Law - Ethics - Neuroscience - Technology

Contact Dr Allan McCay at:

Legal and Ethical Issues Relating to Emerging Technologies, Neuroethics, Neurolaw, Neurorights, Criminal Responsibility, Behavioural Genetics and Crime, Sentencing, Philosophy of Punishment, Free Will, Deep-brain stimulation, Brain-computer interfaces, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work, Behavioural Legal Ethics

I am Deputy Director of The Sydney Institute of Criminology and an Academic Fellow at the University of Sydney's Law School where I coordinate the Legal Research units and lecture in Criminal Law.

As well as the above, I am a member of the Management Committee of the Julius Stone Institute of Jurisprudence at the University of Sydney. I am also an Affiliate Member of the Centre for Agency, Values, and Ethics, at Macquarie University.

In connection with my work on neurotechnology, criminal law and human rights, I have been named as one of the most influential lawyers of 2021 by Australasian Lawyer. I am also a member of the Minding Rights Network which is an international group of scholars who are working on addressing the challenges to autonomy, mental privacy and mental integrity coming from emerging technologies.

In addition to the law schools of the University of Sydney (Legal Research, Foundations of Law, and Criminal Law) and the University of New South Wales (Academic Writing for Postgraduate Legal Research), I have taught at the Business School at the University of Sydney (Commercial Transactions, Corporations Law, Stock Market and Derivatives Law), the Department of Sociology and Social Studies at the University of Sydney (Law and Contemporary Society), and guest lectured at the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Centre (Neurolaw) and Faculty of Engineering ( Legal and Ethical Issues for Biomedical Engineers). I have a special skill in working with international students, having been trained as a teacher of English as a foreign language, and having very substantial experience of teaching at the University of Sydney Foundation Program at Taylors College. I am a volunteer at the University of Sydney's Refugee Language Program.

In total I have 23 years teaching experience including pre-undergraduate, undergraduate, postgraduate course work, PhD supervision, and training in a professional context.

Details of my books, articles, opinion pieces and media interviews can be found further down the page.


I have presented my work at events for the general public, the technology sector, legal practitioners in private practice, executive government, and the judiciary through the National Judicial College of Australia. I regularly present at academic events and have conducted continuing professional development for members of legal profession. Here is a talk I gave to lawyers and legal technologists concerning neurotechnology and the future of legal work for the online event Fringe Legal Virtual Summit and a discussion of brain-implants organised by the Australian Society for Computers and Law.

In 2020, I participated in a neurotechnology and law event at the Australian Association of Corporate Counsel Conference and here is a link to a major event on neurotechnology and human rights that I spoke at, organised by the Chilean Senate, Alberto Hurtado University and Professor Rafael Yuste of Columbia University, New York.


After graduating from Aberdeen and Edinburgh universities, I trained and qualified as a solicitor in Scotland with the commercial law firm, Tods Murray WS, but a part of my traineeship was spent with a Belgian law firm, and I was awarded the Robert Schuman Scholarship to complete a further part of my training at the European Parliament in Luxembourg, where I undertook research into the regulation of media.

I later practised in Hong Kong with the global law firm, Baker McKenzie, where I was an Associate in the commercial litigation department. I worked primarily, but not exclusively, on a very large and long-running professional negligence matter that arose in connection with a major corporate collapse (conduct related to the collapse also lead to various prosecutions in the criminal courts). Whilst working on this case in the run up to trial I managed a team of trainee lawyers and paralegals. I also dealt with smaller matters in the areas of insolvency, debt recovery, employment, and food licensing.

I have appeared in courts in both Scotland and Hong Kong, and after leaving Hong Kong I was admitted to practice in the Australian jurisdictions New South Wales and Tasmania.

I was a member of the judging panel for the Association of Corporate Counsel Corporate Lawyer Awards (2020) and of the Women in AI, Australia New Zealand Awards (2021) (these awards have a legal section).

I have recently delivered continuing professional development (CPD) for legal practitioners speaking about neurotechnology and the criminal law at this event at Marbury Chambers and will be speaking at this upcoming CPD event.

Researcher and conference organiser

I completed my PhD at the University of Sydney in 2013, and my thesis considered the ethical and legal merits of behavioural genetics based pleas in mitigation in sentencing. I am interested in free will, philosophy of punishment, neuroethics, and the law’s response to neuroscience, neurotechnology and artificial intelligence. I am also interested in behavioural legal ethics.

My research at Macquarie University involved working on Australian Neurolaw Database (see below for link). In this research role I was involved in the decisions about the general aims and development strategy for the online resource.

I have been a visiting researcher at the philosophy departments of the University of California, Riverside, the University of Stirling, and also the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Oxford University.

I have been a sole organiser of three conferences on free will and the law, at the Sydney Law School, and was a co-organiser of the 2018 and 2019 conference series: Neuroscience and Society. At the end of 2021 I was a co-organiser of the Sydney Institute of Criminology event Neurotechnology, Criminal Law and Human Rights (videos of the day can be found here).


My first book Free Will and the Law: New Perspectives (with Michael Sevel) is published by Routledge, and contains chapters from leading philosophers of free will and law. A link to a draft of the introduction can be found here and my chapter, which advances a theory of mitigation can be found here. Here is a link to a related interview with me, and here are some comments on the book from the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia.

My second book Neurointerventions and the Law: Regulating Human Mental Capacity (with Nicole Vincent and Thomas Nadelhoffer) is published by Oxford University Press. The book asks questions such as the following:

Can employers make their employees use neurotechnologies? What if people start committing crimes by way of brain-computer interface? Should legal systems medicate those who break the criminal law?

A version of my own chapter Neurobionic Revenge Porn and the Criminal Law: Brain-computer Interfaces and Intimate Image Abuse can be found here.

Articles, book chapters, book reviews, and other scholarly work

I have published on behavioural genetics and sentencing in The Indigenous Law Bulletin, on behavioural genetics and the criminal law more generally in Current Issues in Criminal Justice. My chapter on behavioural genetics and sentencing appears in the The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy and Science of Punishment.

I have also published, on free will in an edited collection entitled Free Will in Criminal Law and Procedure and on socio-legal history again in the journal Current Issues in Criminal Justice. Here is one of my papers on neuroscience and the criminal law in The International Journal of Law and Psychiatry and another in Neuroethics.

The Journal of Evolution and Technology (now called Journal of Ethics and Emerging Technologies ) has published a paper I wrote on artificial intelligence and the future of work.The paper is entitled The Value of Consciousness and Free Will in a Technological Dystopia. A full list of publications is available here.

Here is a short piece I wrote on neurotechnology and human rights for the journal AI & Society.

Popular writing (non-fiction)

I have written for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age on the topics of behavioural genetics and sentencing, and neuroscience and the law. I have also written about the free will problem in the context of criminal law for the Huffington Post. For The Conversation, I have written on free will and criminal law, neuroscience and punishment , privacy and criminal justice issues relating to genetic databases, and artificial intelligence in the context of the future of work. My work has been republished in media sources such as The New Zealand Herald, The Independent (UK) and The Statesman (India).

Radio, television and podcasts

I have discussed my research on the radio shows the Philosopher’s Zone (ABC Radio National, Free will and the courts and more recently Brain-computer interfaces and the future of criminal law), The Wire, (Race-based discounts in Australia's justice system? and Does freedom from free will mean freedom from the law?), The Weekly (2SER), and Day Shift (ABC Central Coast). The Neural Implant Podcast has an interview with me here. and here is an interview about neurotechnology and transhumanism which aired on Romanian radio.

Here is an interview which focusses on some privacy and criminal justice issues emerging from behavioural genetics and big data. I also talk about these issues in this television show.

Below is a link to an interview for the AI Asia Pacific Institute which addresses legal and ethical issues relating to developments in neurotechnology. Radio National's Law Report has an interview with me on the topic of brain-implants and the future of criminal law.

Media discussion of my research, media interviews, and study of media

The Australian ran a story on my work on behavioural genetics and sentencing (subscriber-only- Push for Courts to Heed Genetic Disposition to Crime 1 Aug 2013) and I have been interviewed for the Sydney Morning Herald about neurolaw. A feature article entitled Blame it on the Brain, appears in the Law Society Journal (May 2016) and contains comments from an interview with me. My book Free will and the law: New perspectives is discussed in the October 2019 issue of the same journal. Here is a piece addressing legal and ethical issues emerging from developments in brain-computer interfaces and another in which I talk about public genealogy databases, behavioural genetics and sentencing. This piece considers criminal responsibility and human rights in the context of neurotechnology.

In this piece there are some comments from me relating to emerging technologies, in connection with my inclusion in Australasian Lawyer's Most Influential Lawyer List 2021.

As well as contributing to various forms of media, I have a Postgraduate Diploma in Media and Communications from the University of Technology Sydney in which I focussed on multimedia and the internet.

Artwork, science fiction, and creative writing

My photographic work has appeared in exhibitions at the Tap Gallery, Sydney in 2010 and 2019. Some of these artworks address the free will problem.

Here is an artwork created by the artist Rory for which illustrates my work behavioural genetics and sentencing.

In 2008, I published a short piece of science fiction that is also connected with free will, but takes place in the context of neurotechnology. It is called Our Debt to Vulcan and is published in the journal Philament here . A longer 2022 version called Vulcan is published in edition 10 of the sociological fiction zine So Fi Zine. I have also published a piece of non-fiction in response to science fiction - this piece focusses on issues of neurotechnology, virtual reality, and human rights that emerge from The Matrix series of films.

A short piece of creative writing which again addresses free will (in the context of one of my photographs) is published in Philament. It is titled Alternative Possibilities.

Useful Links

In relation to free will, some of my work engages with the late David Hodgson's views, and a collection of his papers can be found here.

This set of podcasts has some interesting analysis of algorithmic decision-making and other issues relating to technology.

The Australian Neurolaw Database can be found here. Neuroethics and the Law is a useful blog for those with a more general interest in neurolaw.

The Neurorights Foundation website contains some useful discussions of emerging human rights initiatives pertaining to neurotechnology.

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