'The Father of the Cyborgs' Panel Discussion

Thursday, September 15, 2022
3:00–4:00pm EDT

Father of the Cyborgs, movie image with silhouette of person and horizon; Organizing groups logos below it;

IEEE Brain and the International Neuroethics Society hosted a 1-hour panel discussion on the award-winning documentary, ‘The Father of the Cyborgs’ on September 15, 2022. The discussion explored the various technological and ethical issues raised in the film and address questions submitted by participants.

Panelists were:

  • Paul Root Wolpe, Emory University
  • Amy Orsborn, University of Washington
  • Nathan Copeland, Brain Computer Interface User and Neurotechnology Consultant
  • Moderator: Anna Wexler, University of Pennsylvania

Please note: the panel discussion webinar did not include a viewing of the film.


A recording of the panel discussion is available from IEEE.

Watch Video

Film Preview

The film presents a portrait of Dr. Phil Kennedy, a brilliant yet divisive figure who made global headlines in the 1990s for implanting wire electrodes in the brain of a paralyzed man and, more recently, for traveling to South America to have electrodes implanted inside his own brain in order to continue his research. (Runtime: 1 hour 16 minutes; IMDB).


Image of Paul Root Wolpe
Paul Root Wolpe

Center for Ethics
Emory University

Paul Root Wolpe is the Director of the Center for Ethics at Emory, the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Bioethics, and the Raymond F. Schinazi Distinguished Research Chair in Jewish Bioethics. His teaching and publications include death and dying, genetics and eugenics, sexuality and gender, mental health and illness, alternative medicine, and bioethics in extreme environments such as space.

Image of Amy Orsborn
Amy Orsborn

Electrical & Computer Engineering / Bioengineering
University of Washington

Dr. Amy Orsborn is a Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor in Electrical & Computer Engineering and Bioengineering at the University of Washington. She's also a core staff scientist at the Washington National Primate Research Center. She works at the intersection of engineering and neuroscience to develop neural interfaces to restore motor function. Among her honors, she received a L'Oreal USA for Women in Science postdoctoral award, the L'Oreal USA Changing The Face of STEM award, a Google Faculty Research Award, an Interdisciplinary Rehabilitation Engineering research fellowship, and a pilot award from the Simons Foundation Collaboration on the Global Brain.  She completed her Ph.D. at the UC Berkeley/UCSF Joint Graduate Program in Bioengineering, and was a postdoctoral researcher at NYU’s Center for Neural Science.

Image of Nathan Copeland
Nathan Copeland

Brain Computer Interface User and Neurotechnology Consultant

In 2004, Nathan Copeland was just 18 years old when a serious car accident left him with quadriplegia. The lack of mobility caused by this made life more difficult and often left him feeling like he would no longer be able to accomplish much with his life. Years later, he was presented with the opportunity to help shape future technologies that could eventually benefit people in similar situations. When he learned that this opportunity involved being a participant in a research study, he knew he couldn’t refuse. For the last 7 years, Nathan has participated in a brain-computer interface study through the University of Pittsburgh. Using microelectrode arrays implanted in his motor cortex, he is able to control a robotic arm. Additionally, Nathan was the first human implanted with microelectrode arrays in somatosensory cortex, which can be stimulated to provide sensation back from the robotic arm.

While his time with the research study is finite, Nathan has built up a wealth of experience that will stick with him for the rest of his life, from meeting President Barack Obama to giving presentations in Japan. He hopes to continue sharing his story and insights into using an implanted brain-computer interface with the world.


Image of Anna Wexler
Anna Wexler

Medical Ethics and Health Policy
University of Pennsylvania

Anna Wexler is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the principal investigator of the Wexler Lab, where she studies the ethical, legal, and social issues surrounding emerging technology, with a particular focus on do-it-yourself medicine, direct-to-consumer health products, and neuroethics. Dr. Wexler is the recipient of a 2018 NIH Director's Early Independence Award and a senior fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics. She received her Ph.D. from MIT in the HASTS  (History, Anthropology, Science, Technology & Society) Program, where her dissertation centered on the DIY brain stimulation movement. Her essays have been published in outlets such as the The New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Slate, and STAT.


International Neuroethics Society; globe logo

The International Neuroethics Society is an interdisciplinary group of scholars, scientists, clinicians, and other professionals dedicated to encouraging and inspiring research and dialogue on the responsible use of advances in brain science. People at all stages of their career join the Society to interact, learn, and participate in dynamic discussions that further the growing field of neuroethics.

IEEE Brain

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. IEEE Brain was formed in late 2015 to help facilitate cross-disciplinary collaboration and coordination to advance research, standardization, and development of technologies in neuroscience to help improve the human condition. Join the IEEE Brain community to gain access to valuable information and resources, and to connect and interact with others in this dynamic multidisciplinary community.

IEEE TechEthics

IEEE TechEthics drives and coordinates activities in technology ethics, including conversations about the ethical and societal impacts of technology. Subscribe to the IEEE TechEthics community to stay abreast of program activities.

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