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Ethics and Self-Experimentation Argument Essay (Critical Writing)

Kevin Warwick is a cybernetics researcher as well as professor. He is one of the best specialists in this field. He is a professor of cybernetics at the University of Readings, United Kingdom (England). The famous lecturer has been praised for the role he has played in studies related to robotics and the relationship between computer systems and the nervous system in man.

Professor Warwick reportedly instigated the self-experimented pioneer experiments. His experiments entailed linking his nervous system directly to a computer with an aim of assessing the latest technology for probable use with the disabled. His research was described as ground breaking (Warwick, 2002).

The researcher, through his ground breaking set of experiments, was the first cyborg (short form for cybernetic organism). A cybernetic organism means having organic and artificial components, or a human who has some physiological processes controlled or aided by electronic or mechanical devices.

Cyborg takes place when humans literally meet with machines (Warwick, 2002). The professor carried out various studies on himself. One such study involved fixing 100 arrays of electrodes into the nerve fibers of his left hand. The implant was able to bring about artificial sensation through the stimulation of individual electrodes within the array (Warwick, 2002).

Nicholson and Carlisle carried out self-experimentation with electrical apparatus using copper or silver plates, tin or zinc plates, and moisture discs/pieces of card leather.

The self-experimentation entailed testing electrical flow by completing the circuit with different parts of the body including fingers, the whole hand, shoulders, a wound, inserting in ears. These self-experimentation tested electric continuity and its flow with various body parts completing the circuit.

Through the self-experiment, Nicholson and Carlisle showed that the set apparatus carried the strongest electric effect on broken skin or wounds. By inserting the set apparatus in the ears, it demonstrated a shock in the brain. The researchers show the effects of electricity on human body its conductivity thereof.

Apart from the fact that in proving electric conductivity and shock effect thereof in the human body, the self-experiments indicate what merely happens at different levels, and when using different body parts for tests.

Ethically and scientifically speaking, the experiments in project Cyborg have a number of similarities with the ‘self-experiments’ by William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle”. First, the objectives of both experiments seem to be to fulfill some form of curiosity rather than to solve a scientific problem.

Both experiments do not have a clear problem statement that might have driven the professor, Nicholson and Carlisle to carry out the self-experimentations.

The experiments appear as though they are both geared towards seeing what happens when the human nervous system is linked directly to a computer and what happens when different body parts are used to complete an electric circuit respectively. They are both similarly unethical and have equally raised ethical issues regarding the objective of them both.

Secondly, both of the self-experimentations are similar, scientifically and ethically speaking, since they both do not respect the set code of ethics for research. With the research code of ethics, it is considered unacceptable to use other humans or self for experimentation purposes. The two experiments by Warwick and Nicholson and Carlisle use humans and self to perform the tests.

Their willingness to undertake the self-experiments could be due to their keenness to take any route so as to make certain observations for instance Warwick’s observation about artificial sensation on his hand and Nicholson’s and Carlisle’s observations of electric shock on various human body parts, even if it requires them to perform the experiments on themselves (Nicholson, 1800).

Finally, the two self-experimentations discussed are similar, ethically speaking. Both experiments expose the human being experimented on, to enormous dangers yet carry little or no benefits to humans.

In view of the self-experimentations above, self-experimentation should be discouraged since they are not adequate scientifically for lack of proper control and subjects who are sufficient to produce results that are meaningful. Although self experiments on humans are seen as really necessary and of great benefit to the human race, the process has been highly criticized (Nicholson, 1800).

Some cases of self-experimentation are usually inclined towards getting the best possible solution to a medical problem or any other form of stated problem. Other cases are done for ethical reasons and at other times, out of probable pure foolhardiness.

Some experiments done on oneself may not occur with an aim of coming up with any answers or solutions, but for exploration. The major part of Professor Warwick’s cases appear to be a demonstration to the non-medical academics and the public that the kind of technology he is dealing with is not some scientific dream or fiction, but rather an issue that truly exists.

Nicholson’s and Carlisle’s self-experiments also appear to bend towards more exploration rather than focus on giving solutions to the various identified problems. The two self-experimentations do not bear any significant differences in terms of ethics.


Nicholson, W. (1800). Account of the new electrical or galvanic apparatus of Sig. Alex. Volta, and experiments performed with the same.Nicholson’s Journal of Natural Philosophy, 4: 179–187.

Warwick, K. (2002). I,cyborg. London: Century Press.

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