The Role of Art in Emotional-Moral Reflection on Risky and Controversial Technologies: the Case of BNCI

Sabine Roeser, Veronica Alfano, Caroline Nevejan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
41 Downloads (Pure)


In this article, we explore the role that art can play in ethical reflection on risky and controversial technologies. New technologies often give rise to societal controversies about their potential risks and benefits. Over the last decades, social scientists, psychologists, and philosophers have criticized quantitative approaches to risk on the grounds that they oversimplify its societal and ethical implications. There is broad consensus amongst these scholars that stakeholders and their values and concerns should be included in decision-making about technological risks. It has also been argued that the emotional responses of people can shed important light on the ethical aspects of risk and uncertainty. However, people’s emotions can be narrowly focused and biased. This article therefore assesses the role that technology-inspired artworks can play in overcoming such biases, by challenging our imagination and providing us with different perspectives on possible technological developments and their implications for society. Philosophers have not yet studied such artworks, so this constitutes an entirely new field of research for scholars of risk and moral theory. In particular, we focus on the case of BNCI (Brain/Neural Computer Interface) technologies and related artworks. These technologies and artworks touch on questions of what it means to be human, thereby raising profound ethical and philosophical challenges. We discuss the experiences of artists, scientists, and engineers who are directly involved with BNCI technologies, and who were interviewed during a Hackathon at Amsterdam’s Waag Society in June 2016. Their views are analyzed in light of philosophical and aesthetic theories, which allows us to consider relevant ethical and conceptual issues as well as topics for further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice: an international forum
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Aesthetics
  • Art
  • Brain/neural computer interfaces
  • Controversial technologies
  • Emotions
  • Ethics
  • Risk

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