Brain-Computer Interfaces Webinar Series, Part 3: Legal and Ethical Challenges

3 May 2023
Brain-Computer Interfaces Webinar Series, Part 3: Legal and Ethical Challenges

Part 3 of the webinar series explored legal and ethical aspects related to the use of BCIs in warfare.

Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are technical means and systems that provide direct links and communication between the brain and external devices. While BCIs have been used for decades in the medical field, mainly in rehabilitation, novel areas of research and applications in the military domain have explored ways to enhance physical and cognitive functions in soldiers and weapon systems operators.

In the context of armed conflict, the use of interfaces to enhance learning, performance or to enable remote direct control of weapon systems raises important questions for international law, particularly IHL, as well as significant ethical concerns.

Could such interfaces be considered means of warfare and become legitimate military objectives? What are the implications for the application of IHL and what other issues may arise in the context of national and international law (e.g. rights of military personnel)? What might legal reviews for BCIs entail? And what distinct ethical challenges could the use of BCIs prompt, both for military organisations and in the context of warfare?

Part 3 in this UNIDIR webinar series unpacked these and other emerging legal and ethical questions related to the various uses of brain-computer interfaces.

A recording of the webinar can be found on UNIDIR’s Youtube channel, or below.

This was the final part in the series, which included three distinct webinars:

  1. An overview of the technology, including a discussion of existing and near-term capabilities and uses of BCIs (watch the recording for Part 1 here);
  2. A session unpacking military applications, and possible and anticipated security risks (watch the recording for Part 2 here);
  3. A webinar exploring key legal and governance challenges.


  • Dr Heather Harrison Dinniss, Swedish Defence University
  • Dr Rain Liivoja, University of Queensland
  • Dr Marcello Ienca, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

When and Where

The event took place on 3 May 2023, from 14:00 to 15:00 CEST, Online (Zoom).