We are on the cusp of entering a vast, unknown, potentially dangerous area of computerization. There are so many ways that computerized medicine can help with mental health, but there is also a worry that people or governments with questionable intentions could use it in nefarious ways.
A Duke University professor of bioscience, Dr. Nita Farahany, has published a book on the subject, and what it reveals may be intellectually exciting, but also seriously concerning. The broad scope of the book’s topic I’ve summarized below, along with some additional information.
Two distinct businesses, Meta and Neuralink, are investigating the potential for using innovative technology to reveal people’s thoughts. The ultimate aim of both businesses—which are addressing it in different ways—is to create tools that can record and decipher the neural activity of the brain.
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is looking into the development of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that allow for the direct recording of neural activity from the brain. Scientists want to create a wearable gadget that can record electrical signals produced by brain activity and convert them into digital signals that a computer can understand.
Users will talk to digital systems with their minds thanks to the device, which works like a keyboard or mouse. Even though we don’t know all of the details about their technology yet, it is thought that their device would accurately read brain activity by using electrodes and machine learning algorithms.
On the other hand, Neuralink is investigating the creation of a brain implant that can communicate with the brain directly. The implant consists of a tiny chip that is placed into the skull and coupled to electrodes that are inserted into the brain. It is currently being tested on animals. The ability of the electrodes to pick up neural activity lets the brain and digital systems talk to each other in both directions and makes certain parts of the brain work.
Neuralink’s goal is to create a tool that can treat neurological conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, but the technology can also divulge private thoughts. The idea of the “thought police” is becoming a reality. It has shades of the book “1984” only this one is a definite reality.
Though they are both still in the early phases of research, Meta and Neuralink’s technologies have the power to completely change the way we interact with digital systems and disclose private thoughts. But this technology also brings up important ethical and legal questions about how these devices can be used and abused.
One of the biggest worries about brain-computer interfaces is that they could spy on people. Devices might be able to reveal private information like opinions, thoughts, and emotions if they can accurately read cerebral activity. They might employ this information in criminal investigations or even to influence people. As a result, there might be a need for legal action to control the use of such devices and safeguard people’s privacy.
The potential for such technology to be abused is another worry. For instance, there would be a risk of cyber-attacks or hacking if a brain-computer interface were used to control a digital system like a car or an airplane, which may have disastrous effects. Also, this technology could make mind-controlled soldiers or other mind-controlled laborers, which would take away people’s freedom and be against human rights. Are we headed for the world of Total Recall?
The development of brain-computer interfaces has the potential to completely change how we use digital systems and reveal our deepest thoughts. However, it also raises important ethical and legal questions. It is crucial to carefully weigh the possible advantages and risks of such technology and to make sure that moral and legal frameworks are in place to safeguard people’s liberty and privacy.
Obviously, one of the problems with this technology is the lack of understanding in legal circles about it. If people in Congress can’t follow explanations of current technology, how will they respond to highly complex systems?