The Neuroethics research thrust at the Center for Neurotechnology (CNT) studies ethical issues arising from emerging neural engineering technologies. Issues include questions of privacy, security, moral and legal responsibility, changes in our understanding of agency (the capacity of individuals to act independently and make their own free choices) shifts in personal identity and social justice.
We have a commitment to the inclusion of disability perspectives in the design of devices intended to benefit people with disabilities. Our group does both theoretical research and writing, and empirical studies such as focus groups with intended end-users of neural engineering technology.
Our work consists of three principal activities:
• Education and outreach
• Research and scholarship
• Neuroscience and ethics engagement
Education and outreach
We contribute to the educational mission of the CNT through teaching, mentoring, and creating neuroethics content and guidelines at the University of Washington (UW) and at CNT partner institutions, San Diego State University (SDSU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). We also engage in public and pre-college education outreach activities.
• Faciliating ethics roundtables at UW, MIT and SDSU
• Contributing to a panel discussion and public screening of the documentary "Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement"
• Working with the Momentum Program at MIT. This program offers minority students at MIT an interdisciplinary perspective on solving some of the world's biggest challenges, and gives them the opportunity to explore brain-computer interface work at the CNT.
• Working with Upward Bound at the UW. Upward Bound assists high school students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds in their pursuit of a high school diploma and prepares them to enter and complete a post-secondary education program. The CNT works with Upward Bound to introduce students to neural engineering as a field of study and potential career.
Research and scholarship
We conduct empirical ethics research, such as surveys of people's perceptions of neural technologies, and we conduct theoretical research that explores the social and ethical implications of neural technologies. Our published work aims to educate the public, researchers and policymakers, and our group mentors students pursuing projects in neuroethics, including those participating in summer programs and pursuing advanced degrees.
• Conducting focus groups with individuals who have disabilities and the general public, learning about their perspectives and views on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs)
• Conducting focus groups and interviews with end-users of neural devices
• Surveying BCI scientists on their attitudes toward ethics and ethics engagement
• Collaborating with the Neuroethics Core at the University of British Columbia (UBC)
Neuroscience and ethics engagement
We work to integrate reflection on ethical implications of neuroscience and neural engineering into the structure and practice of science. Our ethicists work closely with neural engineering students and scientists at the CNT. This close collaboration includes embedding ethicists in labs to work collaboratively with researchers.
• Running the neuroethics journal club
• Participating in the 2015 CNT Hackathon, and being part of the winning team. The CNT 36-hour Hackathon challenges undergraduate and graduate students to design a solution to a neural engineering problem or to create a tool for educational outreach.
• Facilitating an ethics and neuroscience engagement workshop in 2016, based on the Presidential Commision for the Study of Bioethical Issues' Gray Matters report.