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EMBL/EMBO Joint Conference 2006

Jackie Leach Scully, University of Newcastle, UK

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Jackie Leach Scully

Biography

Jackie Leach Scully took a PhD in molecular biology at Cambridge and then worked in neuroscience research before joining the Unit for Ethics in the Biosciences at the University of Basel. From September 2006 she is Senior Lecturer in the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at the University of Newcastle, UK.

Her research interests are in social constructions and evaluations of bioethical issues and especially in genetics, reproductive medicine and neuroscience; disability; feminist bioethics; and moral psychology. She is the author of Quaker Approaches to Moral Issues in Genetics (2002) and is currently working on a book on ethics and disability.

Abstract

The Ship Who Sang: the neuro-machine interface as prosthetic, extension, and fantasy

Anne McCaffrey's cult SF novel The Ship Who Sang describes a future in which the minds of people with severe physical impairments are 'rescued' from their limiting bodies and stored as brain-machine combinations: the female hero, Helva, is a space ship. The story raises a number of questions about the relationship between limitations, ideas about being human and being a person, and the impact of neurotechnologies.

In this talk I will draw on the novel to explore this a little further. From the starting point of disability I will use a phenomenological approach to consider whether some embodied experiences are essential to be a human being; how artificial extensions to the body are humanized; and what are the grounds for concern that neuro-machine interfaces will fundamentally change our idea of human personhood.