Brainjacking in deep brain stimulation and autonomy

Ethics and Information Technology 20 (3):219-232 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX


'Brainjacking’ refers to the exercise of unauthorized control of another’s electronic brain implant. Whilst the possibility of hacking a Brain–Computer Interface (BCI) has already been proven in both experimental and real-life settings, there is reason to believe that it will soon be possible to interfere with the software settings of the Implanted Pulse Generators (IPGs) that play a central role in Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) systems. Whilst brainjacking raises ethical concerns pertaining to privacy and physical or psychological harm, we claim that the possibility of brainjacking DBS raises particularly profound concerns about individual autonomy, since the possibility of hacking such devices raises the prospect of third parties exerting influence over the neural circuits underpinning the subject’s cognitive, emotional and motivational states. However, although it seems natural to assume that brainjacking represents a profound threat to individual autonomy, we suggest that the implications of brainjacking for individual autonomy are complicated by the fact that technologies targeted by brainjacking often serve to enhance certain aspects of the user’s autonomy. The difficulty of ascertaining the implications of brainjacking DBS for individual autonomy is exacerbated by the varied understandings of autonomy in the neuroethical and philosophical literature. In this paper, we seek to bring some conceptual clarity to this area by mapping out some of the prominent views concerning the different dimension of autonomous agency, and the implications of brainjacking DBS for each dimension. Drawing on three hypothetical case studies, we show that there could plausibly be some circumstances in which brainjacking could potentially be carried out in ways that could serve to enhance certain dimensions of the target’s autonomy. Our analysis raises further questions about the power, scope, and necessity of obtaining prior consent in seeking to protect patient autonomy when directly interfering with their neural states, in particular in the context of self-regulating closed-loop stimulation devices.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 84,108

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Authenticity and autonomy in deep-brain stimulation.Alistair Wardrope - 2014 - Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (8):563-566.
Deep Brain Stimulation, Authenticity and Value.Pugh Jonathan, Maslen Hannah & Savulescu Julian - 2017 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 26 (4):640-657.
The Gold-Plated Leucotomy Standard and Deep Brain Stimulation.Grant Gillett - 2011 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 8 (1):35-44.
Situating the self: understanding the effects of deep brain stimulation.Roy Dings & Leon de Bruin - 2016 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 15 (2):151-165.
Deep Brain Stimulation, Authenticity and Value.Sven Nyholm & Elizabeth O’Neill - 2017 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 26 (4):658-670.


Added to PP

36 (#350,807)

6 months
5 (#168,582)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

References found in this work

Principles of biomedical ethics.Tom L. Beauchamp - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by James F. Childress.
Freedom of the will and the concept of a person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
Republicanism: a theory of freedom and government.Philip Pettit (ed.) - 1997 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Autonomous Agents: From Self Control to Autonomy.Alfred R. Mele - 1995 - New York, US: Oxford University Press.

View all 61 references / Add more references