When thinking is doing: Responsibility for BCI-mediated action, controllability and foreseeability of outcome
RAINEY S., MASLEN H., SAVULESCU J.
Technologies controlled directly by the brain are being developed, evolving based on insights gained from neuroscience, and rehabilitative medicine. Besides neuro-controlled prosthetics aimed at restoring function lost somehow, technologies controlled via brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) may also extend a user’s horizon of action, freed from the need for bodily movement. Whilst BCI-mediated action ought to be, on the whole, treated as conventional action, law and policy ought to be amended to accommodate BCI action by broadening the definition of action as ‘willed bodily movement’. Moreover, there are some dimensions of BCI mediated action that are significantly different to conventional cases. These relate to control. Specifically, to limits in both controllability of BCIs via neural states, and in foreseeability of outcomes from such actions. In some specific types of case, BCI-mediated action may be due different ethical evaluation from conventional action. The case for different evaluation could be motivated by the reasons for BCI use. Where BCI-mediated action results in harms of some kind, it may be in some sense excusable for those who could not act at all except for with a BCI controlled device. This is like the sense in which disability can prompt ‘reasonable adjustment’ to be made to accommodate disability requirements. But BCI mediated action through neuro controlled devices that is recreational ought to present more moral jeopardy for actors than conventional action.