Royal Society publishes perspective on neural interfaces

The Royal Society has today published a report, iHuman – Blurring lines between mind and machine, which sets out the life changing opportunities and risks of brain-computer interfaces.

The report highlights the role that the UK could play as a world leader in these technologies. It is also the first piece of work to explore these ethical questions in depth and propose actions to ensure they deliver on their potential.

Neural interfaces are devices that offer a new frontier for treating conditions like dementia, paralysis, mental health conditions or obesity. While recent announcements from ‘Big Tech’ firms and entrepreneurs have shown their potential to change how we communicate and interact with technology.

As a result, the report’s expert steering group says ministers should act swiftly to understand the ethical risks and ensure regulations are fit to make the UK a global leader in the field.

Dr Andrew Sims, Honorary Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University’s Faculty of Medical Sciences, and Head of Department of Northern Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was part of the steering group.

He said: “In Newcastle, academics in neuroscience and NHS scientists work together in developing new neural technologies, and have contributed their experience and foresight to the Royal Society’s report”.

“This not only recognises the region’s strengths in translating basic research into benefit for patients, but also its reputation for engaging patients and public in shaping national debates associated with ground-breaking innovations.”

Further details may found in the press release from Newcastle University.

The science policy unit of the Royal Society publishes independent, timely and authoritative scientific advice to UK, European and international decision makers. Further examples of its science policy advice can be found here.