Watch Brain-Computer Interfaces: Promises and Pitfalls

Written by: The Exchange

Imagine controlling the computers around you with nothing but your thoughts. This idea may seem exclusively sci-fi, but brain-computer interfaces are already helping people with disabilities and enhancing our interactions with our built environment. In the future, warfighters might operate a drone hands-free on the battlefield or patients may regain control of limbs or other bodily functions. Yet this technology remains largely experimental and it raises questions about security, ethics, and equity. As the devices are developed for commercial and patient use, will they be accessible to all, and who will bear the cost? s with Karen Howard, the acting chief scientist of the U.S. Government Accountability Office.


Dr. Karen L. Howard is the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO’s) acting chief scientist and a director in GAO’s Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics (STAA) team. She oversees a team of scientists and engineers who analyze science and technology issues. Karen joined GAO in September 2007 as a member of the Health Care team, where she led reviews on federal drug pricing and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval processes. She has received the Arthur S. Flemming Award, GAO’s Meritorious Service Award, and the Distinguished Service Award. Prior to joining the GAO, she taught high school chemistry and biology for 12 years.

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.