, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 137–149 | Cite as

Brain to Computer Communication: Ethical Perspectives on Interaction Models

  • Guglielmo TamburriniEmail author
Original Paper


Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs) enable one to control peripheral ICT and robotic devices by processing brain activity on-line. The potential usefulness of BCI systems, initially demonstrated in rehabilitation medicine, is now being explored in education, entertainment, intensive workflow monitoring, security, and training. Ethical issues arising in connection with these investigations are triaged taking into account technological imminence and pervasiveness of BCI technologies. By focussing on imminent technological developments, ethical reflection is informatively grounded into realistic protocols of brain-to-computer communication. In particular, it is argued that human-machine adaptation and shared control distinctively shape autonomy and responsibility issues in current BCI interaction environments. Novel personhood issues are identified and analyzed too. These notably concern (i) the “sub-personal” use of human beings in BCI-enabled cooperative problem solving, and (ii) the pro-active protection of personal identity which BCI rehabilitation therapies may afford, in the light of so-called motor theories of thinking, for the benefit of patients affected by severe motor disabilities.


Brain-computer interfaces BCI communication protocol Autonomy Responsibility Personal identity persistence Human-machine cooperative problem solving Sub-personal psychology 



I wish to thank an anonymous reviewer, Giuseppe Trautteur, Federica Lucivero, and Giovanni Boniolo for helpful and stimulating comments. I benefited from discussions on BCI systems and ethics with Febo Cincotti, Edoardo Datteri, José del R. Millán, Donatella Mattia, Stefano Rodotà, and Matteo Santoro.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze fisicheUniversità di Napoli Federico IINapoliItaly

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