Episode 64 – Weekly Weinersmith Soonish Series: Dr. Judy Illes on Neuroethics

Hello, and welcome to the reboot of The Weekly Weinersmith, celebrating the paperback release of our book Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything.

The last technology we discuss in Soonish are brain-computer interfaces (BCI). BCIs record what’s happening in the brain, and then respond in some way. For example, BCI’s can be used to help folks who get seizures. Seizures tend to start in one part of the brain, and then spread out into other parts. BCIs can detect these seizures starting, deliver a dose of electricity to that region, and (for reasons we don’t quite understand) this can stop the seizure.

There are lots of ethical issues that need to be addressed for BCIs. For example – if a machine is collecting data on your brain, who has the right to use those data? Should your employer be able to use those data to be sure you’re focusing on your job? And what if your BCI gets hacked?

In today’s episode Kelly interviews Dr. Judy Illes to learn more about the latest work being done addressing the ethics of brain-computer interfaces. Dr. Illes is the Canada Research Chair in Neuroethics, and Director of Neuroethics Canada at the University of British Columbia.

For folks looking for links to the paper’s discussed in today’s episodes:

Here is a link to the paper on the responses of 7 folks who received BCIs that alerted them to the impending onset of an epileptic seizure and here is a link to the paper.

Here is a link to the paper that gathered up claims made by companies selling wearable brain technologies to the general public, and found that most of the claims were not substantiated by peer-reviewed scientific papers.

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