Narrative Devices: Neurotechnologies, Information, and Self-constitution
34 Pages Posted: 7 May 2020
Date Written: May 6, 2020
This article provides a conceptual and normative framework through which we may understand the potentially ethically significant roles that information generated by neurotechnologies about our brains and minds may play in our construction of our identities. Neuroethics debates currently focus disproportionately on the ways that third parties may (ab)use these kinds of information and, in particular, putative threats to ‘neuro-privacy’. These debates occlude interests we may have in whether and how we ourselves encounter information about our own brains and minds. This gap is not yet adequately addressed by most allusions in the literature to potential identity impacts. These lack the requisite conceptual or normative foundations to explain why we should be concerned about such effects or how they might be addressed. This article addresses this gap by presenting a normative account of identity as constituted by embodied self-narratives. It proposes that information generated by neurotechnologies can play significant content-supplying and interpretive roles in our construction of our self-narratives. It argues, to the extent that these roles support and detract from the coherence and inhabitability of our self-narratives, access to information about our brains and minds engages non-trivial identity-related interests. These claims are illustrated using examples drawn from empirical literature reporting reactions to information generated by implantable predictive BCIs and psychiatric neuroimaging. The article concludes by highlighting ways in which information generated by neurotechnologies should be governed so as to protect information subjects’ interests in developing and inhabiting their own identities.
Keywords: Identity, narrative, neurotechnology, neurodata, cognitive privacy, brain-computer interface, psychiatric neuroimaging
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