In 1975, Paul Berg convened a conference in Asilomar, California, of biologists, lawyers, physicians, and others, to discuss how the biotechnology community would voluntarily regulate itself. The outcome was a set of rules and guidelines that, to this day, have helped biotechnology make great contributions to human life, in a safe and ethical manner. With the neuroscience field and neurotech industry entering this period of growth, arguably now is the time to hold an "Asilomar of the Brain".
BrainMind is currently developing new philanthropic and investing approaches to accelerate positive impact in brain science: ethical frameworks are necessary to guide idea curation in this space. Our vision to form the vital connective tissue between the lab and the world at large includes a focus on human impact in order to supplement both the profit-driven commercial market and the gaps created by available grant funding. This field is in particularly need because the surge in new tools with the promise to alleviate human suffering and advance human potential also come with the potential dangers accompanying that power to manipulate the brain and mind. As we build momentum and ready ourselves to allocate capital and resources, we are placing a high priority on neuroethics.
In 2021, we are planning to host an international multidisciplinary gathering focused on the ethics and governance of near-term innovations in brain science. In carefully thinking through which ideas are truly “good” and “beneficial” for humanity, ethics questions loom large in brain science. We plan to include bioethicists, neuroscientists (basic to clinical), major industry stakeholders, and policymakers. The meeting will be supported entirely by philanthropy, and will bring together roughly 250 people over four days. In advance of that, we are assembling a steering committee to convene for a formal planning session in Q1 2020.
We expect our gathering to differ from neuroethics meetings convened by other national and international groups in that we will be including active participation of industry and investors. We consider this inclusion to be important because of the tremendous amount of resources already committed to brain research in the privater sector. Our meeting will also include stakeholders from efforts like the US Brain Initiative, European Human Brain Project, International Neuroethics Society, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the International Brain Initiative, collaborating to help develop a set of guidelines, agreed upon by participants, using recently published frameworks from the groups mentioned above (and others to be determined) as a starting point.
Rather than being focused on talks and seminars, this will be a highly participatory gathering: the goal is not to talk to each other, but to talk with each other. Just as the 1974 Asilomar conference set the stage for a half century of bioengineering, the 2021 Asilomar BrainMind conference has the chance to set the stage for a half century of neuro-innovation.
We hope you can join us.