If you’ve been longing for an opportunity to discover more and to engage in discussion about brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) and their legal, technical, and ethical issues, an opportunity is just a day away. From a September 20, 2022 (US) National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS/NASEM or National Academies) notice (received via email),
Sept. 22-23  Workshop Explores Technical, Legal, Ethical Issues Raised by Brain-Machine Interfaces [official title: Brain-Machine and Related Neural Interface Technologies: Scientific, Technical, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues – A Workshop]
Technological developments and advances in understanding of the human brain have led to the development of new Brain-Machine Interface technologies. These include technologies that “read” the brain to record brain activity and decode its meaning, and those that “write” to the brain to manipulate activity in specific brain regions. Right now, most of these interface technologies are medical devices placed inside the brain or other parts of the nervous system – for example, devices that use deep brain stimulation to modulate the tremors of Parkinson’s disease.
But tech companies are developing mass-market wearable devices that focus on understanding emotional states or intended movements, such as devices used to detect fatigue, boost alertness, or enable thoughts to control gaming and other digital-mechanical systems. Such applications raise ethical and legal issues, including risks that thoughts or mood might be accessed or manipulated by companies, governments, or others; risks to privacy; and risks related to a widening of social inequalities.
A virtual workshop [emphasis mine] hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on Sept. 22-23  will explore the present and future of these technologies and the ethical, legal, and regulatory issues they raise.
The workshop will run from 12:15 p.m. to 4:25 p.m. ET on Sept. 22 and from noon to 4:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 23. View agenda and register.
For those who might want a peak at the agenda before downloading it, I have listed the titles for the sessions (from my downloaded Agenda, Note: I’ve reformatted the information; there are no breaks, discussion periods, or Q&As included),
Sept. 22, 2022 Draft Agenda
12: 30 pm ET Brain-Machine and Related Neural Interface Technologies: The State and Limitations of the Technology
2:30 pm ET Brain-Machine and Related Neural Interface Technologies: Reading and Writing the Brain for Movement
Sept. 23, 2022 Draft Agenda
12:05 pm ET Brain-Machine and Related Neural Interface Technologies: Reading and Writing the Brain for Mood and Affect
2:05 pm ET Brain-Machine and Related Neural Interface Technologies: Reading and Writing the Brain for Thought, Communication, and Memory
4:00 pm ET Concluding Thoughts from Workshop Planning Committee
Regarding terminology, there’s brain-machine interface (BMI), which I think is a more generic term that includes: brain-computer interface (BCI), neural interface and/or neural implant. There are other terms as well, including this one in the title of my September 17, 2020 posting, “Turning brain-controlled wireless electronic prostheses [emphasis mine] into reality plus some ethical points.” I have a more recent April 5, 2022 posting, which is a very deep dive, “Going blind when your neural implant company flirts with bankruptcy (long read).” As you can see, various social issues associated with these devices have been of interest to me.
I’m not sure quite what to make of the session titles. There doesn’t seem to be all that much emphasis on ethical and legal issues but perhaps that’s the role the various speakers will play.