Exploring the legal and ethical issues around cyborg technology
By Emmet Cole
November 13, 2012
Traditionally, robots are seen as inhuman, all too inhuman.
They work in our manufacturing plants, serve us medicine, and vacuum our homes, but for all their impressive capabilities, robots remain dumb machines: running through the same routines day after day, utterly dependent on human design and ingenuity, actuated but not quite alive.
No surprise then that most discussions about the ethics of human-robot interaction rely on this commonsensical distinction between human and machine.
But as humans and machines become more entangled, even reaching the point at which machines are attached to and embedded within our bodies, simple distinctions between human and robot start to break down.
Military robots aside, cyborg devices such as exoskeletons, intelligent prostheses and brain implants represent robotics’ biggest challenge to existing ethical and legal frameworks.
Cyborg technology is already impacting on ethical and philosophical questions of what it means to be human. The crucial legal distinction between person and property is also at stake.
What ethical and legal issues do researchers and manufacturers need to be aware of? And what, if anything, can be done to reduce their potential exposure to liability?
Robotics Business Review spoke with a group of experts in the field of law, ethics, and cyborg technology to find out. Their thought-provoking responses we’ve grouped under, The Cyborg Agenda:
The Cyborg Agenda: Blurring Body Boundaries
Linda MacDonald Glenn, a U.S.-based attorney and bioethicist at the Alden March Bioethics Institute
Neil Harbisson, Spanish artist and founder of The Cyborg Foundation
The Cyborg Agenda: Extreme Users
Rich Donovan, CEO of Fifth Quadrant Analytics, a business intelligence firm focused on the disability market
Patrick Lin, director of the Ethics and Emerging Sciences Group, at California Polytechnic State University
The Cyborg Agenda: Policy and Power Struggles
James Giordano, director of the Center for Neurotechnology Studies at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and Chairman of the Capital Consortium on Neuroethics, Legal and Social Issues and the National Neuroscience, Ethics, Legal and Social Issues project