In the past, the thoughts rummaging around in our heads were, without question, safe from the outside world. As technology pushes forward, this notion is continually being challenged.
“The mind is a kind of last refuge of personal freedom and self-determination,” says researchers at the University of Zurich and the University of Basel. “Yet, with advances in neural engineering, brain imaging, and pervasive neurotechnology, the mind might no longer be such an unassailable fortress.”
For instance, electroencephalography (EEG) can track brainwaves, leading to stimulation that can increase memory, enhance learning, send messages, and even play games. However, as we start to connect our brains to technology, a dark side looms in the distance. Thoughts can potentially be hacked, read, and distributed without consent.
With these concerns, the team has proposed four new human rights that may protect your future mental integrity and privacy. While these scenarios may not be relevant at the current time, it can be helpful to look ahead before these events become reality.
1. The Right To Cognitive Liberty
The U.S. Constitution holds true to freedom of choice, speech, press, and religion. An individual’s mind, however, is where the specifics of these freedoms are made—what a person chooses to say, believe, and physically put into motion.
The researchers claim these decisions, which fall under cognitive liberty, should be protected and preserved as a fundamental human right. Government figures should be prohibited from forcibly manipulating someone’s mental condition, and an individual should be allowed to refuse enforced use of neurotechnology.
2. The Right To Mental Privacy
With social media running rampant over the Internet, privacy is rapidly slipping through society’s fingers. If an individual steers clear of posting personal information online, what protects them from governments recording data straight from their brains?
Current and near-future technologies can pick up details an individual would have preferred to keep private. The team proposes that these types of devices should only read an individual’s brainwaves to which the person agrees to, and any information gathered should be secured from leaking on the Internet.
3. The Right To Mental Integrity
Today, if a malicious, third party entity gains access to your personal computer, it has the ability to corrupt files and data. Now, imagine if the hacked computer was your own brain. Corruption within the brain can lead to serious damage, possibly driving the victim towards insanity.
In another instance, brain-computer interfaces have the ability to be control with thoughts, such as a prosthetic limb. These devices can also be remotely accessed. If hackers were to gain access, then unwanted control could lead to hazardous situations.
4. The Right To Psychological Continuity
The specific memories and thoughts of an individual often serves as the building blocks for their personal identity. What if memories could be erased, implanted, or altered?
Tampering with memories could lead to permanent psychological and behavioral changes. Worst of all, it could damage a person’s sense of self.
To learn more, you can read the full details of the research in the journal Life Sciences, Society and Policy.
Filed Under: Industry regulations