct mail. Introduce the topic of BCI, express your concerns, and ask them to work with their staff and other representatives to begin laying a framework to address the questions posed in the bullet point above. It might also behoove you to ask what your representatives are already doing, if anything, to address these topics.
- When appropriate, mention BCI to friends, family, and other folks who might be interested in it. Introduce them to what it is, why it’s important, how close we are to seeing these technologies in use in our everyday lives, and express your wariness regarding the widespread implementation of it. Then, from there, encourage them to take the same actions laid out in bullet points one and two above. The broader the groundswell of support for these issues, the more likely action is to be taken.
Remember, at this point in time, many of the people with whom you speak will have no grounding or awareness of the brain-computer interface, so it will be important to remain patient as others begin to pick up on and then understand the importance of these matters.
The march toward progress is long, but we need to begin taking those first steps now if we’re to ensure we’re in a position to minimize harm once BCI technologies are widespread.
If you’re interested in further exploring why it’s important we explore these topics now, you can read more about the brain-computer interface on this blog, or check out how it’s presented in the EMPATHY series, which takes place in a speculative world vastly underprepared for the technology’s emergence. You can find links to books one and two below.
And don’t miss out—this June, signed print copies are 15% off with keyword SUMMER19! And you can get 40% off ebooks with keyword PRIDE if you order directly from my publisher.