J Med Ethics 32:79-83 doi:10.1136/jme.2005.012583
  • Neuroethics

Cyborgs and moral identity

  1. G Gillett
  1. Correspondence to:
 G Gillett
 Professor of Biomedical Ethics, University of Otago, Box 913, Dunedin, New Zealand; grant.gillett{at}
  • Received 21 April 2005
  • Accepted 31 May 2005


Neuroscience and technological medicine in general increasingly faces us with the imminent reality of cyborgs—integrated part human and part machine complexes.

If my brain functions in a way that is supported by and exploits intelligent technology both external and implantable, then how should I be treated and what is my moral status—am I a machine or am I a person? I explore a number of scenarios where the balance between human and humanoid machine shifts, and ask questions about the moral status of the individuals concerned. The position taken is very much in accordance with the Aristotelian idea that our moral behaviour is of a piece with our social and personal skills and forms a reactive and reflective component of those skills.