Brain-Computer Interface Unlocks Possibilities: Both Good and Bad

From Voice of America:

“This rosy picture, yes we can get there, but in doing so, we will enable this whole other dark side, and we need to plan for it and we need to have some mitigating strategies for it,” said Todd Richmond, at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies.

Science ethics

Richmond, director of the institute’s Advanced Prototype Development, works with emerging disruptive technologies and warns that internet hacking and other criminal behaviors will be magnified as scientists pursue certain types of innovation.

“We have anonymity. We have online stalking. We have harassment. We have the capabilities of some kid in a country 5,000 miles [8,000 kilometers] away having a very real impact on society, hacking power grids, hacking monetary systems,” Richmond said. “Part of the challenge is a lot of the innovation right now is driven by the commercial sector, and in that case their focus is on profitability and getting a product out there and getting the new capability, a new shiny object that they want to excite the consumer to buy. For them, moral and ethical repercussions are not necessarily part of their development timeline.”

Mullen agreed, pointing out, “There is a very strong code of ethics that’s inherent in our academic and scientific institutions to not do harm to people, to use our best judgement as we make discoveries. But that being said, science is a process of being on the edge. You don’t know what the outcome is going to be of the technology you’re building. You don’t know how it will be used. The responsibility lies on society to use that technology for good.”

Richmond added, “But technology has become so sophisticated and so complex that it’s very difficult for members of society or policymakers to really understand what’s going on inside the black box. So now, more than ever, it’s really critical that the scientist and the technologist be part of that conversation about ethics and morals and where is this technology heading in society.”