The Unique and Practical Advantages of Applying A Capability Approach to Brain Computer Interface

Philosophy and Technology 35 (4):1-22 (2022)
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Abstract

Intelligent neurotechnology is an emerging field that combines neurotechnologies like brain-computer interface (BCI) with artificial intelligence. This paper introduces a capability framework to assess the responsible use of intelligent BCI systems and provide practical ethical guidance. It proposes two tests, the threshold and flourishing tests, that BCI applications must meet, and illustrates them in a series of cases. After a brief introduction (Section 1), Section 2 sets forth the capability view and the two tests. It illustrates the threshold test using examples from clinical medicine of BCI applications that enable patients with profound disabilities to function at a threshold level through computer mediation. Section 3 illustrates the flourishing test by exploring possible future applications of BCI involving neuroenhancements for healthy people, using examples adapted from research currently underway in the US military. Section 3 applies a capability lens to a complex case involving dual effects, both therapeutic and non-therapeutic, showing how the threshold and flourishing tests resolve the case. Section 4 replies to three objections: neurorights are the best tool for assessing BCI; the two tests are moving targets; and the analysis utilizes a capability view to do work it is not designed for. The paper concludes that a capability view offers unique advantages and gives practical guidance for evaluating the responsible use of present and future BCI applications. Extrapolating from our analysis may help guide other emerging technologies, such as germline gene editing, expected to impact central human capabilities.

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Nancy Jecker
University of Washington

Citations of this work

Are Neurorights Global?Nancy S. Jecker & Andrew Ko - 2023 - American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 14 (4):369-371.

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