How Do We Conduct Fruitful Ethical Analysis of Speculative Neurotechnologies?

American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 10 (1):1-4 (2019)
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Gerben Meynen (2019) invites us to consider the potential ethical implications of what he refers to as “thought apprehension” technology for psychiatric practice, that is, technologies that involve recording brain activity, and using this to infer what people are thinking (or intending, desiring, feeling, etc.). His article is wide-ranging, covering several different ethical principles, various situations psychiatrists might encounter in therapeutic, legal and correctional contexts, and a range of potential incarnations of this technology, some more speculative than others. Although Meynen’s article raises some highly relevant potential implications of some “thought apprehension”-based neurotechnologies, which are certainly worthy of further exploration, I suggest that Meynen’s analysis is beset by two problems. First, some of the technologies that form the focus of his discussion are too speculative, and second, due to the many issues under consideration, some problems are not adequately characterized, relevant ethical principles are misidentified, and valuable literature is not sufficiently engaged with. Consideration of these weaknesses might allow us to better see how to conduct a fruitful analysis of speculative neurotechnologies.

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Lucie White
Utrecht University


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