The Internet of Bodies

  • Starts: 3:45 pm on Wednesday, October 17, 2018
  • Ends: 5:00 pm on Wednesday, October 17, 2018
This Cyber Alliance talk will introduce the ongoing progression of the Internet of Things (“IoT”) into the Internet of Bodies (“IoB”)—a network of human bodies whose integrity and functionality rely at least in part on the internet and related technologies. IoB devices will evidence the same categories of legacy security flaws that have plagued IoT devices. However, unlike most IoT, IoB technologies will directly, physically harm human bodies—a set of harms courts, legislators, and regulators will deem worthy of legal redress. As such, IoB will herald the arrival of (some forms of) software liability and a new legal and policy battle over the integrity of the human body and mind. Framing this integrity battle in light of current Federal Drug Administration and other regulatory approaches, Northeastern Prof. Andrea Matwyshyn's work offers a set of specific innovation-sensitive proposals to bolster consumer safeguards in regulatory agencies, contract, tort, intellectual property, and secured transactions/bankruptcy.

Yet, the challenges of IoB are not purely legal in nature. The social integration of IoB will also not be seamless. As bits and bodies meld and as human flesh becomes permanently entwined with hardware, software, and the internet, IoB will test our norms and values as a society. In particular, it will challenge notions of human autonomy and self-governance. Legal scholars have traditionally considered Kantian autonomy as the paradigmatic lens for legal determinations impacting the human body. However, IoB threatens to undermine a fundamental precondition of Kantian autonomy—Kantian heautonomy. Damaged heautonomy renders both Kantian autonomy and deliberative democracy potentially compromised. As such, safeguarding heautonomy should constitute the animating legal principle for governance of IoB bodies. The talk will conclude by introducing and commenting on Bruno Latour’s concept of a “Parliament of Things” and offering a sliding scale of “technohumanity” as a framework for the legal and policy discussion of what it means to be “human” in an age where bodies are the “Things” connected to the internet.

There will be time for casual conversation and light refreshments before and after the presentation. Please RSVP to
Seminar Room, Hariri Institute for Computing, 111 Cummington Mall

Back to Calendar