Archive for category meet a member
Editor’s note: This post was written by Tyr Fothergill. Dr. Fothergill works as a member of the EU’s Human Brain Project. Below is a post about an interesting outreach effort from April 2018.
Human Brain Project Ethics Support Outreach at the PAX East Gaming Convention, 4-9 April 2018
As part of my work on the Human Brain Project as a member of the Ethics and Society Subproject, I design and take part in outreach activities on behalf of my work package, Ethics Support. The most recent of these was at PAX East in Boston, MA, U.S.A.
PAX is an extraordinarily popular gaming convention held in multiple locations yearly, and is an excellent opportunity to embrace the “engage with diverse stakeholders” aspect of the Responsible Research and Innovation AREA framework (e.g. Stilgoe at al. 2013). Gamers are often early adopters of innovative technology, and PAX attendees may be amongst the first to benefit from the outcomes of large Brain Projects like the HBP. Furthermore, participants in PAX tend to be interested in deeper issues related to gaming and tech, and are excited to discuss these with experts. Gamers are often knowledgeable about technology and more comfortable being presented with complex or innovative research than other “lay audiences”. In addition, neuro-diversity is well-represented in the wider gaming community, which may make brain-related research more interesting or personally relevant to some participants. These attributes make the attendees of PAX an ideal range of stakeholders to reach order to bolster the public acceptability of research into AIs and brain-related technologies through the lens of gaming.
Attendance estimates of the 2017 PAX East convention range from 70,000 to 110,000 people. PAX features “typical” video game convention offerings like demos, meet-and-greets, panels by developers or gaming celebrities, opportunities to see or use new software or hardware, and terrible food.
PAX presents a remarkable opportunity for games and tech-based social research, awareness-raising, and outreach. I was invited to represent the Human Brain Project’s Ethics Support group at Dr. Catherine Flick’s Ask An Ethicist PAX booth, an established outpost of friendly, scholarly social inquiry which I helped to support in a non-neuroscience-related capacity in 2017. The Ask an Ethicist booth not only accommodates first-hand research (surveys, questionnaires, testing of programmes designed to increase tech or communication accessibility) but also involves informal conversations about technology, privacy, research, ethics, data, etc.
I created a PAX panel from an “infotainment” angle called “BRAAAAAAAINS: Archaeology and Philosophy of Zombies in Video Games” which covered David Chalmers’s “philosophical zombies” thought experiment, selected case studies from archaeology covering some origins of modern ideas around “zombie” that informed later depictions in films and other material culture. We linked these ideas to specific popular video game scenarios involving zombies, which led to a historical contextualisation of what zombies represent in terms of public opinions and trust. We touched upon issues around neuroscience and ICT, including consciousness, animacy, personhood, post-mortem agency, and undeath in video games, asking the audience whether general AI could potentially be considered a form of zombie, etc. We also took the opportunity to call attention to the U.S. Brain Initiative and Neuroethics division.
Drs. Catherine Flick (L) and Tyr Fothergill (R) prepare to discuss video game zombies and the future of neuroscience
At the Ask an Ethicist booth, we asked PAX attendees a series of questions regarding video games, experiences, and research and innovation ethics over the course of the convention (e.g. “What video game represents a future that we should work toward?”), and received more than 400 responses. Approximately 370 people attended the BRAAAAAAAINS panel, and they asked 69 questions in the anonymous online forum during the panel, but we overran our slot and many sought us out at the Ask an Ethicist Booth later for further queries. The vast majority of questions we received were directly related to ethics and neuroscience or ICT. We ran out of time to respond to all of these, and plan to address them in future episodes of “Not Just a Game”, Dr. Flick’s ethics and gaming podcast. All told, we made more than 700 people aware of the Ethics Support group and the Human Brain Project.
I am confident that using video games as a way to engage members of the public with ethical issues in topics such as general and specific AI, “brain-inspired” computing, medical data, and neuroscientific investigation more generally) is impactful. When the story about prolonging the life of pig brains broke, I was immediately contacted on Twitter by someone who had seen our panel at PAX, and wanted to know what I thought about it.
The Prezi and the video of us speaking with the panel slides are available online.
Stilgoe, J., Owen, R. and Macnaghten, P., 2013. Developing a framework for responsible innovation. Research Policy, 42(9), pp.1568-1580.
Anna K. Swartz is in the final semester of her Master’s degree in the Humanities department at Michigan Technological University, where her advisor is Dr. Syd Johnson. Prior to graduate school, Anna received a BA in anthropology from Wellesley College. Her academic passion centers on the study of mental health. Her research interests are at the intersections of philosophy, discourse analysis, critical disability studies, and cultural studies.
The focus of Anna’s work in neuroethics has been on the brain disease model of mental disorders and how over-reliance on this paradigm might contribute to the stigmatization and marginalization of people with mental illness. She is especially interested in the development of classification systems for mental disorders, with special attention to schizophrenia.
Anna is currently looking at the ways that prevailing neurobiological discourses in psychiatry influence the phenomenology of mental illness. In other words, how do modern understandings of mental illness as brain diseases impact the contextualized and unique lived experience of diagnosed individuals, including how diagnoses intervene upon a patient’s sense of self, and how that self-identity might come to be reconstituted as a result. She is especially interested in the ways that language enters into all aspects of treatment and recovery, including sense of self. In the context of the therapeutic relationship, adopting the dominant, neurobiological lexicon of psychiatry may provide patients with a way to communicate with clinicians without risk of being misunderstood or subjugated, but using a language that is not one’s own may result in a silencing of the patient that may involve feelings of alienation and loss of agency. This problem has broad implications for the recovery and well-being of patients with mental illness; research shows that the brain disease model of mental illness may actually exacerbate stigma and, in some cases, reduce clinician empathy toward patients.
Anna’s other areas of research in neuroethics involve mental health in the carceral system. In the US, there are ten times as many mentally ill persons in jails and prisons than in state psychiatric hospitals. The overflowing corrections system has become a de facto inpatient psychiatric system, but jails and prisons are designed to confine and punish, not rehabilitate. They are not therapeutic spaces and are often responsible for exacerbating illness. Correctional mental healthcare—and the widespread trend toward privatizing these services—is an under-appreciated problem in the field.
Anna plans to begin her doctorate next year at Michigan Tech. Her personal blog, www.annaswartz.com, contains a collection of research and personal writing on mental illness and disability. Twitter: @sansceriph.
Dr. Karen Herrera-Ferrá, MD: Founder and President of the Mexican Association of Neuroethics, Mexico City, Mexico
Karen Herrera-Ferrá lives in Mexico City and founded the Mexican Association of Neuroethics on July 2015. She is currently finishing a PhD program on Bioethics.
She was a visiting scholar at the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics (PCCB) at Georgetown University and then stayed to complete a one-year Post-doctorate in Neuroethics. She has a MA on Clinical Psychology, a Certificate on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and another one on History of Religions. She has a one-year fellowship on Psychosis and another on OCD. She also has studies on Psychiatry and has a MD.
On May 2016 she developed a national project to formally introduce and develop neuroethics in her country, the main foci of this project is to depict and include national leaders in mental health, interested in neuroethics, so to inform and divulge this discipline among scholars and society. She also works as a mental health clinician in a private hospital, teaches Ethics and Health to third-year medical students, lectures in different hospitals and Universities in Mexico and is an Affiliated Scholar of the Neuroethics Studies Program at the PCCB at Georgetown University.
Her interests and research focuses on two main topics: Recurrent violent behavior and globalization of neuroethics in Latin America. In the former, she proposes to classify recurrent violent behavior as a psychiatric classifier as well as approaching it with advanced integrative convergence sciences (AISC) within the bio-psycho-social model and analyzing neuroethico-legal-social and political issues and concerns. In the latter work in progress, she analyses neuroethico-legal-social and political issues and concerns of the clinical use of neuroscience and neurotechnology in Latin America, specifically Mexico, including cultural, ethnical, economical and political caveats.
Bryn S. Esplin joined the Department of Humanities in Medicine at Texas A&M University after completing a two-year Clinical Ethics Fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH.
She graduated cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in Rhetoric before pursuing her law degree. During law school, she externed with both the Supreme Court of Nevada and the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, NV, where she developed her passion for neuro-psychiatric ethics under the supervision of Dr. Dylan Wint.
Professor Esplin’s teaching brings together law, medicine, and popular culture to help students critically examine the social, ethical, and political implications that underlie medical decision-making. She currently teaches Clinical Ethics to first-year medical students, as well as an elective for third-year medical students that analyzes the social and philosophical meaning of death—including death by neurological criteria, the historical preoccupation with premature burial, the political consequences of neuro-enhancement, and the coming (or arrival) of cyborg technology.
She is a frequent speaker at both national and international conferences in Bioethics and Humanities, and her scholarship has appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including Psychosomatics, Harvard’s Health and Human Rights Journal, The Journal of Clinical Ethics, and the American Journal of Bioethics, Neuroscience.
Current research projects include the use of placebos in functional disorders, as well as contemporary issues in law and clinical psychiatry regarding fiduciary duty and confidentiality.
Nada Gligorov holds a PhD in Philosophy from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is an associate professor in the Bioethics Program of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is also faculty for the Clarkson University-Icahn School of Medicine Bioethics Masters Program. In 2014, Nada founded the Working Papers in Ethics and Moral Psychology speaker series–a working group where speakers are invited to present well-developed, as yet unpublished work. This series has hosted speakers from Columbia, NYU, Cornell, Rutgers, and CUNY.
The primary focus of Nada’s scholarly work is the examination of the interaction between commonsense and scientific theories. Most recently, she authored of a monograph titled Neuroethics and the Scientific Revision of Common Sense forthcoming in 2016 (Studies in Brain and Mind, Springer). In this book, Nada examines the particular relationship between developments in neuroscience and commonsense moral concepts. Common sense, she argues, has been misinterpreted as a static, either foundational or degenerative, basis of our morality. She argues instead that common sense is an ever-shifting repository of theories from many domains. Within this discussion, Nada focuses on the application of neuroscience to human beings, i.e., the ethics of neuroscience. She also covers issues within the purview of the neuroscience of ethics, and she addresses the infiltration of neuroscientific knowledge into everyday parlance and the consequent impact on our commonsense morality and psychology. In particular, in her book, Nada examines the evolving influence of neuroscience on such concepts as free will, privacy, personal identity, pain, and death.
Editor’s note: Dr. Vanessa Bentley successfully defending on September 4, 2015. Congrats, Dr. Bentley!
Vanessa Bentley (formerly Gorley) is a doctoral candidate at the University of Cincinnati. While in the doctoral program in Philosophy, she also completed a master’s in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her research interests are in philosophy of science, philosophy of neuroscience, feminist epistemology, and neuroethics. Her interest in neuroethics has focused on neuroimaging research on sex/gender differences. Using two case studies in the neuroimaging of sex/gender differences, she has identified the many ways that the assumption of sex essentialism affects research and functions to limit scientific progress. Sex essentialism is the view that men and women are essentially different due to their sex. In addition to limiting scientific progress, research in the tradition of sex essentialism has been used to argue against women’s equal participation in society. Read the rest of this entry »
Tamara Bonaci is a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington, Department of Electrical Engineering. She is a member of the UW BioRobotics Lab and the UW Tech Policy Lab. Tamara’s research focuses on security and privacy of cyber-physical systems with humans in the loop. She is investigating privacy issues related to brain-computer interfaces, and security issues of teleoperated robots. On both of these projects, Tamara collaborates with an interdisciplinary team involving bioengineers, medical practitioners, legal scholars and philosophers.
A Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) is a communication system between the brain and the physical environment. Recent experimental results show that electroencephalograms (EEG), obtained using consumer-grade BCIs, can be used to extract private information about users. This information can be exploited to infer about users’ memory, intentions, conscious and unconscious interests, as well as emotional reactions. Privacy issues arising from the misuse of BCIs thus represent an emerging problem.
In this project, Tamara and her collaborators propose that elements of a person’s electro-physiological signals can be used to extract private information about users. This hypothesis is being tested through a series of experiments involving human participants. The recorded neural and skeletal signals are being analyzed to identify which signal components can be used for data extraction, and to quantify exposure risk through information-theoretic metrics. Of particular interest are Event Related Potential (ERP) components of EEG signals, which are known to occur as a response to a variety of stimuli.
Tamara is also developing and validating a tool to enhance privacy of brain-computer interfaces, referred to as the BCI Anonymizer. The BCI Anonymizer is essentially a signal processing tool that decomposes users’ signals into a variety of components. By doing so, the BCI Anonymizer grants access to the information corresponding to users’ intended BCI messages while at the same time preventing anyone from accessing users’ private information.
Tamara’s personal website: http://www.tamarabonaci.com
BioRobotics Laboratory: http://brl.ee.washington.edu
Tech Policy Lab: http://techpolicylab.org
UW Society of Women Engineers: http://students.washington.edu/swe/
Dr. Jami L Anderson is currently an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at University of Michigan-Flint. She primarily teaches courses in neuro- and medical ethics, disability studies, philosophy of medicine and philosophy of law. She is also the co-director of the Center for Cognition and Neuroethics.
Early in my career, I used Georg Hegel’s theory of right as a framework with which to address the problem of justifying state punishment in cases when individuals suffered extreme poverty and social alienation. Not surprisingly, my early publications directly addressed various problems within the literature that addresses Hegel’s theory of state punishment. However, a few years ago I developed a disability studies course and, not too surprisingly perhaps, my research interests moved into a new direction. I focused my attention on projects that examined social and legal policies that relied on problematic assumptions about disability identity.
I am currently completing a paper that addresses the question of whether or not learning impaired adults, in particular those with language impairments such as those experienced by some autistics, are capable of consenting (in the ethical as well as the legal sense) to sexual acts with other adults. Read the rest of this entry »
Dr. Jennifer Sarrett is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Human Health, where she teaches courses in Health Humanities, Bioethics and Disability, and Mental Illness and Culture. Her work focuses on intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) as they relate to culture, disability rights, and ethics. She began working in the field of autism and developmental 15 years ago as a special education instructor and consultant in the U.S. and abroad. With the objective of studying the role of culture in the identification, understanding, and treatment of autistic children, she obtained her PhD from Emory’s Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts (ILA), a unique interdisciplinary program. Her dissertation compared parental and professional experiences of autism in Atlanta, GA and Kerala, India. Along the way she became interested in neuroethical issues related to I/DD, including international research ethics, human rights and I/DD, and the implications of emerging technologies for early identification and diagnosis. Her work is strongly influenced by the concept of neurodiversity, a scholarly and advocacy position that works to encourage acceptance of neurological differences, including autism, rather than seeking cures and strategies to normalize autistic behavior. Dr. Sarrett has published a range of articles, including the development of a more inclusive model of human rights centered on a consideration of autistic difference; the ways images of autism depict and promote damaging tropes about autism; cultural influences on the ways parents explain their child’s autism (Spring, 2015); and ethical issues related to international research on I/DD. Read the rest of this entry »
*This post was initially published on The Neuroethics Blog.
By Emily Bell, PhD
Dr. Emily Bell is Researcher at the Neuroethics Research Unit, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM). Dr. Bell’s MSc and PhD research in Psychiatry at the University of Alberta focused on investigating brain activity in mood and anxiety disorders using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Her postdoctoral work shifted her into the field of neuroethics, where she examined ethical and social challenges associated with deep brain stimulation in psychiatric disorders. As an investigator of the Neuroethics Core of NeuroDevNet, a Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence, Dr. Bell has been involved in a wide range of network activities and research in the area of pediatric ethics. This includes recent work on the implications of stigma for public health policies and practices in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and ethical concerns associated with the transition of youth with neurodevelopmental disorders to adult health services. Dr. Bell has been awarded support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Killam Trust. She is currently lead co-investigator on two CIHR grants, including one in the area of vulnerability and mental health research ethics. Read the rest of this entry »