Neurotechnology, Freedom of Mind and Human Rights
Are we as a species ready for more advanced neurotechnology? Should we have unrestricted development of such technology? When the freedom of our mind is being targeted, we better wake up and take notice, and some academics are doing just that with attempts to change human rights laws to prepare for possible threats from future advancements.
Neurotechnology (Image Courtesy www.yant and and trams to yantramstudio.com)
Neurotechnology has existed for a while, through such devices like brain imaging that influence how we understand the brain and aspects of consciousness. The past 20 years has seen a maturing in this technology, making a significant impact on society by allowing a better understanding of how to treat physical and psychological issues. This technology opens unprecedented possibilities to repair or improve brain functions and begs the question of ethical considerations to be put in place.
As John Milton said: "Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind." But the last domain of freedom, of our inner sanctuary, our inner temple, is being threatened by neurotechnological development.
New rights or laws need to be considered in order to protect all of us against the loss of privacy of our own minds. Such laws have been proposed by a review study: the right to cognitive liberty, the right to mental privacy, the right to mental integrity, and the right to psychological continuity.
As technological advancements are made with respect to the brain and consciousness, we need to make sure that our moral and ethical understanding keeps up the pace. Disregarding the moral equilibrium that is required to properly use technology is a problem. Being able to refuse coercive and invasive advances on our minds could not only protect the privacy of what we know and want to keep to ourselves, but also from possible physical and psychological damage that the wielders of this neurotechnology could do. Mind control is a distinct possibility.
If those in power want what you know bad enough, I doubt they would really care if you are negatively affected by the procedure. This can happen without our knowledge if the technology advances far enough, which puts our personal freedom at great risk.
Brain imaging technology is already being used outside of mere medical research needs. Some companies use 'neuromarketing' to try to understand consumer behavior and find ways to influence customers into responding in the way they desire and want them/us to, such as increasing the likelihood of purchasing their product or service. Legal cases are also attempting to use it to assess or prove criminal responsibility through the risk of reoffending.
From Mind to Machine
What first started out as a tool to help individuals in the public domain, is now being developed by private interests to serve themselves. The more commonplace the technology becomes, the greater likelihood that it could potentially be hacked and allow someone to eavesdrop on the data and get access to someone's mind. There is already technology that acts as a brain-to-computer interface which allows the brain to directly manipulate technology. If this functionality spreads in society, people could be hacked through interfacing into such technology -- think of a Ghost in the Machine type of world where you brain can be hjacked.
Noninvasive electroencephalography based brain-computer interface enables direct brain-computer communication for training. (U.S. Army photo)
As we've seen in science fiction, many have already envisioned the possibility of controlling someone's mind with such technology. Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should or are even allowed to do it.
Personally, I like much of the science-fiction related to ethical and moral concerns about future technology that is imagined to one day be possible. It's always wise to consider how the things we create can be misused and outweigh the potential benefits we see in them. AI movies are great at showing the dangers. We need to be eternally vigilante towards the potential implications of what we create.
Splitting the atom for energy might have seemed like a good idea as a source of energy for humanity, but then it was mostly used to develop death-weapons on a scale never before seen. Even the energy idea is dangerous because of a lack of considering the harm of anti-life radiation when things go wrong, as they have and will continue to go wrong. Many US nuclear facilities are in poor shape, and few in government are concerned it seems. The state of many nuclear facilities is in quite a disarray, given the danger the pose. Things can go wrong, and when they do, it's pretty bad (i.e Japan, Chernobyl).
- In a neuro-techno future, human rights laws will need to be revisited
- Marcello Ienca, Roberto Andorno. Towards new human rights in the age of neuroscience and neurotechnology. Life Sciences, Society and Policy, 2017; 13 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s40504-017-0050-1
Thank you for your time and attention. I appreciate the knowledge reaching more people. Peace.
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