UK govt urged to investigate into neural interface technologies.
Image: The Royal Society has published a report on the potential of neural interface technologies. Photo: courtesy of Tom Morris/Wikipedia.org.
The Royal Society, in a report, has asked the UK government to take the lead role in investigating neural interface technologies, which are designed to merge the human brain, body and machine.
The report launched by The Royal Society, titled ‘iHuman: Blurring lines between mind and machine’, has top scientists outlining the life-changing opportunities, and challenges, of the brain-computer devices.
The report, led by experts from the Imperial College London, explores ethical questions pertaining to the use of neural interface technologies in depth and proposes measures to make sure that they live up to their potential.
According to The Royal Society, a national investigation into the emerging technology will trigger innovation and enable the public to shape the field, thereby potentially transforming medicine and human interaction in the future.
The expert steering group of the report wants ministers to act quickly to ascertain the ethical risks and make sure that the regulations are fit to help the UK become a global leader in the field.
Imperial College London biomedical circuit design chair and report co-chair Christofer Toumazou said: “The applications for neural interfaces are as unimaginable today as the smartphone was a few decades ago.
“They could bring huge economic benefits to the UK and transform sectors like the NHS, public health and social care, but if developments are dictated by a handful of companies then less commercial applications could be side-lined.”
Among the recommendations made in the report are a national investigation of the ethical issues arising from the use of neural interfaces and the creation of a UK Neural Interface Ecosystem to drive innovation and collaboration in the field.
Imperial College London Next Generation Neural Interfaces (NGNI) Lab director and co-chair of the report Tim Constandinou said: “By 2040 neural interfaces are likely to be an established option to enable people to walk after paralysis and tackle treatment-resistant depression, they may even have made treating Alzheimer’s disease a reality.
“While advances like seamless brain-to-computer communication seem a much more distant possibility, we should act now to ensure our ethical and regulatory safeguards are flexible enough for any future development.”
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