Ethical Priorities for Neurotechnology and Artificial Intelligence

Achievement date: 
2018
Outcome/accomplishment: 

The Center for Neurotechnology (CNT), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) headquartered at the University of Washington (UW), has conducted a pair of workshops leading to a scientific publication that establishes the ethical priorities of neurotechnology and artificial intelligence. It addresses four main areas of concern: privacy and consent, agency and identity, augmentation, and bias.

Impact/benefits: 

The technologies being developed by institutions like CNT are capable of understanding and analyzing brain activity to the point that it could alter an individual’s sense of self. Though most current research is focused on therapeutics, its consequences are not yet known and complex ethical issues will inevitably arise.

Explanation/Background: 

Neuroethics has been a concern for CNT from the beginning. It was a core component of the research proposal and the Center established a relationship with UW’s philosophy department as soon as NSF funding was received. This is a broad interdisciplinary effort that is necessary to gain perspective into how these emerging technologies can impact individuals and society as a whole.

Sara Goering, a CNT member and philosopher at UW, partnered with the Rafael Yuste of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative to host the workshops at Columbia University. In attendance were experts in neurotechnology, AI, medical ethics, and law. As the Center continues to invest in neuroethics, researchers from outside of traditional science and engineering disciplines have become increasingly involved in its work.