Article

Robotic Technologies and Fundamental Rights: Robotics Challenging the European Constitutional Framework

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract

Robotic technologies constructed systems that interact with their environment in a way that displays some level of agency are increasingly intertwined with human life and human bodies. This raises many regulatory questions, since current legal frameworks have few robotics-specific provisions and robotics pose new challenges to legal notions and underlying assumptions. To help guide the regulation of robotics, fundamental rights should provide a basic touchstone. However, the constitutional framework of fundamental rights is itself not immune to being influenced by robotics. This paper discusses how the protection of fundamental rights is affected by robotics technologies, taking into account the mutualshaping process of fundamental rights, regulation, and technology. After a general overview of how fundamental rights are challenged by robotics technologies, we zoom in on three specific application domains: industrial robotics and the issue of workers' rights and liability, assistive technology with a focus on autonomy and privacy of elderly and disabled people, and biomedical robotics (including brain-machine interfaces) in relation to informed consent and self-determination. The analysis highlights diverse implications of robotics in light of fundamental rights and values, suggesting that regulators will have to deal with rights and value conflicts arising from robotics developments. To help address these conflicts, a set of shared norms, standards and guidelines could be developed that may, in the form of soft-law, serve as a bridge between abstract fundamental rights and concrete robotics practice.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... Согласно Национальной стратегии развития искусственного интеллекта, утвержденной Указом Президента РФ от 10 октября 2019 года № 490, предусмотрено формулирование этических принципов в сфере искусственного интеллекта на национальном уровне -это позволит точнее определить вектор развития законодательства об искусственном интеллекте. В ноябре 2021 года во время проведения в Москве при поддержке Правительства РФ международного форума «Этика искусственного интеллекта: начало доверия» был подписан Национальный кодекс этики в сфере искусственного интеллекта 169 . Данный документ подготовлен Альянсом в сфере искусственного интеллекта, Аналитическим центром при Правительстве РФ и Минэкономразвития России. ...
... ovanie_cifrovoy_sredy/eksperimentalnye_pravovye_rezhimy/reestr_eksperimentalnyh_pravovyh_r ezhimov/ (дата обращения: 05.01.2022). 169 Кодекс этики в сфере искусственного интеллекта, 12 закрепление положений об использовании искусственного интеллекта при решении юридически значимых вопросов, оказании государственных и муниципальных услуг в Федеральном законе «Об организации предоставления государственных и муниципальных услуг» 173 . ...
... 409 Nissim G., Simon T. The future of labor unions in the age of automation and at the dawn of AI // Technology in Society. 2021 169 квалифицированным работникам, то в процессе решения проблемы перейдут к инвестированию в робототехнику, со временем уволив людей, труд которых будет стоить дороже. Начало этому уже положено: происходит внедрение робомобилей, автоматизированных конвейеров и т.д. ...
Book
Full-text available
The textbook includes lecture materials and seminar plans on topics related to artificial intelligence, its impact on law and the regulation of relations in which artificial intelligence is present in one capacity or another. In preparing the textbook, both the works of Russian and foreign legal researchers, economists, and information technology specialists were used. The lecture part of the manual presents not only provisions that do not cause controversy among researchers, but also the views of various authors on problems whose solutions are still being sought, indicating that there is a discussion on the issues under consideration. Plans of seminars are supplemented with a list of recommended literature. In addition, the manual contains practical tasks designed for a deeper assimilation of course materials by students, approximate topics of scientific papers and a list of questions for the test (exam). The textbook is intended for undergraduates of law faculties of universities.
... This article primarily highlights the lack of a communication process between technology developers and regulators or policymakers. We focus our attention on robot technology because its disruptive nature challenges many areas of law, including taxation [4], the concept of person [5], and fundamental rights [6], but we acknowledge that other advancements might well be in a similar situation [7][8]. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Current legislation may apply to new developments. Even so, these developments may raise new challenges that call into question the applicability of this legislation. This paper explains what happens at this moment for new robot technologies. We argue that there is no formal communication process between robot developers and regulators from which policies could learn. To bridge this gap, we propose a model that links technology impact assessments to legislative ex-post evaluations via shared data repositories.
... Therefore, in a situation where science cannot grant any agreement any longer, the collective responsibility can be based only on fundamental constitutional principles ( [23], 48). And among these principles we find fundamental rights [3,50,[60][61][62]. These principles also underpin the public discourse in the technoscientific field ensuring the ethical acceptability of products resulting from research and innovation. ...
Article
Full-text available
Anticipation is one of the main goals of new governance models, such as Responsible Research and Innovation. However, there is not a single mode of anticipation in this model. Two approaches can be addressed within the RRI framework: a socio-empirical one, which tends to underline the role of the democratic processes, aimed at identifying values on which governance needs to be anchored (bottom-up); and a normative one, which stresses the role of EU goals (among which are fundamental rights) as ‘normative anchor points’ in governance (top-down). These two approaches also address two different models of anticipation: one based on the construction of shared pathways for reflexivity on the purposes of innovation (visions), the other based on the progressive implementation of constitutional goals in risk assessment and management tools. However, both can be deemed partially unsatisfactory from the standpoint of human rights since one puts individual rights in the middle of the ‘values lottery’ where any participatory process ultimately leads; the other can be inadequate since fundamental rights are balanced alongside other goals and thus can be (totally or partially) sacrificed, exposing the system to possible adverse court decisions. The normative framework of human rights can help to counterbalance both models aimed at maximising inclusion and those aimed at pursuing constitutional normative principles at the basis of technologically advanced societies, strengthening their dimension of anticipation according to a rights-based perspective.
... "The mutual shaping of law, technology, and society implies that we cannot take the existing fundamental-right framework for granted, but must always also consider to what extent socio-technical changes should lead to a re-interpretation or re-evaluation of legal norms, including fundamental rights". The same researchers involved in the European Robolaw Project wrote an article in 2013 concerning how robotics challenges the Constitutional European Framework (Koops et al., 2013). They speculated whether, in the end, we should extend legal protection to robots (addressed before by Coeckelbergh 2010 and Darling 2012); however, how would the 'right to be forgotten' be applied if hybrid-bionic applications are recognised to have expanding brain function. ...
Article
Full-text available
The aim of this paper is to establish the grounds for a future regulatory framework for Person Carrier Robots, which includes legal and ethical aspects. Current industrial standards focus on physical human–robot interaction, i.e. on the prevention of harm. Current robot technology nonetheless challenges other aspects in the legal domain. The main issues comprise privacy, data protection, liability, autonomy, dignity, and ethics. The paper first discusses the need to take into account other interdisciplinary aspects of robot technology to offer complete legal coverage to citizens. As the European Union starts using impact assessment methodology for completing new technologies regulations, a new methodology based on it to approach the insertion of personal care robots will be discussed. Then, after framing the discussion with a use case, analysis of the involved legal challenges will be conducted. Some concrete scenarios will contribute to easing the explanatory analysis.
... Principles involving a wide range of robots have been identified under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights [3]. The European RoboLaw project provided a solid regulatory framework some for "care robots" [4], nevertheless these robots addressed in ISO 13482:2014 (person carriers, physical assistants or mobile servants) but not concretely and specifically as therapeutic robots. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Moving on from the ‘brainstorming phase’ where the discourse of robotics is still stuck this paper identifies the legal challenges of CEEO Tufts University project ‘robotic companions and LEGO® engineering with children on the autism spectrum’ (here Hookie project). Apart from the privacy and safety concerns, some new legal challenges have been identified: cognitive harm, prospective liability, ethical agents’ minimization and consumer robotics.
... Of all four, Personal Care (PCR), Therapeutic (TR) and Companion Robots (CR) lack some specific legal regulation. Although great efforts in this direction have been made [2], there is no concrete, binding addressing which fundamental rights these robots individually violate [3], if they should be granted agenthood [4] or what happens if they cause harm [5]. In fact, generic rules regarding robots [6] although of great help for policymaking, do not give a definite and concrete response to those roboticists trying to build a robot. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Roboticists find legal compliance labyrinthine because existing laws are scattered throughout the legal(s) system(s), and do not specifically refer to robotics. At the same time, jurists do not know exactly what the robotics growth implies. In order to overcome such limitations, the general principles involved in robotics have been recently addressed in legal literature. This paper aims to increase the current knowledge and tries to define the concrete principles involved in Personal Care (PCR), Therapeutic (TR) and Companion Robots (CR). Factors related to such concrete principles (such as attributes of the robot, technology applied to the robot and context) are also highlighted.
... In both the ethical and the legal debates on this issue, the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms seems to carry particular weight (see, e.g. Koops et al. 2013). Almost without exception, the human rights argument is raised on the assumption that the recent development in advanced robotics will affect the ''core European values [sic] enshrined in the European sources of law, like the European Charter of Fundamental Rights''. ...
Article
Full-text available
Service and personal care robots are starting to cross the threshold into the wilderness of everyday life, where they are supposed to interact with inexperienced lay users in a changing environment. In order to function as intended, robots must become independent entities that monitor themselves and improve their own behaviours based on learning outcomes in practice. This poses a great challenge to robotics, which we are calling the ‘‘autonomysafety- paradox’’ (ASP). The integration of robot applications into society requires the reconciliation of two conflicting aspects: increasing machine autonomy and ensuring safety in end-use. As the level of robot autonomy grows, the risk of accidents will increase, and it will become more and more difficult to identify who is responsible for any damage incurred. However, emphasizing safety impairs the autonomous functioning of the robot. This problem implies the need for a broadened concept of product safety. Our comparative study shows that the institutional framing of the ASP as well as concrete solutions to this problem differs between Europe and Japan in two respects: (1) the understanding of robot agency and (2) the concept of ‘‘appropriate’’ user–robot interaction.
Book
Full-text available
Digital technologies are changing modern society, the speed and scale of changes are increasing, which makes it necessary for the right to respond to ongoing processes and rebuild in accordance with new realities. Labour law, as part of legal matter, cannot stand aside, especially considering that digital technologies are changing production, service, and management of organizations, that is, they are changing the world of work. To understand in what direction further changes will go, it is worth taking a closer look at the main digital technologies that penetrate almost all spheres of society, all sectors of the economy and are called “cross-cutting”. Their influence is the strongest, and this trend will continue into the future. Accordingly, changes in labour law will largely be determined by the spread of these technologies in practice.
Article
Full-text available
Digital technologies are affecting society, and this influence is becoming more and more noticeable. The further development of technologies and their use change the way of life of people, the content of public relations. Of particular importance are "end-to-end" digital technologies, the use of which is possible in various fields. The interaction of these technologies leads to results that include answers to the global challenges of humanity: increasing life expectancy, simplifying various communications, increasing labor productivity, etc. Today, the greatest attention is given to artificial intelligence technologies, the legal regulation of which is already being formed in different countries, including in Russia. The increasing use of artificial intelligence technologies in industry, the service sector and in everyday life requires certain regulation; in addition, the issue of adjusting the ways of developing artificial intelligence with the help of legal norms is raised. Since the norms of constitutional law form the basis of legal matter, the need to create constitutional and legal norms that establish the principles of regulating public relations arising in connection with the use of artificial intelligence in the information society will increase. Neurotechnologies are closely connected with artificial intelligence technologies, it is their combination that can greatly change the future of human civilization, in particular through the creation of hybrid human-machine intelligence. Such prospects cause concern to many researchers, including legal scholars, who suggest ways to solve social problems arising from the development of technologies, among the solutions is the need to resolve a number of issues by constitutional law. The main issues requiring constitutional and legal regulation can be called issues related to the guarantees of human rights that correspond to the conditions of the information society, with the need to consolidate a number of new rights and establish certain prohibitions on the use of artificial intelligence technologies and neurotechnologies.
Chapter
The article raises the problem of preparing future social lawyers for the provision of legal services of a new level, based on the introduction of digital technologies and innovative information systems in practice. The authors express the idea that the formation in modern conditions of a professional-informational culture of future lawyers can become the basis for solving serious problems of the transformation of legal professions, due to the objective processes of digital globalization. The article presents the results of an empirical study, which was attended by Russian students studying in legal education programs, in the amount of 458 people. The essential characteristics of a professional-information culture are revealed, a criteria-evaluation system for assessing the level of its formation is developed, problems are identified in the existing conditions for its formation. The purpose of the study was to identify the level of formation of future lawyers in the social sphere of professional information culture. The research was carried out using the author's criteria and evaluation system, which presents indicators of motivational, professional-Gnostic and professional-practical criteria. As a result of the research, the authors conclude that the level of professional information culture of future lawyers is characterized as insufficient. In this regard, the authors propose to introduce into the practice of educational organizations of secondary vocational education specially designed target programs for the formation of professional and information culture among future lawyers, which will contribute to the success of the transformation of legal professions, creating a new type of legal services and setting them to a new level of their functioning.
Article
Full-text available
Notwithstanding the EU endorsement, so far Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is discussed as regards its definition, its features and its conceptual core: innovation and responsibility. This conceptual indeterminacy is a source of disagreements at the political level, giving rise to a plurality of outcomes and versions upheld within the same model of governance. Following a Charles Taylor’s suggestion, this conceptual opening of the RRI model can be explained by the existence of plural, clashing moral frameworks: discourse ethics, Aristotelian ethics, care ethics, dignitarian ethics, rights-based moralities etc. Given the diffusion in the RRI literature of references to care ethics and its justification of participation and responsibility, I will compare the conceptual premises of this philosophical line with those of ethics of rights, which have been criticised by advocates of care ethics. I will argue that public engagement based on only needs cannot lead to responsible outcomes since it produces however the exclusion of some needs, covered instead by rights. In order for participation to be effective, rights or an alliance between the two perspectives is required.
Book
Full-text available
The integration of robotic systems and artificial intelligence into healthcare settings is accelerating. As these technological developments interact socially with children, the elderly, or the disabled, they may raise concerns besides mere physical safety; concerns that include data protection, inappropriate use of emotions, invasion of privacy, autonomy suppression, decrease in human interaction, and cognitive safety. Given the novelty of these technologies and the uncertainties surrounding the impact of care automation, it is unclear how the law should respond. This book investigates the legal and regulatory implications of the growing use of personal care robots for healthcare purposes. It explores the interplay between various aspects of the law, including safety, data protection, responsibility, transparency, autonomy, and dignity; and it examines different robotic and AI systems, such as social therapy robots, physical assistant robots for rehabilitation, and wheeled passenger carriers. Highlighting specific problems and challenges in regulating complex cyber-physical systems in concrete healthcare applications, it critically assesses the adequacy of current industry standards and emerging regulatory initiatives for robots and AI. After analyzing the potential legal and ethical issues associated with personal care robots, it concludes that the primarily principle-based approach of recent law and robotics studies is too abstract to be as effective as required by the personal care context. Instead, it recommends bridging the gap between general legal principles and their applicability in concrete robotic and AI technologies with a risk-based approach using impact assessments. As the first book to compile both legal and regulatory aspects of personal care robots, this book will be a valuable addition to the literature on robotics, artificial intelligence, human–robot interaction, law, and philosophy of technology.
Chapter
Full-text available
Many discussions about robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) focus on far future scenarios such as superintelligence, but for the near future ethics of robotics AI it is necessary to think about more concrete ethical issues that pervade the daily use of the technologies. This talks gives a very brief overview of ethical and societal issues raised by robotics and AI, with a focus on inclusive robotics. It also offers some remarks on robot and AI policy.
Article
Full-text available
In this contribution, we investigate the privacy implications of social robots, as an emerging mobile technology. Drawing on a scoping literature review and expert interviews, we show how social robots come with privacy implications that go beyond those of established mobile technology. Social robots challenge not only users’ informational privacy but also affect their physical, psychological, and social privacy due to their autonomy and potential for social bonding. These distinctive privacy challenges require study from varied theoretical perspectives, with contextual privacy and human-machine communication emerging as particularly fruitful lenses. Findings also point to an increasing focus on technological privacy solutions, complementing an evolving legal landscape as well as a strengthening of user agency and literacy.
Article
Full-text available
The development and growth of industrial robots started in 1947. The velocity of this process has increased as a result of development technology. Now, industrial robots have broad applications. They can be substituted for human force in different industries. The ever increasing growth and development of robotic technology in the field of industry was always challenging. One of these important challenges emphasizes on the negative effect of robotics on employment rate. As a result of cost reduction and production improvement, industrial countries have been motivated to employ robots and substitute them for workers in production lines. However, the broad use of robotic systems in the field of industry can have negative consequences in different societies. One of the common and negative effects of these systems is the reduction of employment opportunities which increases unemployment for those who look for jobs and for employed individuals. It can lead to employment insecurity and threat the health and safety of workers. These matters violate the human rights regarding the security and health of individuals, equality of opportunity, and particularly the employment rate. It also violates the employment standards supported by the international human rights instruments.
Technical Report
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/IDAN/2018/603218/EPRS_IDA(2018)603218(ANN4)_EN.pdf
Article
The term ‘robot’ refers to a wide variety of devices, serving very different purposes. The case of robotic prostheses is considered here. After defining such devices, and briefly describing the technical peculiarities that characterize their functioning and distinguish them from traditional implants, their relevance with respect to the fundamental rights of people with disabilities is considered. Pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a claim is made that favouring the development of said applications may be required to subscribing states. In light of such considerations, the liability regime – namely that emerging from the Defective Product Directive – is analysed, in the attempt to determine – with a prospective analysis – the impact that said rules are likely to have on their development. The technology-chilling effect and the anticipated extremely complex evidentiary burden the user would have to face in order to obtain compensation lead us to conclude that legal reform is advisable. Some alternatives are considered, and in particular that of the development of a – partially – state-funded no-fault plan, intended to allow more ex ante certainty for producers and researchers (favouring the development of said devices), and prompt and adequate compensation to the victim in case an accident occurs.
Article
Full-text available
One of the principal motivations forthe establishment of an indus- trial policy in the United States isto counteract or facilitate structural change in the economy, especiallyin labormarkets. It is alleged that our basic manufacturing sector is ina state ofsemipermanent decline.' It is further alleged that the number of high-technology jobs is not growing fast enough to absorb those being laid off in the heavy manufacturing sector. 2 The result, therefore, will be rising unem- ployment and declining standards ofliving for many Americans.3 This is a pretty dismal scenario and, ifitwere true, might provide some rationale forthe establishment ofan industrial policy or some other government economic planning mechanism. I believe, how- ever, that such fears about the future can be dispelled on both theo- reticalandempirical grounds. Thefirst partofthis paper will examine the theory oftechnological unemployment and survey the literature on this subject. The second part will look at some of the data.
Article
Full-text available
Experts expect nanotechnology to transform society, revolutionizing fields as diverse as health care, energy, and the environment. Though a number of nanotechnology products are already on the market, the major developments are yet to come, and the nascent stage of this technology combined with current scientific uncertainty raises questions about new health, safety, and environmental concerns. Most discussion of nanotechnology presents a polarized debate between "proponents" who argue for rapid development unfettered by excessive regulation and "opponents" who advocate an overhauled, stringent regulatory regime to protect against nanotechnology risks. This article recommends a different approach, one that turns the greatest challenge of nanotechnology - scientific uncertainty - on its head to create incentives for all stakeholders to work together in a new governance system. The nanotechnology governance proposal includes methods to close existing regulatory gaps, improve agency coordination, advance nanotechnology science, incentivize strong industry stewardship, and provide for substantial and diverse stakeholder involvement. Developing nanotechnology governance along these lines will create an adaptive and transparent system that is both more protective of human health and the environment and more efficient for industry and taxpayers. For the first time in history, there is the opportunity to develop a governance system simultaneously with an emerging technology. The growth and governance of nanotechnology are inevitably and dynamically intertwined. Though the opportunities of nanotechnology may be literally limitless, these opportunities cannot be achieved if nanotechnology is not developed in a secure manner that maintains public confidence. The current state of uncertainty in both nanotechnology development and risk, combined with the need for adaptability, creates unique challenges for nanotechnology governance. Managing uncertainty and promoting adaptability, however, are not issues limited to nanotechnology. The model proposed therefore provides useful insight for developing governance systems in broad variety of contexts.
Article
Full-text available
The growing proportion of elderly people in society, together with recent advances in robotics, makes the use of robots in elder care increasingly likely. We outline developments in the areas of robot applications for assisting the elderly and their carers, for monitoring their health and safety, and for providing them with companionship. Despite the possible benefits, we raise and discuss six main ethical concerns associated with: (1) the potential reduction in the amount of human contact; (2) an increase in the feelings of objectification and loss of control; (3) a loss of privacy; (4) a loss of personal liberty; (5) deception and infantilisation; (6) the circumstances in which elderly people should be allowed to control robots. We conclude by balancing the care benefits against the ethical costs. If introduced with foresight and careful guidelines, robots and robotic technology could improve the lives of the elderly, reducing their dependence, and creating more opportunities for social interaction KeywordsElderly–Elder care–Robot–Assistive robotics–Surveillance–Companion–Guidelines
Article
Full-text available
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a well-accepted treatment for movement disorders and is currently explored as a treatment option for various neurological and psychiatric disorders. Several case studies suggest that DBS may, in some patients, influence mental states critical to personality to such an extent that it affects an individual’s personal identity, i.e. the experience of psychological continuity, of persisting through time as the same person. Without questioning the usefulness of DBS as a treatment option for various serious and treatment refractory conditions, the potential of disruptions of psychological continuity raises a number of ethical and legal questions. An important question is that of legal responsibility if DBS induced changes in a patient’s personality result in damage caused by undesirable or even deviant behavior. Disruptions in psychological continuity can in some cases also have an effect on an individual’s mental competence. This capacity is necessary in order to obtain informed consent to start, continue or stop treatment, and it is therefore not only important from an ethical point of view but also has legal consequences. Taking the existing literature and the Dutch legal system as a starting point, the present paper discusses the implications of DBS induced disruptions in psychological continuity for a patient’s responsibility for action and competence of decision and raises a number of questions that need further research. KeywordsDeep brain stimulation-Personal identity-Psychological continuity-Responsibility for action-Mental competence
Article
Full-text available
Half of human spinal cord injuries lead to chronic paralysis. Here, we introduce an electrochemical neuroprosthesis and a robotic postural interface designed to encourage supraspinally mediated movements in rats with paralyzing lesions. Despite the interruption of direct supraspinal pathways, the cortex regained the capacity to transform contextual information into task-specific commands to execute refined locomotion. This recovery relied on the extensive remodeling of cortical projections, including the formation of brainstem and intraspinal relays that restored qualitative control over electrochemically enabled lumbosacral circuitries. Automated treadmill-restricted training, which did not engage cortical neurons, failed to promote translesional plasticity and recovery. By encouraging active participation under functional states, our training paradigm triggered a cortex-dependent recovery that may improve function after similar injuries in humans.
Article
Full-text available
The possibility of controlling dexterous hand prostheses by using a direct connection with the nervous system is particularly interesting for the significant improvement of the quality of life of patients, which can derive from this achievement. Among the various approaches, peripheral nerve based intrafascicular electrodes are excellent neural interface candidates, representing an excellent compromise between high selectivity and relatively low invasiveness. Moreover, this approach has undergone preliminary testing in human volunteers and has shown promise. In this paper, we investigate whether the use of intrafascicular electrodes can be used to decode multiple sensory and motor information channels with the aim to develop a finite state algorithm that may be employed to control neuroprostheses and neurocontrolled hand prostheses. The results achieved both in animal and human experiments show that the combination of multiple sites recordings and advanced signal processing techniques (such as wavelet denoising and spike sorting algorithms) can be used to identify both sensory stimuli (in animal models) and motor commands (in a human volunteer). These findings have interesting implications, which should be investigated in future experiments.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Future homes will be populated with large numbers of robots with diverse functionalities, ranging from chore robots to el- der care robots to entertainment robots. While household robots will offer numerous benefits, they also have the po- tential to introduce new security and privacy vulnerabilit ies into the home. Our research consists of three parts. First, t o serve as a foundation for our study, we experimentally ana- lyze three of today's household robots for security and pri- vacy vulnerabilities: the WowWee Rovio, the Erector Spy- kee, and the WowWee RoboSapien V2. Second, we synthe- size the results of our experimental analyses and identify key lessons and challenges for securing future household robots. Finally, we use our experiments and lessons learned to con- struct a set of design questions aimed at facilitating the fu - ture development of household robots that are secure and preserve their users' privacy.
Article
Full-text available
Ambient assisted living (AAL) has the ambitious goal of improving the quality of life and maintaining independence of older and vulnerable people through the use of technology. Most of the western world will see a very large increase in the number of older people within the next 50 years with limited resources to care for them. AAL is seen as a promising alternative to the current care models and consequently has attracted lots of attention. Recently, a number of researchers have developed solutions based on video cameras and computer vision systems with promising results. However, for the domain to reach maturity, several challenges need to be faced, including the development of systems that are robust in the real-world and are accepted by users, carers and society. In this literature review paper we present a comprehensive survey of the scope of the domain, the existing technical solutions and the challenges to be faced.
Article
Full-text available
Informed consent is central to modern research ethics. Informed consent procedures have mainly been justified in terms of respect for autonomy, the core idea being that it should be every competent individual's right to decide for herself whether or not to participate in scientific studies. A number of conditions are normally raised with regard to morally valid informed consent. These include that potential research subjects get adequate information, understand those aspects that are relevant to them, and, based on that information, make a voluntary decision whether or not to participate. These conditions are meant to guarantee that participation is genuinely the individual's own choice and is coherent with his or her authentic interests.
Article
Full-text available
New entities in the information society that operate at increasing distance from the physical persons ‘behind’ them, such as pseudonyms, avatars, software agents, and robots, challenge the law. One way of addressing this challenge is to attribute legal rights and/or duties in some contexts to non-humans, thus creating entities that are addressable in law themselves rather than the persons ‘behind’ them. In this article, we review existing literature on rights for non-humans, with a particular focus on emerging entities in the information society. We discuss three strategies for the law to deal with the challenge of these new entities: interpreting and extending existing law, introducing limited legal personhood with strict liability, and granting full legal personhood. Full legal personhood implies that entities can be held liable for culpable and wrongful action and can claim (post)human rights like freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial. To assess these strategies, we distinguish between different types of persons (natural, legal, and moral) and different types of agency (automatic, autonomic, and autonomous). We conclude that interpretation and extension of the law seems to work well enough with today’s emerging entities, but that sooner or later, attributing limited legal personhood with strict liability is probably a good solution to bridge the accountability gap for autonomic entities; for software agents, this may be sooner rather than later. The technology underlying new entities will, however, have to develop considerably further from facilitating autonomic behaviour to affording autonomous action, before it becomes legally relevant to attribute ‘posthuman’ rights to new entities.
Article
Full-text available
Modern brain technology is a highly dynamic and innovative field of research with great potential for medical applications. Recent advances in recording neural signals from the brain by brain-machine interfacing presage new therapeutic options for paralyzed people by means of neural motor prostheses. This paper examines foreseeable ethical questions related to the research on brainmachine interfaces and their possible future applications. It identifies four major topics that need to be considered: first, the questions of personality and its possible alterations; second, responsibility and its possible constraints; third, therapeutic applications and their possible exceedance; and fourth, questions of research ethics that arise when progressing from animal experimentation to application to human subjects. This paper, in identifying and addressing the ethical questions raised by brain-machine interfaces, presents concerns that need to be considered if possible prosthetics based on modern brain technology are to be used cautiously and responsibly.
Article
Full-text available
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has provided remarkable benefits for people with a variety of neurologic conditions. Stimulation of the ventral intermediate nucleus of the thalamus can dramatically relieve tremor associated with essential tremor or Parkinson disease (PD). Similarly, stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus or the internal segment of the globus pallidus can substantially reduce bradykinesia, rigidity, tremor, and gait difficulties in people with PD. Multiple groups are attempting to extend this mode of treatment to other conditions. Yet, the precise mechanism of action of DBS remains uncertain. Such studies have importance that extends beyond clinical therapeutics. Investigations of the mechanisms of action of DBS have the potential to clarify fundamental issues such as the functional anatomy of selected brain circuits and the relationship between activity in those circuits and behavior. Although we review relevant clinical issues, we emphasize the importance of current and future investigations on these topics.
Chapter
This observation of a shift to pervasive machine automation has been made by many observers, driven by artificial intelligence into products and services, living experiences; in design and manufacturing capabilities; to utilities and transport infrastructure and changing social and work boundaries.
Chapter
Over the last 30 years, an amassing body of work has focused on ethical dimensions of technology in a variety of contexts impacting society. This purpose of this paper is to trace the emergence of this new interdisciplinary field by exploring its conceptual development, important issues, and key areas of current technoethics’ scholarship. The first part of this paper introduces key concepts and provides a skeletal description of its historical background and rationale. The second part of this paper identifies key areas and issues in technoethics in an effort to help inform scholarship in technoethics. This paper is based on the premise that it is of vital importance to encourage dialogue aimed at determining the ethical use of technology, guarding against the misuse of technology, and formulating common principles to help guide new advances in technological development and application to benefit society.
Chapter
The increasing commercialisation of human Information and Communication Technology (ICT) implants has generated heated debate over the ethical, legal and social implications of their use. Despite stakeholders calling for greater policy and legal certainty within this area, gaps have already begun to emerge between the commercial reality and the current legal frameworks designed to regulate it. The aim of this chapter is to examine the effectiveness of the European Union current data protection regulatory framework for regulating ICT implants. By focusing on current and future applications of human ICT implants, the research presented here highlights the potential regulatory challenges posed by the applications, and makes a series of recommendations as to how such issues may be best avoided by jurisdictions grappling with similar emerging issues. In doing so, the chapter draws together the notions of innovation, risk and data protection within the context of a broader governance framework.
Chapter
Human ICT implants can have various implications for human rights. In particular, the right to bodily integrity may be at stake due to the direct connection to the human body. In this chapter, the scope of the right to bodily integrity is discussed. A more detailed discussion on how the right is affected by implants is largely based on biotechnological implants. In this field, the distinction between therapy and enhancement, as well as implications of implants for the concept of the body and its integrity, has been largely debated. Subsequently, the right is approached with a focus on other, non-living implants. Specific emphasis is given on nanotechnological implants and information carriers. It also appears to be relevant whether the implant has an active or a passive functionality. Finally, some concluding remarks are made by pointing at additional challenges for human rights resulting from ICT implants.
Chapter
This chapter investigates how, in the long term, human enhancement relates to fundamental rights. The right to equality and the right to vote, for example, can be applied to enhanced humans, although it will not always be easy to determine when a distinction is justified between enhanced and non-enhanced humans. New fundamental rights may have to be created, e.g. a right to identity, to mental integrity or to forget. In the long term, we need to determine whether robots and androids, if they function in ways comparable to natural or legal persons, could also claim legal protection through fundamental rights. Fundamental rights should also steer the development of human enhancement. Individuals have a right to improve themselves, but they must be able to resist enhancement as well. We could consider introducing a fundamental right to imperfection, to ageing and even a right to die, as well as extending the government's duty of care to promote human diversity. Since enhancement can be a right but never an obligation, fundamental rights will have to play an important role in preventing 'normal' humans from becoming an underclass to enhanced humans. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. All rights are reserved.
Article
What is a human right? How can we tell whether a proposed human right really is one? How do we establish the content of particular human rights, and how do we resolve conflicts between them? These are pressing questions for philosophers, political theorists, jurisprudents, international lawyers, and activists. This book offers answers in its investigation of human rights. The term 'natural right', in its modern sense of an entitlement that a person has, first appeared in the late Middle Ages. When during the 17th and 18th centuries the theological content of the idea was abandoned in stages, nothing was put in its place. The secularized notion that we were left with at the end of the Enlightenment is still our notion today: A right that we have simply in virtue of being human. During the 20th century, international law has contributed to settling the question of which rights are human rights, but its contribution has its limits. The notion of a human right that we have inherited suffers from no small indeterminateness of sense. The term has been left with so few criteria for determining when it is used correctly that we often have a plainly inadequate grasp on what is at issue. This book takes on the task of showing the way towards a determinate concept of human rights, based on their relation to the human status that we all share. The book works from certain paradigm cases, such as freedom of expression and freedom of worship, to more disputed cases such as welfare right - for instance the idea of a human right to health. The goal is a substantive account of human rights; an account with enough content to tell us whether proposed rights really are rights. The book emphasizes the practical as well as theoretical urgency of this goal: as the United Nations recognized in 1948 with its Universal Declaration, the idea of human rights has considerable power to improve the lot of humanity around the world.
Article
This book deals with one of the most important issues of philosophy of law and constitutional thought: how to understand clashes of fundamental rights, such as the conflict between free speech and privacy. The main argument of this book is that much can be learned about the nature of fundamental legal rights by examining them through the lens of conflicts among such rights, and criticizing the views of scholars and jurists who have discussed both fundamental legal rights and the nature of conflicts among them. Theories of rights are necessarily abstract, aiming at providing the best possible answers to pressing social problems. Yet such theories must also respond to the real and changing dilemmas of the day. Taking up the problem of conflicting rights, Zucca seeks a theory of rights that can guide us to a richer, more responsive approach to rights discourse.The idea of constitutional rights is one of the most powerful tools to advance justice in the Western tradition. But as this book demonstrates, even the most ambitious theory of rights cannot satisfactorily address questions of conflicting rights. How, for instance, can we fully secure privacy when it clashes with free speech? To what extent can our societies assist people in dying without compromising the protection of life? Exploring the limitations of the rights discourse in these areas, Zucca questions the role of law in settling ethical dilemmas helping to clarify thinking about the limitations of rights discourse.
Article
This book begins by highlighting the range of positive and negative aspects associated with the initiative to design and use care robots. The positive aspects vary from; the reality that care is required 24/7 and a human caregiver cannot possibly meet such a standard, the reality that patients are abused when in the care of others, the reality that current practices fail to meet the ideal standard of care and the foreseen lack of healthcare personnel and resources to meet ever increasing care needs of societies. When the actuality of a care robot is discussed, however, many relevant ethical concerns are introduced. What will the impact of the robot be on the provision of good care, on the manifestation of care values; will it change the standards of care and ultimately lower them? Will care robots displace and/or de-skill care workers? What will the existential impact be on the care-giver and the care-receiver; is the use of robots a devaluing of either or both? Given the strength of both arguments, however, it is not possible to conclude rmly on either side of the debate. It is true that when we describe care practices and think of a robot being integrated, it looks better to have a human present. This does not, however, mean the human will provide care according to the ideal. Many scholars to date have discussed the positive and negative ethical issues associated with the use of care robots and some have even suggested the need for a framework to evaluate robots in general [Asaro, 2006] and care robots in particular [Sharkey and Sharkey, 2012; Turkle, 2011]; however, none have presented such a framework. The work of this thesis is to take up the challenge of creating a framework not only for the ethical evaluation of current care robot prototypes but to create a framework that can be used to steer the design process of future care robots. As such, the research question guiding this work is as follows: how can care robots used in care practices be designed and implemented in a way that supports and promotes the fundamental values in care.
Article
Could an artificial intelligence become a legal person? As of today, this question is only theoretical. No existing computer program currently possesses the sort of capacities that would justify serious judicial inquiry into the question of legal personhood. The question is nonetheless of some interest. Cognitive science begins with the assumption that the nature of human intelligence is computational, and therefore, that the human mind can, in principle, be modelled as a program that runs on a computer. Artificial intelligence (AI) research attempts to develop such models. But even as cognitive science has displaced behavioralism as the dominant paradigm for investigating the human mind, fundamental questions about the very possibility of artificial intelligence continue to be debated. This Essay explores those questions through a series of thought experiments that transform the theoretical question whether artificial intelligence is possible into legal questions such as, "Could an artificial intelligence serve as a trustee?" What is the relevance of these legal thought experiments for the debate over the possibility of artificial intelligence? A preliminary answer to this question has two parts. First, putting the AI debate in a concrete legal context acts as a pragmatic Occam's razor. By reexamining positions taken in cognitive science or the philosophy of artificial intelligence as legal arguments, we are forced to see them anew in a relentlessly pragmatic context. Philosophical claims that no program running on a digital computer could really be intelligent are put into a context that requires us to take a hard look at just what practical importance the missing reality could have for the way we speak and conduct our affairs. In other words, the legal context provides a way to ask for the "cash value" of the arguments. The hypothesis developed in this Essay is that only some of the claims made in the debate over the possibility of AI do make a pragmatic difference, and it is pragmatic differences that ought to be decisive. Second, and more controversially, we can view the legal system as a repository of knowledge-a formal accumulation of practical judgments. The law embodies core insights about the way the world works and how we evaluate it. Moreover, in common-law systems judges strive to decide particular cases in a way that best fits the legal landscape-the prior cases, the statutory law, and the constitution. Hence, transforming the abstract debate over the possibility of AI into an imagined hard case forces us to check our intuitions and arguments against the assumptions that underlie social decisions made in many other contexts. By using a thought experiment that explicitly focuses on wide coherence, we increase the chance that the positions we eventually adopt will be in reflective equilibrium with our views about related matters. In addition, the law embodies practical knowledge in a form that is subject to public examination and discussion. Legal materials are published and subject to widespread public scrutiny and discussion. Some of the insights gleaned in the law may clarify our approach to the artificial intelligence debate.
Article
Since time immemorial, the inviolability of the home has protected people's freedom to behave as they like in their own homes. In addition, bodily integrity is an essential fundamental right allowing citizens to do what they want with their own body. Technological developments in ICT and DNA research form a threat to these fundamental rights that current legal protection may be inadequate to stop. An increasing number of technologies are being used in the home and in the bodies of individuals, connecting them to the outside, which means that the traditional border between inside and outside is becoming blurred. Furthermore, more and more possibilities are emerging that allow us to 'see' things inside, straight through walls and clothing. What effect will these technologies have on the legal protection of home and body - in particular the protection against government surveillance? In this article, the authors analyse these issues from the perspective of the Dutch Constitution to illustrate how the current legal protection of home and body threatens to fall short in light of new technologies. This analysis of the Dutch situation may be useful for other countries when they review constitutional rights in light of new technologies.
Article
With millions of home and service robots already on the market, and millions more on the way, robotics is poised to be the next transformative technology. As with personal computers, personal robots are more likely to thrive if they are sufficiently open to third-party contributions of software and hardware. No less than with telephony, cable, computing, and the Internet, an open robotics could foster innovation, spur consumer adoption, and create secondary markets. But open robots also present the potential for inestimable legal liability, which may lead entrepreneurs and investors to abandon open robots in favor of products with more limited functionality. This possibility flows from a key difference between personal computers and robots. Like PCs, open robots have no set function, run third-party software, and invite modification. But unlike PCs, personal robots are in a position directly to cause physical damage and injury. Thus, norms against suit and expedients to limit liability such as the economic loss doctrine are unlikely to transfer from the PC and consumer software context to that of robotics. This essay therefore recommends a selective immunity for manufacturers of open robotic platforms for what end users do with these platforms, akin to the immunity enjoyed under federal law by firearms manufacturers and websites. Selective immunity has the potential to preserve the conditions for innovation without compromising incentives for safety. The alternative is to risk being left behind in a key technology by countries with a higher bar to litigation and a serious head start.
Article
The aim of this article is to answer the question, ‘are national judges extending the structural EU law principles (primacy and direct effect) to the European Convention on Human Rights’? This article does not intend to examine the broader issue of the rapprochement between the legal systems of the EU and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) but it concentrates on how national judges treat the norms of the ECHR compared with their treatment of EU law. I have structured this article in three parts. The first part offers a first look at the ‘constitutional variety’ existing in terms of constitutional provisions devoted to the impact of the ECHR and EU laws on the national systems. In the second part I will move to analyse the relevant case law of the domestic judges on three factors of potential convergence: consistent interpretation, disapplication of national law conflicting with European provisions, and emergence of a counter-limits doctrine. Finally, in the third part I will offer some concluding remarks on the convergence issue.
Article
In the early twenty-first century, we stand on the threshold of welcoming robots into domains of human activity that will expand their presence in our lives dramatically. One provocative new frontier in robotics, motivated by a convergence of demographic, economic, cultural, and institutional pressures, is the development of “carebots”—robots intended to assist or replace human caregivers in the practice of caring for vulnerable persons such as the elderly, young, sick, or disabled. I argue here that existing philosophical reflections on the ethical implications of carebots neglect a critical dimension of the issue: namely, the potential moral value of caregiving practices for caregivers. This value, I argue, gives rise to considerations that must be weighed alongside consideration of the likely impact of carebots on care recipients. Focusing on the goods internal to caring practices, I then examine the potential impact of carebots on caregivers by means of three complementary ethical approaches: virtue ethics, care ethics, and the capabilities approach. Each of these, I argue, sheds new light on the contexts in which carebots might deprive potential caregivers of important moral goods central to caring practices, as well as those contexts in which carebots might help caregivers sustain or even enrich those practices, and their attendant goods. KeywordsCarebots–Capabilities–Virtue ethics–Care ethics
Chapter
Building on the fact that profiling technologies produce a new type of knowledge that will influence the lives of individual citizens in numerous ways, this chapter will elaborate the implications for the identity, subjectivity and agency presumed by constitutional democracy. After a brief excursion into the architecture of our European ‘Rechtsstaat’, the centrality of the human person of flesh and blood will be explored and its relationship with the legal persona and citizenship. The legal persona - a constitutive feature of this ‘Rechtsstaat’ - will be explained in terms of the negative freedom (freedom from) and the positive freedom (freedom to) that it creates for citizens to participate in public and social life and to retreat into their private and intimate relationships (with significant others and with themselves). The privacy that may be at stake with the advance of highly sophisticated profiling technologies concerns freedom to coconstruct one’s own identity in the face of feedback from the social and material environment. Apart from the outright abuse of profiles, e.g., discrimination, unauthorised use or violation of the presumption of innocence, one of the questions raised will be whether advanced, real time and ubiquitous customisation will be heaven or hell for a sustainable vital democracy.
Chapter
Behind the anomalies currently besetting the notion of privacy — anomalies that arise from different cultural, political and social milieus both at the group and at the individual level — there lies a common conceptual element: individuals and small communities carry an increasing weight vis–à–vis the external world. This conceptual element is reflected in the various manifestations of privacy, whether as a social phenomenon, or as a value, or as a right, written or unwritten, or as a political goal, or even as a marketable commodity.
Article
It is remarkable how much robotics research is promoted by appealing to the idea that the only way to deal with a looming demographic crisis is to develop robots to look after older persons. This paper surveys and assesses the claims made on behalf of robots in relation to their capacity to meet the needs of older persons. We consider each of the roles that has been suggested for robots in aged care and attempt to evaluate how successful robots might be in these roles. We do so from the perspective of writers concerned primarily with the quality of aged care, paying particular attention to the social and ethical implications of the introduction of robots, rather than from the perspective of robotics, engineering, or computer science. We emphasis the importance of the social and emotional needs of older persons—which, we argue, robots are incapable of meeting—in almost any task involved in their care. Even if robots were to become capable of filling some service roles in the aged-care sector, economic pressures on the sector would most likely ensure that the result was a decrease in the amount of human contact experienced by older persons being cared for, which itself would be detrimental to their well-being. This means that the prospects for the ethical use of robots in the aged-care sector are far fewer than first appears. More controversially, we believe that it is not only misguided, but actually unethical, to attempt to substitute robot simulacra for genuine social interaction. A subsidiary goal of this paper is to draw attention to the discourse about aged care and robotics and locate it in the context of broader social attitudes towards older persons. We conclude by proposing a deliberative process involving older persons as a test for the ethics of the use of robots in aged care.
Article
As we near a time when robots may serve a vital function by becoming caregivers, it is important to examine the ethical implications of this development. By applying the capabilities approach as a guide to both the design and use of robot caregivers, we hope that this will maximize opportunities to preserve or expand freedom for care recipients. We think the use of the capabilities approach will be especially valuable for improving the ability of impaired persons to interface more effectively with their physical and social environments. KeywordsCapabilities approach-Human flourishing-Robot ethics-Robot caregivers
Article
Brain implants, such as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), which are designed to improve motor, mood and behavioural pathology, present unique challenges to our understanding of identity, agency and free will. This is because these devices can have visible effects on persons' physical and psychological properties yet are essentially undetectable when operating correctly. They can supplement and compensate for one's inherent abilities and faculties when they are compromised by neuropsychiatric disorders. Further, unlike talk therapy or pharmacological treatments, patients need not 'do' anything for the treatment to take effect. If one accepts, as we argue here, that brain implants are unique among implantable types of devices, then this can have significant implications for what it means to persist as the same person and be the source of one's thoughts and actions. By examining two of the most common indications for DBS in current use, namely in the motor (Parkinson's Disease) and psychiatric (Major Depression) domains, we further argue that although DBS, as it is currently applied, does not necessarily represent a unique threat to personal identity and agency per se, it introduces an unprecedented 'third party' into the debate on these concepts. In this way, DBS can be used as a tool to begin probing, both conceptually and empirically, some of philosophy's most perennial metaphysical questions.
Article
This study investigated the attitudes and preferences of staff, residents and relatives of residents in a retirement village towards a health-care robot. Focus groups were conducted with residents, managers and caregivers, and questionnaires were collected from 32 residents, 30 staff and 27 relatives of residents. The most popular robot tasks were detection of falls and calling for help, lifting, and monitoring location. Robot functionality was more important than appearance. Concerns included the loss of jobs and personal care, while perceived benefits included allowing staff to spend quality time with residents, and helping residents with self-care. Residents showed a more positive attitude towards robots than both staff and relatives. These results provide an initial guide for the tasks and appearance appropriate for a robot to provide assistance in aged care facilities and highlight concerns.
Article
Despite falling prices and more varied applications, the diffusion of industrial robots is taking place at a slower pace than expected. There are not only technical snags but also social barriers to be overcome — displacement of workers, deskilling of certain operations, changes in work methods. Robots do away mostly with unskilled and hazardous jobs and can lead to dramatic employment cut-backs in individual plants. But so far robotisation has affected only a limited number of workplaces in manufacturing. While working conditions may be improved on the whole, reduced manning can contribute to the social isolation of workers. Robotisation can also put a strain on industrial relations unless the workers are properly consulted and their concerns and interests taken fully into account.
Article
Currently, electronic agents are being designed and implemented that, unprecedentedly, will be capable of performing legally binding actions. These advances necessitate a thorough treatment of their legal consequences. In our paper, we first demonstrate that electronic agents behave structurally similar to human agents. Then we study how declarations of intention stated by an electronic agent are related to ordinary declarations of intention given by natural persons or legal entities, and also how the actions of electronic agents in this respect have to be classified under German law. We discuss four different approaches of classifying agent declarations. As one of these, we propose the concept of an “electronic person” (i.e., agents with limited liability), enrolment of agents into an agent register, and agent liability funds as means to serve the needs of all contracting parties.
Article
Nanotechnology promises immense benefits in different industries and innovative products. The policy papers and conferences have turned to advocating more research on the health, safety, and environmental risks posed by nanomaterials. There are also suggestions that existing health and environmental statutes are sufficient to address any potential risks. However, none of the statutes takes into account the vast uncertainty surrounduing the potential adverse effects of nanotechnology. Any regulation concerning nanotechnology should await further research into the effects of exposure to nanomaterials, and explains why current circumstances create a relatively favorable opportunity for health and safety legislation specific to nanotechnology. A legislative framework that would promote the development and dissemination of health and safety information pertaining to nanomaterials has been proposed. The said statutory framework will impose notification and labeling requirements on all products containing nanomaterials creating an incentive to perform much-needed research on the risks posed by nanomaterials. In addition, such act establishes funding to redress negative effects that research may reveal and sets further public consideration of the future role of nanotechnology.
Article
The prospective robots in healthcare intended to be included within the conclave of the nurse-patient relationship-what I refer to as care robots-require rigorous ethical reflection to ensure their design and introduction do not impede the promotion of values and the dignity of patients at such a vulnerable and sensitive time in their lives. The ethical evaluation of care robots requires insight into the values at stake in the healthcare tradition. What's more, given the stage of their development and lack of standards provided by the International Organization for Standardization to guide their development, ethics ought to be included into the design process of such robots. The manner in which this may be accomplished, as presented here, uses the blueprint of the Value-sensitive design approach as a means for creating a framework tailored to care contexts. Using care values as the foundational values to be integrated into a technology and using the elements in care, from the care ethics perspective, as the normative criteria, the resulting approach may be referred to as care centered value-sensitive design. The framework proposed here allows for the ethical evaluation of care robots both retrospectively and prospectively. By evaluating care robots in this way, we may ultimately ask what kind of care we, as a society, want to provide in the future.
Article
The practice of obtaining informed consent has its history in, and gains its meaning from, medicine and biomedical research. Discussions of disclosure and justified nondisclosure have played a significant role throughout the history of medical ethics, but the term "informed consent" emerged only in the 1950s. Serious discussion of the meaning and ethics of informed consent began in medicine, research, law, and philosophy only around 1972.
Article
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a clinically established procedure for treating severe motor symptoms in patients suffering from end-stage Parkinson's disease, dystonia and essential tremor. Currently, it is tested for further indications including psychiatric disorders like major depression and a variety of other diseases. However, ethical issues of DBS demand continuing discussion. Analysing neuroethical and clinical literature, five major topics concerning the ethics of DBS in clinical practice were identified: thorough examination and weighing of risks and benefits; selecting patients fairly; protecting the health of children in paediatric DBS; special issues concerning patients' autonomy; and the normative impact of quality of life measurements. In exploring DBS for further applications, additionally, issues of research ethics have to be considered. Of special importance in this context are questions such as what additional value is generated by the research, how to realise scientific validity, which patients should be included, and how to achieve an acceptable risk-benefit ratio. Patients' benefit is central for ethical evaluation. This criterion can outweigh very serious side-effects, and can make DBS appropriate even in paediatrics. Because standard test procedures evade central aspects of patients' benefits, measuring quality of life should be supplemented by open in-depth interviews to provide a more adequate picture of patients' post-surgical situation. To examine its entire therapeutic potential, further research in DBS is needed. Studies should be based on solid scientific hypotheses and proceed cautiously to benefit severely suffering patients without putting them to undue risks.
Article
The public interest in neural implants has grown considerably in recent years. Progress within related research areas in combination with increasing – albeit overly optimistic and indiscriminate – mass media coverage have led to the impression that the possibilities of neural prosthetics have grown enormously. But a closer look reveals that the reasons for the intensified interest are varied and cannot be attributed to technical progress alone. Some neural prostheses that have been under development for many years have not left the clinical development phase despite intensive research activities. Other implants, like cardiac pacemakers and cochlea implants, are mature products that have already been implanted in a large number of patients.
Article
To investigate the relationship between physical impairment and brain-computer interface (BCI) performance. We present a meta-analysis of 29 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and six patients with other severe neurological diseases in different stages of physical impairment who were trained with a BCI. In most cases voluntary regulation of slow cortical potentials has been used as input signal for BCI-control. More recently sensorimotor rhythms and the P300 event-related brain potential were recorded. A strong correlation has been found between physical impairment and BCI performance, indicating that performance worsens as impairment increases. Seven patients were in the complete locked-in state (CLIS) with no communication possible. After removal of these patients from the analysis, the relationship between physical impairment and BCI performance disappeared. The lack of a relation between physical impairment and BCI performance was confirmed when adding BCI data of patients from other BCI research groups. Basic communication (yes/no) was not restored in any of the CLIS patients with a BCI. Whether locked-in patients can transfer learned brain control to the CLIS remains an open empirical question. Voluntary brain regulation for communication is possible in all stages of paralysis except the CLIS.
Article
Many people are disabled by Parkinson's disease (PD) despite the drug treatments that are currently available. For these patients, neurosurgery has the potential to help restore their function. The most effective neurosurgical procedures to date use electrical stimulation--deep brain stimulation (DBS)--of small targets in the brain by use of a pacemaker-like device to deliver constant stimulation. Although these operations can produce striking results, the mechanism by which delivery of electrical stimulation to targets deep in the brain can restore function in the motor system is not clear. This type of surgery probably works by interfering with and shutting down abnormal brain activity in areas where the current is delivered, such as the thalamus, globus pallidus, or the subthalamic nucleus. With this abnormal neuronal activity neutralised, motor areas of the brain can resume their function and normal movements are reinstated. Current research is aimed at elucidating how DBS works and using this information to develop better treatments for patients with PD and other neurological disorders.
Article
The idea of connecting the human brain to a computer or machine directly is not novel and its potential has been explored in science fiction. With the rapid advances in the areas of information technology, miniaturization and neurosciences there has been a surge of interest in turning fiction into reality. In this paper the authors review the current state-of-the-art of brain-computer and brain-machine interfaces including neuroprostheses. The general principles and requirements to produce a successful connection between human and artificial intelligence are outlined and the authors' preliminary experience with a prototype brain-computer interface is reported.
Article
Treatment-resistant depression is a severely disabling disorder with no proven treatment options once multiple medications, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy have failed. Based on our preliminary observation that the subgenual cingulate region (Brodmann area 25) is metabolically overactive in treatment-resistant depression, we studied whether the application of chronic deep brain stimulation to modulate BA25 could reduce this elevated activity and produce clinical benefit in six patients with refractory depression. Chronic stimulation of white matter tracts adjacent to the subgenual cingulate gyrus was associated with a striking and sustained remission of depression in four of six patients. Antidepressant effects were associated with a marked reduction in local cerebral blood flow as well as changes in downstream limbic and cortical sites, measured using positron emission tomography. These results suggest that disrupting focal pathological activity in limbic-cortical circuits using electrical stimulation of the subgenual cingulate white matter can effectively reverse symptoms in otherwise treatment-resistant depression.
Protecting workers faced with job loss due to new technology: The EEC approach.
  • L.Allan Lugo
Corpus Juris Roboticum.
  • R.August
The impact of microelectronics on employment: Japan’s experience.
  • R. W.Bednarzik