China Releases Ethical Guidelines for Brain-Computer Interface Research

The National Science and Technology Ethics Committee’s Sub-committee on Artificial Intelligence Ethics in China has recently formulated the “Ethical Guidelines for Brain-Computer Interface Research.” This development was officially announced by the Ministry of Science and Technology. The guidelines aim to standardize research in the field of brain-computer interfaces and serve as a reference for researchers and relevant institutions.

Brain-computer interfaces have a wide range of applications, including medical health, communication, and entertainment. They are particularly useful in improving motor skills, communication, and perception in patients suffering from neuro-paralytic diseases.

The guidelines emphasize the need for all brain-computer interface research to comply with China’s legal framework and internationally recognized ethical principles. They also call for adherence to the professional consensus and technical norms established by the scientific community. The guidelines strictly prohibit any illegal activities through brain-computer interface research, infringement on others’ legal rights, or actions that could disrupt societal stability. The dissemination of false advertising information inconsistent with the actual effects of brain-computer interfaces is also forbidden.

The guidelines advocate that brain-computer interface research should primarily focus on restorative technologies, emphasizing the importance of serving public health needs through technological advancement. They also encourage, under strict regulations and clear benefits, the exploration and development of enhancement-oriented brain-computer interface technologies for non-medical purposes, such as attention, sleep, memory regulation, and exoskeletons. All research designs should be scientifically sound, practical, and of scientific value.

In addition to these requirements, the guidelines mandate obtaining written informed consent from test subjects or their legal representatives or guardians before conducting brain-computer interface research. They also highlight the sensitive nature of the neural data or experimental samples collected during research, which can reflect a test subject’s mental state, physiological health, personality traits, and property information. The guidelines stipulate that the scope of data collection and the access rights to this data should be approved by an ethics committee. Moreover, they insist on the establishment of robust disposal and management plans for this data.

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