Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 77–89 | Cite as

Brain simulation and personhood: a concern with the Human Brain Project

Original Paper


The Human Brain Project (HBP) is a massive interdisciplinary project involving hundreds of researchers across more than eighty institutions that seeks to leverage cutting edge information and communication technologies to create a multi-level brain simulation platform (BSP). My worry is that some brain models running on the BSP will be persons. If this is right then not only will the in silico experiments the HBP envisions being carried on the BSP be unethical the mere termination of certain brain models running on the BSP will be unethical. To assess the possible personhood of certain brain simulations I consider John Searle’s critique of strong AI. In arguing that Searle’s critique fails I conclude that the HBP must tread carefully and devise strict rules on how research using the BSP ought to proceed.


Brain simulation Personhood Turing Test Chinese Room Human Brain Project 


  1. Chalmers, David. (1996). The conscious mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.MATHGoogle Scholar
  2. Copeland, Jack. (2002). The Chinese Room from a logical point of view. In John Preston & Mark Bishop (Eds.), Views into the Chinese Room (pp. 104–122). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Dennett, Daniel. (1985). Can machines thinks? In Michael Shafto (Ed.), How we know. San Francisco: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  4. French, Robert. (1990). Subcognition and the limits of the Turing Test. Mind, 99(393), 53–65.CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  5. French, Robert. (2000). Peeking behind the screen: The unsuspected power of the Standard Turing Test. Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, 12(3), 331–340.CrossRefMATHGoogle Scholar
  6. Harnad, Stevan. (1994). Levels of functional equivalence in reverse bioengineering: The Darwinian Turing Test for artificial life. Artificial Life, 1(3), 293–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Kurzweil, Ray. (2012). How to create a mind: The secret of human thought revealed. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
  8. Markram, Henry. 2012. The Human Brain Project: A Report to the European Commission.Google Scholar
  9. Midgley, Mary. (1995). Zombies and the Turing Test. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2(4), 351–352.Google Scholar
  10. Noonan, John. (1968). Deciding who is human. Natural Law Forum, 13, 134.Google Scholar
  11. O’Brien, Gerard, & Jon, Opie. (2009). The role of representation in computation. Cognitive Processing, 10(1), 53–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Pylyshyn, Zenon. (1980). The ‘Causal Power’ of machines. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3, 442–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Searle, John. (1984). Minds, brains, and science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Searle, John. (1992). The rediscovery of mind. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Sprevak, Mark. (2007). Chinese Rooms and Program Portability. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 58, 755–776.CrossRefMATHMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  16. Thomson, Judith Jarvis. (1971). A defense of abortion. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 1(1), 47–66.Google Scholar
  17. Turing, Alan. (1950). Computing machinery and intelligence. Mind, 59(236), 433–460.CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  18. Warren, Mary Anne. (2009). On the moral and legal status of abortion. In Louis Pojman & Lewis Vaughn (Eds.), Philosophy: The quest for truth (pp. 623–629). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PhilosophyRenmin UniversityBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations