Social impact under severe uncertainty:The role of neuroethicists at the intersection of neuroscience, AI, ethics, and policy-making
The paper “Neuroethics at 15: The Current and Future Environment for Neuroethics” by the Emerging Issues Task Force, International Neuroethics Society, addresses central challenges for neuroscience in the years to come. The authors provide examples of pressing ethical, legal, and political issues that arise from neuroscience and neurotechnology, including artificial intelligence (AI). The paper nicely illustrates how neuroscience and neurotechnology involve complex issues pertaining to epistemic uncertainty and conflicting values (for instance, between economic growth and commercial values and risks to users of the technology and to the environment). It also expresses an ambition that neuroethics should have a positive societal impact. The paper does not, however, reflect much on the proper relationship between neuroethics as academic research and the application of research and technology in real-world settings, i.e. how the translation between theory and practice should be conducted in this field of ethics (Bærøe 2014). How can, and should, neuroethicists have an impact, be policy-relevant, and inform the public? Moreover, the hope of further professionalization of neuroethics (in the Conclusion) raises the question of what constitutes expertise in this field. Does this expertise merit authority primarily in clarification and analysis of the cases at hand, or does it also give neuroethicists authority to make recommendations to policymakers and the public about what they should do?