Neurotechnology as many other powerful technologies can potentially be ‘dual use’ technology, namely it can be used for beneficial as well as harmful purposes. How can we ensure that neuroscience and technology developed for civilian applications is not misused towards malicious ends? What can researchers, engineers, policy-makers and other stakeholders do to safeguard responsible use of neuroscience and neurotechnology?
To address these questions, the Ethics and Society Subproject of the Human Brain Project (HBP) has recently published Opinion on ‘Responsible Dual Use’ Political, Security, Intelligence and Military Research of Concern in Neuroscience and Neurotechnology (Aicardi et al 2018). To implement this Opinion, the HBP has established the Dual Use working group that includes Ethics Rapporteurs and other representatives from different subprojects and Ethics Advisory Board.
Broad dual use agenda
In preparation and towards implementation of this Opinion, the Ethics and Society Subproject in collaboration with HBP Education and experts within and beyond HBP has undertaken a broad range of research, outreach and engagement activities including:
- Public engagement activities to explore citizens’ perspectives through online consultation and workshops
- Expert seminar Dual use, future computing, neurorobotics and the Human Brain Project
- Seminar on Dual Use and Research Policy with experts and policy-makers in Brussels
- Webinar Dual Use and Neuroscience
- Researcher Awareness workshops on dual use in the HBP
- Identification of dual use issues in the HBP in the framework of Ethics Support and Ethics Rapporteurs Programme
- Education activities on dual use including workshops, online lecture and team-based learning exercises
- Research on dual use leading to reports and scientific publications such as recent article on the limits of dual use (Mahfoud et al 2018)
- Awareness raising on dual use within the HBP including talks and posters at the events such as HBP Open Day and Summit and workshop on Ethics and Neurorobotics
- Developing links with relevant scientific communities doing research on dual use including giving talks on responsible dual use at relevant scientific conferences and workshops such as INTERSECT and CPERI networks
Ethics experts have positively evaluated the HBP dual use activities such as the webinar as ‘a first promising step in the direction of awareness-enhancing strategies’ (Ienca et al 2018: 273). The newly established Dual Use working group will build on, consolidate and further develop analysis, training and engagement in this complex and novel area within and beyond HBP.
The Opinion suggests to apply principles of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) to identify ‘dual use of concern’ that can threaten peace, health, safety, security and well-being of citizens. It outlines a number of recommendations that can help to ensure ‘responsible dual use’. These include recommendations to policy-makers to extend policies on dual use to consider and mitigate potential risks, to universities to provide appropriate training and to businesses to ensure self-regulation.
These recommendations are particularly relevant in the context of changing security and policy in Europe. The EU Framework Programme funds research with an exclusive focus on civilian applications. However, in light of new threats (e.g. cyber and terror), changing global security situation and transatlantic relationship, the EU has started to support dual use research from the Structural Funds as well as security research and development within its security and defence policy. This adds a new urgency to clarify the relationship between various uses of research.
Aicardi, C., L. Bitsch, N.Bang Badum, S.Datta, K.Evers, M.Farisco, T.Fothergill, J.Giordano, E.Harris, M.L.Jorgensen, L.Klüver, T.Mahfoud, S.Rainy, K.Riisgaard, N.Rose, A.Salles, B.Stahl and I.Ulnicane (2018) Opinion on ‘Responsible Dual Use’. Political, Security, Intelligence and Military Research of Concern in Neuroscience and Neurotechnology. Ethics & Society. Human Brain Project.
Ienca, M., F.Jotterand, and B.S.Elger (2018) From Healthcare to Warfare and Reverse: How Should We Regulate Dual Use Neurotechnology? Neuron 97: 269-274.
Mahfoud, T., C.Aicardi, S.Datta, and N.Rose (2018) “The Limits of Dual Use.” Issues in Science and Technology 34 (4): 73-78.