In Chile, the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research has started to discuss a bill on “Neurorights” to be included in the country’s constitution. The world and especially the OECD, UNESCO and the United Nations should look carefully.
The Chilean bill aims to protect the right to personal identity, free will, intellectual privacy, equitable access to technologies that enhance human capabilities, and the right to protection from bias and discrimination. The landmark law would be the first of its kind to pioneer a legal framework that protects human rights from the manipulation of brain activity.
The relatively young concept of neurorights follows a number of recent medical innovations, particularly brain-computer interface technology (BCI), which can revolutionize the field of neuroscience. BCI-based therapy can be useful for motor rehabilitation after stroke and a potential method for the accurate detection and treatment of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Proponents claim that given the benefits that could result from it, there is a moral need to use the technology. others worry about the ethical, moral and social consequences.
Many (incorrectly) view this process as potentially undermined by premature governance constraints or blame any mention of braking mechanisms as an exaggerated response to an unlikely science fiction scenario.
However, if there is any doubt about why a regulatory framework needs to be put in place, we need to examine not only the pace of progress and normalization of disruptive technologies, but also the advertising half-truths that surround these new technological advances.
Similar to the development of external, non-invasive artificial intelligence, we need to find ways to manage the complex regulatory dynamics related to data protection, liability authenticity, fairness and autonomy on a human, economic, societal and geopolitical level. This needs to be done while leaving room for science to develop while reducing false or implausible expectations about what potential therapies might be achieved.
While we are making great strides in healthcare, we need to recognize that innovative milestones are being implemented across the board and will enter commercialized hypermarkets for video games and self-health monitoring purposes. This will generate enormous amounts of valuable data (some accurate, some in error) that will be in the hands of the companies that own this technology, such as Neuralink and Kernel, who would benefit from this access in a similar way to Google’s DeepMind program.
This prospect raises questions about the vast amounts of data that electroencephalograms or invasive devices output and that are collected by the companies behind them.
Questions about protection, accessibility, and corporate monopolies run parallel to the concerns some institutions have expressed about tech giants and AI. Neurotechnology also brings the additional layer of epigenetic consequences, neuropsychiatric complications, and biohacking to the fore.
That is why the concept of ethical innovation is so important. As outlined in the Neurorights initiative established by the University of Colombia, ethical guidelines should encourage researchers and practitioners to recognize personal responsibility for the societal impact of their innovations. Some have gone so far as to advocate a number of principles on the permissible uses and abuses of neurotechnology, followed by the development of a user rights regulation.
Although much debated, technological frameworks have proven to be largely ineffective in practice, even in the established areas of AI and data that are already shaping millions of lives.
Because of this, Chile’s debate is a landmark not only in its own jurisdiction but for the world.
As new advances are made in this sector and we are faced with a situation where we are experiencing an additional dimension of involuntary data being disclosed and manipulated through novel methods, we need to look at the evidence and experience that has already passed through the fourth industrial one Revolution have been commanded, and ours protect the most basic human autonomy and civil liberties.
Science in this area remains primitive at the moment, but it can be harmful rather than useful, especially if the science continues to mix with imprecise sweeping claims. Before safe use can be advocated, we need to lower false and unrealistic expectations of possible therapies.
The regulatory debate continues, but the rapid emergence of disruptive technologies has resulted in large amounts of data being accessed, privacy being lost and human behavior being exploited. Let’s not make the same mistakes with this new, albeit young, kind of intrusive and manipulative technology.
This is an opinion and analysis article.