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Brain–computer interfaces and disability: extending embodiment, reducing stigma?
  1. Sean Aas,
  2. David Wasserman
  1. Department of Clinical Bioethics, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to David Wasserman, Department of Clinical Bioethics, National Institutes of Health, 10 Center Drive, Bethesda, MD 20982, USA; david.wasserman{at}nih.gov

Abstract

Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) now enable an individual without limb function to “move” a detached mechanical arm to perform simple actions, such as feeding herself. This technology may eventually offer almost everyone a way to move objects at a distance, by exercising cognitive control of a mechanical device. At that point, BCIs may be seen less as an assistive technology for disabled people, and more as a tool, like the internet, which can benefit all users. We will argue that BCIs will have a significant but uncertain impact on attitudes toward disabilities and on norms of bodily form and function. It may be liberating, oppressive, or both. Its impact, we argue, will depend – though not in any simple way – on whether BCIs come to be seen as parts of the body itself or as external tools.

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