What are neurorights and why should we consider them?

Given the advancement of technology and digital, it is important to start thinking in terms of regulations on neurorights. But what are they?

Last update: 06 March, 2022

Despite the existence of social networks and hyperconnection, many would not hesitate to affirm that there is still a limit between what is public and what is private. And within the latter, no one could anticipate or know what I think or what I’m going to do. However, advances in science and technology show us that there are no limits to surprise. That is why neurorights are important.

The possibility of reconstructing our intentions or actions through brain waves, and then getting a person to execute that same action, begins to show that privacy moves on slippery ground. Surprise and limits have to go hand in hand.

neuroscience and neurotechnology

Let’s start with an example to understand the importance of neurorights. Advances in science and biotechnology would allow that, just by imagining something, a device can offer us an answer or a solution to our demand.

Something like a parallelism between our inquiries in the main search engines that, as a result, suggest some type of content or advertising in the same direction. Now, let’s move on to its equivalent in relation to advances in the brain field.

For example, what if just thinking about needing a break, I get an email with a couple of options on the spa? Or, remember that I have to go pick up my pet from the vet and receive a message on my mobile saying “remember to look for Toby”.

The advancement of technology means that your brain waves can be read and know what you think, what you feel, what your plans and ideas are. Something that is not new, since there are tools and devices that do it in some way.

The interpretation of brain waves is an advance that has the potential to “read our minds”.

What are neurorights and why are they raised?

The debate for neurorights arises from the brain initiative the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. It is a project led by the United States and aims to obtain a real and dynamic map of how the brain worksas a way to understand what and how we think, feel and make decisions.

The advances are intended to obtain useful information to prevent and understand the behavior of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and epilepsies. At this point, no one doubts the importance of betting on technology applied to the brain field.

However, we must not forget that there are large companies behind the technology. In this regard, Rafael Yuste (participant from the beginning of the project and current director of the Center for Neurotechnology at Columbia University in New York) points out the double potential of technology and information. It can lead to both positive and negative scenarios.

In response, they begin to talk about neurorights and the NeuroRights Foundationwhat are you looking for put a limit on the progress of science and prevent any use of the information that is not related to the general interest or respect for the person.

What are the neurorights?

Now, understanding the scope of neurotechnology, the debate regarding ethics and rights arises. Thus, a series of neurorights to be protected were defined and are as follows:

  • to identity. It refers to the fact that technology cannot alter or distort what defines the person’s self. Protect individuality and autonomy.
  • At free will. It limits the intervention of technology in people’s right to decide freely. It seeks to avoid manipulation through intervention in brain waves. That is, it protects against hackers cerebral.
  • Mental privacy. It implies that the data obtained from the brain waves cannot be used without the consent of the person.
  • Bias protection. It puts a limit on the possible discrimination of people from the data arising from the brain waves.
  • Equitable access. If technology is to be used to enhance brain capabilities, it must be available to everyone, not just those who can pay for it.


Importance of neurorights

The focus on the protection of neurorights is of enormous importance given the accelerated development of neuroscience and neurotechnology. It is about, nothing more and nothing less, to include an ethical look, that limits and regulates the use given to advances.

In other words, given the evidence of its usefulness, it can mean an advance in the quality of life of people with functional diversity. However, in the wrong hands it is capable of program and direct the brain of others. For example, influencing our consumption habits and the purchase decision; or in supporting and voting for certain political parties.

As pointed out by López Silva et al. (2021), the implication of these technologies is enormous, since if I can access or design the map of the neuroelectric pathways, I can also reproduce it through a device. Then, if I know the map of an action, through a technological device I can give the order to carry out that action A person connected.

Hence, projecting a future (quite present) in which the confluence between the digital/virtual and the physical/real will be very diffuse, it is key to take a step forward and start regulating. Among the antecedents to take into account, the case of Chile stands out, which decides to include them in the reform processes of its Constitution.

Algorithm-driven advertising is part of the present in which the interpretation of mental functioning is already glimpsed.


Technology must go hand in hand with ethics

Perhaps, for some people it is an idea that is too revolutionary, far from reality. However, it is almost on our heels.

Just as today we use watches that indicate our pulse and heart rate, we also find devices that can access brain waves.

Hence the urgency of regulating neurorights and installing it as a issue that concerns the whole society, since what is not talked about does not exist. That advances in science do not mean a setback in terms of freedoms.

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