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NCEC x i2 Panel on Neuro/AI Ethics
Panelists: Philip Sabes, Rajesh Rao, Andrea Stocco, Timothy Brown, Amy Orsborn, Jared Moore


Third Year, Neuroscience Major



The NCEC discussion revolved around the issues of augmentation in AI, focusing on the technology's potential consequences and impact on society. Concerns were raised about AI being designed primarily for the average person, leading to limited accessibility and potential bias. The implantation of AI in the brain was discussed, considering how it changes the individual's nature and the importance of obtaining informed consent. The erosion of privacy, the role of neurodivergent individuals in relation to AI, and questions of intelligence and humanity were also explored. The responsibility lies with us to ensure the responsible use of AI to prevent adverse outcomes.

Left to right: Vibhav, Kelland, Aman, Rajesh, Philip,

Chaytan, Nick, Janna, Tim, Emily, Jared, Andrea, Amy

How do we define what is “natural” and how do we define humanity?

Tim Brown

  • Restorative modifications are accepted, but augmentative ones are seen as unnatural. 

    • We value our natural selves yet we modify for survival and comfort. 

    • The question is, where's the line that defines what's human?

  • AI is more consumer orientated (Try to implement CHAT-Gpt into search engine). 

  • Neural decoding and biomarkers for disease/depression/pain: system is objectively picking up something about the world, or producing knowledge about the world - people will come into contact with the objective world. 

  • These debates will be encoded in the models we create.

Andrea Stocco

Andrea Stocco, Professor of Computational Neuroscience and co-director of the Cognition and Cortical Dynamics Laboratory, Research in Symbolic Cognition

Philip Sabes

Philip Sabes, ex Co-Founder of Neuralink and Founder of Starfish Neuroscience

Amy Osborn

Amy Osborn, Professor and Research in Brain-Machine Interfaces and Neural Implants

Timothy Brown

Timothy Brown, Professor in the Department of Bioethics and Humanities, Studies in Neuroethics

Rajesh Rao

Rajesh Rao, Director of the NSF Center for Neurotechnology and Hwang Professor of Computer Science at UW

Jared Moore

Jared Moore, Professor of Philosophy of AI and Computer Ethics at UW

Future of BCI

Andrea Stocco

  • As systems get more advanced - delegate too much responsibility to it.

Amy Orsborn

  • Pessimistic due to technology converging on the average user

  • Tailor AI systems according to their unique needs and circumstances.

Rajesh Rao

  • Figure out what kinds of devices we want to progress towards.

  • Contemplating the future: 

  • Where will these advancements lead us?


1. Rajesh emphasized the need to determine the direction of device development in BCI and its implications, emphasizing the importance of utilizing the technology for the greater good. 


Rajesh Rao underscored the crucial task of charting the course of device development in the field of brain-computer interfaces (BCI). He stressed that careful consideration must be given to the potential consequences and societal implications that arise from this technology. Moreover, Rajesh emphasized that harnessing BCI for the greater good should be a primary objective, ensuring its applications serve the well-being and advancement of humanity.


2. Amy expressed pessimism regarding BCI, cautioning against technology that caters only to the average user and instead advocating for AI flexibility and customization for better implementation and accessibility.


Amy Orsborn expressed a sense of pessimism when it comes to BCI. She voiced concerns about the trend of designing technology that solely targets the average user, as it limits the potential for widespread accessibility and implementation. Instead, Amy advocated for the integration of AI with motor BCI, emphasizing the importance of flexibility and customization. By tailoring the technology to individual needs and preferences, it can enhance usability and improve accessibility for a broader range of users.

3. Philip discussed the potential of neuromodulation to address neurological issues, highlighting its ability to treat individuals while also learning from the devices being implanted into the brain. Equitable access and the capability of changing oneself were noted, raising concerns about the impact on personal identity.


Philip Sabes delved into the realm of neuromodulation, highlighting its potential to address neurological issues. He emphasized that this approach not only offers therapeutic benefits for individuals but also presents an opportunity for learning from the same devices being implanted into the brain. However, he also noted concerns about equitable access to this technology and the implications it carries for personal identity. The capability of altering one's own neurological state raises questions about the potential changes to an individual's fundamental nature and the impact on their sense of self.


4. Rajesh and Jared discussed the brain's association with personal identity, highlighting the risk of machine learning models being averaged to the community rather than personalized and the gradual erosion of privacy.


During the discussion, Rajesh and Jared engaged in a discourse on the close relationship between the brain and personal identity. They drew attention to the potential risks associated with machine learning models, cautioning against the tendency to average them to suit the broader community rather than ensuring personalized experiences. This raises concerns about the erosion of individuality and the loss of privacy as AI technology becomes more integrated into our lives. The gradual erosion of privacy poses challenges to maintaining the uniqueness and personal agency tied to one's identity.


5. Tim addressed the problems of AI and justice, emphasizing the power relationship between institutions developing neurotechnology and the potential for knowledge that harms communities. Questions were raised about what is considered intelligent and the dystopian implications of technology implementation. 


Timothy Brown focused on the intersection of AI and justice, shedding light on the power dynamics at play among institutions involved in neurotechnology development. He underscored the importance of understanding these power relationships to prevent the creation and dissemination of knowledge that could harm marginalized communities. In addition, Tim raised thought-provoking questions about the definition of intelligence and the potential dystopian consequences that may arise from the widespread implementation of advanced technologies.


6. Jared and Tim further explored the definitions of "natural" and humanity, discussing the distinction between human-made and natural and the ethical considerations of modifying oneself. 

Jared Moore and Tim engaged in an in-depth exploration of the concepts of "natural" and humanity. They delved into the philosophical distinction between what is human-made and what occurs naturally. Furthermore, they examined the ethical considerations surrounding what we deem as “natural,” and how that definition is in a constant state of change when we look at our past as humans. 

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