Bio-Hackers, Home Made Cyborgs and Body Modifications: A New Frontier for Ethics and Policy
Joseph Roberts (University of Manchester), David Lawrence (Newcastle University)
Technologies are increasingly being incorporated into the body. ‘Grinder’ and biohacking movements are gaining momentum as more and more individuals are beginning to practice increasingly extreme body modifications; using technology to enhance, extend and modify the capabilities of the human body. Amal Graafstra has incorporated Near Field Communication Chips (NFC) and Radio Frequency Identification Chips (RDIF) into his hands in order to enable him to access his home, office and car without the use of keys and access password protected websites and hardware in a secure manner. Tim Cannon implanted a prototype (Circadia) that collected and transmitted biometric data wirelessly to a smartphone under his skin, enabling him to closely monitor his body temperature. A consumer friendly version of Circadia is being developed that will allow measurement of blood glucose and blood oxygen levels as well as blood pressure and temperature. Other biohackers have implanted magnets in their fingertips to sense magnetic fields (giving them a form of sixth sense) and into their tragi to transmit sound directly into the ears. Naltrexone (an opioid receptor antagonist) implants can be inserted into the lower abdomen in order to aid recovery in opioid addicts by precluding individuals from experiencing the effects of drugs like heroin and morphine. Developments such as these offer tantalising possibilities in terms of convenience, privacy, our relationship to and experience of the natural world, and increased health; but also bring with them significant ethical questions concerning our relationship to our bodies, the limits of consent, and the role of doctors (and other professionals working in clinical and periclinical scenarios).
Papers should address the ethical and policy issues that might stem from these technologies, such as (but not limited to): How will developing new senses influence our lives? Should these interventions be performed by medical professionals or, as is presently the case, performed by body modification artists lacking in formal training? Should these technologies be licenced and subject to safety-checks prior to implantation or should we take a laissez-faire approach? Does the permissibility of these interventions depend on them improving our lives, and if so, how do we determine what constitutes an enhancement for the individual in question? How are we going to ensure privacy of information?
Furthermore, there are a number of specific legal questions that must be answered. For instance, how do these practices fit with existing regulation when procedures such branding, aesthetic scarification and genital piercing are technically illegal, amounting to Actual Bodily Harm (R v Wilson, 1996)? Can we consent to harm to ourselves? Who owns the technologies we may wish to implant within ourselves?
The overall aim of the panel is to open a dialogue on what has so far been a neglected aspect of the enhancement debate. Whilst much literature exists on the grander scale such as whether enhancement is morally permissible, ‘underground’ usage such as biohacking and the more direct, personalised, and smaller scale impacts of this are yet to be explored fully. As the technologies so often dismissed as science-fiction continue to become realised, it is imperative that we engage with the challenges to the status quo that we are likely to face in the very near future.
Abstracts should be no more than 400 words, prepared for blind review. Please send the proposal to firstname.lastname@example.org by 10th of June. Successful abstracts will be notified by 15th of June in order to allow eligible parties to apply to MANCEPT organisers for bursaries before the deadline of June 16th 2017.
Successful papers will each have up to 30 minutes of presentation time, plus Q&A.
Feel free to contact either convenor for any further information: Joseph Roberts (email@example.com) or David Lawrence (firstname.lastname@example.org)