Everyday cyborgs 2.0: Law’s boundary work and alternative legal futures

Everyday cyborgs are all around us, and most of them go unnoticed. However, their existence creates difficulties for the law. 

Everyday cyborgs are all around us. They are persons with attached and implanted medical devices; for example, artificial joint replacements, pacemakers, total artificial hearts, and limb prostheses. Increasingly, these devices are smart devices (also called integrated goods). They run software and have wifi capabilities. Because the law takes a bounded approach to persons and objects, this integration of technology with persons generates unexpected practical, conceptual, and normative problems. 

Some unanswered questions include: 

  1. should internal medical devices which keep the person alive be viewed as part of the person or mere objects (or something else)?
  2. is damage to neuro-prostheses personal injury or damage to property?
  3. who ought to control/own the software in implanted medical devices?
  4. how should the law deal with risks around unauthorised third-party access and hacking?

Part of the difficulty in answering these kinds of questions arises because the law does not have a coherent and justified framework for dealing with the assemblage of integrated persons and integrated goods. Through our research, we aim to remedy this and to develop a new normative account of everyday cyborgs in law.


By challenging law’s boundary-work and radically (re)imagining its approach to the assemblage of integrated persons and integrated goods, we are tackling the challenges which everyday cyborgs pose for the law. We are investigating where and why (problematic) boundaries and dichotomies occur (e.g. between person and things), examining what the pitfalls and opportunities are when these are transgressed and dissolved, and going beyond the bounded selves conception of persons to develop a novel account of the everyday cyborg in law.

Our aim is for this new account to be empirically-informed and practically useful, with solid conceptual and philosophical underpinnings. To these ends, we are using an iterative and flexible cross-disciplinary approach, consisting of complementary conceptual, empirical, and normative analyses.

Three main research questions (RQs) guide the project:

  1. What does the (existence of the) everyday cyborg tell us about the limits and opportunities (conceptual, normative, and practical) of law, regulation, and policy with respect to attached and implanted medical devices?
  2. What insights are revealed when traditional legal, ethical, and conceptual boundaries (e.g. subject-object) are dissolved and reconceptualised in novel ways; e.g. around notions of hybridity or the unbounded self?
  3. What are the normative implications and alternative legal futures (including for practice and policy) which flow from such a (re)imagining?

Research team

Principal Investigator:

Research Fellows:


The "W" logo of the Wellcome TrustEveryday Cyborgs 2.0  is a five year cross-disciplinary project funded by a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award.

Professor Muireann Quigley

21st Century Bodies: Prof Muireann Quigley talks 'everyday cyborgs'

Everyday Cyborgs 2.0 blog

The team on Twitter: