The central debate in the field of neurolaw has focused on two claims. Joshua Greene and Jonathan Cohen argue that we do not have free will and that advances in neuroscience will eventually lead us to stop blaming people for their actions. Stephen Morse, by contrast, argues that we have free will and that the kind of advances Greene and Cohen envision will not and should not affect the law. I argue that neither side has persuasively made the case for or against a revolution in the way the law treats responsibility.
There will, however, be a neurolaw revolution of a different sort. It will not necessarily arise from radical changes in our beliefs about criminal responsibility but from a wave of new brain technologies that will change society and the law in many ways, three of which I describe here: First, as new methods of brain imaging improve our ability to measure distress, the law will ease limitations on recoveries for emotional injuries. Second, as neuroimaging gives us better methods of inferring people’s thoughts, we will have more laws to protect thought privacy but less actual thought privacy. Finally, improvements in artificial intelligence will systematically change how law is written and interpreted.
(Photo by Tim Mantoani)