The Growing, Fascinating Field of “Neurorights”


Neurotechnology offers vast potential to enhance how we interact with the world. However, with these possibilities come risks, particularly to fundamental aspects of our individuality and self-determination.
A recent paper on the emerging field of neuroethics echoed these concerns. “The information in our brains should be entitled to special protections in this era of ever-evolving technology,” one of the authors, Marcello Lenca, said. “When that goes, everything goes.”

While we are undoubtedly moving into a more complicated future, there’s something to be said for that old adage, “forewarned is forearmed”. Even at this early stage of innovation, industry leaders in neurotechnology are working with ethicists, philosophers and legal professional to address these crucial concerns.

The Importance of “Neural Integrity”

Imagine a future in which people conduct the majority of their lives through a neurocontrol, a system recognizing our thoughts by the brain-computer interface and putting them into actions in the device the person is neurocontrolling. Neural integrity refers to the right a person has for that interface not to be hijacked, hacked or otherwise controlled by a third party.

I think most people would agree that an advert for intimate products popping up into your brain while being intimate with a loved one is fairly intrusive and it is not a reality most people are prepared to live with.

Fortunately, in recognition of these crucial considerations, companies like Neurogress are working to set in place the mandatory encryption of signals and the integration of anti-hacking technologies. Right from the inception of these technologies, there’s a keen awareness that a respect for neural integrity is not just an optional extra but a critical requirement.

Mental Privacy and Respect for the Sanctity of Individual Identity

With interfaces tapping directly into brain activity, a new kind of right to privacy is emerging; the right to mental privacy. Neural activity is a window not just into your brain activity, but also your mental health, your intentions, even your secret desires and hidden thoughts. It takes little imagination to see how these should be considered inviolable and need to be protected.

A powerful safeguard will be systems such as those being developed by Neurogress. These systems will allow us to neurocontrol the world around us using non-invasive methods of utilizing a brain-computer interface. By enabling the use of devices that integrate with humans but which are nevertheless removable, there is far less risk to violations of a right to cognitive liberty.

A Simple Question of Fairness

In any conversation about neurorights, it’s not just about what rights will look like for those who fully embrace the technology. It’s also about the rich and the poor and the deep digital divide that becomes entrenched by disparities in wealth.

Think of a neurotechnology-enabled prosthetic device that allows a paralyzed person to move a limb. Should we consider it a right that this be available to rich and poor alike? For many, the answer would be a resounding yes and some companies at the forefront of neurotechnology would agree.

Neurogress has committed to designating a portion of funds collected on its ICO to a charity fund to ensure that neurocontrolled prostheses will be freely available to disabled people who are unable to afford the technology. A commitment to ethics and equality is a key aspect of observing equal rights to this emergent technology.

Neurotechnology innovation is changing the world and how we think about ourselves.

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