Moving out of the Human Vivarium
Live-in Laboratories and the Right to Withdraw
Keywords:research ethics, right to withdraw, smart home, experimental homes, data subjects, live-in laboratory, human experimentation
Homes are increasingly being built as sensor-laden living environments to test the performance of novel technologies in interaction with real people. When people’s homes are turned into the site of experiments, the inhabitants become research subjects. This paper employs findings from biomedical research ethics to evaluate live-in laboratories and argues that when live-in laboratories function as a participant’s main residence, they constrain an individual’s so-called ‘right to withdraw’. Withdrawing from the live-in laboratory as a participant’s main residence means losing one’s home, which creates negative financial and psychological consequences for participants. I will argue that such costs conflict with a participants’ right to withdraw on two counts. First, that the exit costs from the live-in laboratory constitute a penalty, and second, that the costs of withdrawing from the live-in laboratory function as a constraint on a participant’s liberty. The paper concludes that (i) the right to withdraw is a necessary condition for the ethical permissibility of modern live in lab experiments and conclude (ii) the practice of making an experimental home as a participant’s main residence is ethically problematic.
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