2018 Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA, USA
November 1-2

Integrating Neuroethics and the Law will be Invaluable as Brain Surrogates Develop

Professor Nita Farahany is a leading scholar on the ethical, legal, and social implications of biosciences and emerging technologies. She is the Director of Duke Science & Society, and Professor of Law & Philosophy at Duke University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina. In 2010, she was appointed by President Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. Professor Farahany is a member of the Board of the INS.

Professor Farahany will moderate a panel discussion on 'Brain Surrogates: Perceptions and Reality' at the 2018 INS Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Nita Farahany

What is your field of research?

I study the ethical and legal implications of emerging technologies, focusing on neuroscience, biosciences, and an interest in intelligent systems, virtual reality, and blockchain.

How did you become interested in neuroethics in context with law?

I stumbled upon it in a class I was taking on behavioural genetics—the role of behavioural sciences in the criminal law. This piqued my curiosity as I had long been passionate about science and the law, and this was an intriguing intersection that implicated philosophy, law, and science all together. My doctoral dissertation analysed the issue of criminal responsibility through the lens of behavioural genetics and neuroscience in the criminal justice system. From there the issues in neuroscience, law, and philosophy continued to intrigue me.

Why are you involved with the INS?

The INS is an important organization that has a community of individuals with a passion for helping to integrate science with the social and legal implications associated with it. The INS is an invaluable resource for me and has the potential to serve as an increasingly important resource for society as advances in neuroscience continue. I am committed to bringing greater democratic deliberation to emerging ethical and social implications of neuroscience and believe that INS can serve an important function in doing so.

What is the panel discussion on Brain Surrogates: Perceptions and Reality about?

New models using human brain tissue are being developed that are creating better proxies—or representations—of the human brain, that could help us better understand, diagnose, and ultimate treat neurological disorders in humans. But paradoxically, the better the proxies that will be developed, the more challenging the ethical issues become. So this panel will help to seed more deliberation about those issues. The panellists will present the state-of-the-art in brain surrogates and discuss some of the complex legal and ethical issues in this growing body of research.

What are the ethical aspects of this kind of technology?

The most challenging—but more distant aspect—is the capacity for the surrogate to develop sentience-like capabilities. As we approach that possibility, we may need a paradigm shift in how we regard brain surrogates and the protections that should result.

What parts of the Annual Meeting are you excited about?

All if it! The focus on ‘Cutting Edge Neuroscience, Cutting Edge Neuroethics’ will move many of conversations forward and introduce new concepts. It will drive the interest of our members and delegates in the issues on the horizon. They will be part of a series of conversations on what the next big issues are that we need to be tackling in the field and in society.

Why should people attend the INS Annual Meeting?

Three reasons. First, it’s the opportunity to connect with a diverse set of people with common passion. Second, the substance of the meeting is exciting. It is attracting leaders and new interests in the field. Engaging at highest level will be of great benefit to everyone. And finally, the mission of INS is an important one for people to support. There is a rapid growth in neuroethics, and the INS is a supporting organization that people who care can contribute to and help to grow.


Online registration available through October 25.