Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain chip is coming to fruition as each day pass, but since the technology is innovative in several ways, researchers have begun to challenge the brain-computer interface (BCI) technology with unique and novel key ethical questions.
Ethical Questions Surrounding the Neuralink
According to Science Daily, there are specifically two research papers that outline the issues surrounding BCI, such as Musk’s Neuralink brain chip.
Allen Coin, the lead author of both papers and a graduate student at North Carolina State University first, described what a BCI is, saying it’s a piece of technology that can detect brain signals that convey intentions, which are received by a computer, translating it into an executable output.
Furthermore, Coin said that BCI techs could also provide feedback to its user and allow them to reflect on whether they have done completed their desired action.
One of the studies published in the journal “Human Enhancement Technologies and Our Merger with Machines” centered on the ethical questions surrounding the invasive brain chips that are surgically implanted in the wearer.
“The invasive devices are more efficient since they can read signals directly from the brain. However, they also raise more ethical concerns,” said Veljko Dubljević, the co-author of both papers and an assistant professor in the Science, Technology & Society program of NC State.
For example, Dubljević said that invasive brain chips could increase the risk of glial scarring, infection, and other threats that come with surgery, plus these invasive devices will be much harder to replace when new technology arrives, or the existing one is improved in the future.
Physical and Psychological Effects of BCI Tech
The researchers have specified two key areas that ethicists are yet to fully address in the case of brain chips like Musk’s Neuralink, and they believe experts should prioritize in the near future: the psychological and physical effects of brain-computer interface technology.
“Neuralink highlights the immediacy of these ethical questions,” the assistant professor said. “We can’t put the questions off anymore. We need to address them now.”
According to the scientists, there is a lack of ethical analysis regarding BCI’s physical and psychological effect, specifically on the potential long-term health effect of the device and the ethical considerations related to using animals to test these BCI technologies.
It can be remembered in August when Elon Musk demonstrated the Neuralink brain chip for the first time through Gertrude, the pig, who, according to a report by BBC, had a coin-sized Neuralink device in her brain.
When it comes to the psychological effect of the device, the paper cited a study regarding a brain chip that warned people with epilepsy in advance if they are going to have a seizure, and some have reported experiencing “radical psychological distress.”
Asking the Right Questions
Meanwhile, one of the papers authored by Coin and Dubljević published in the journal “Neuroethics” centered on authenticity and machine-augmented intelligence, specifically the extent of how a person feels they have achieved something on their own or if the computer created the results they acquired.
Furthermore, the researchers have reason to believe that the existing analysis of brain-computer interface techs by ethicists was written with other ethicists in mind, which makes it hard for the public and the policymakers to relate to.
The researchers believe it is high time we speak about the ethical considerations related to Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain chip and other BCI chip.