Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, seen in 2020, has encouraged countries to work together to legislate on "neuro-rights" Photo: AFP/File
tech

Mindblowing: Advances in brain tech spur push for 'neuro-rights'

12 Comments
By Alberto PEÑA

As sci-fi thriller "Inception" topped box offices across the world, audiences were delighted and appalled by its futuristic story of a criminal gang invading people's dreams to steal valuable data.

More than a decade on, the technology envisioned by filmmaker Christopher Nolan is likely not far off, according to experts in Chile, who have moved the security debate beyond burglar alarms to safeguarding the most valuable real estate people ever own: their minds.

The South American nation is aiming to be the world's first to legally protect citizens' "neuro-rights," with lawmakers expected to pass a constitutional reform blocking technology that seeks to "increase, diminish or disturb" people's mental integrity without their consent.

Opposition senator Guido Girardi, one of the authors of the legislation, is worried about technology -- whether algorithms, bionic implants or some other gadgetry -- that could threaten "the essence of humans, their autonomy, their freedom and their free will."

"If this technology manages to read (your mind), before even you're aware of what you're thinking," he told AFP, "it could write emotions into your brain: life stories that aren't yours and that your brain won't be able to distinguish whether they were yours or the product of designers."

Scores of sci-fi movies and novels have offered audiences the dark side of neurotechnology -- perhaps invoking criminal masterminds ensconced in secret strongholds, manipulating the world with a dastardly laugh while stroking a cat.

In fact, the nascent technology has already demonstrated how it can have significantly positive applications.

In 2013, then-US president Barack Obama promoted the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neuro-technologies) initiative, which aimed to study the causes of brain disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and epilepsy.

Back in Chile, Science Minister Andres Couve told AFP the neuro-rights debate "is part of a consolidation of a new scientific institutionality in the country that is now capturing international attention."

But many are worried about the potential for nefarious actors to abuse technological advances.

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera proposed at last week's Ibero-American summit in Andorra that countries legislate together on the thorny issue.

"I call on all Ibero-American countries to anticipate the future and to adequately protect, now, not just our citizens' data and information, but also their thoughts, their feelings, their neuronal information, to prevent these from being manipulated by new technologies," the conservative Pinera said.

The Chilean bill contains four main fields of legislation: guarding the human mind's data, or neuro-data; fixing limits to the neuro-technology of reading and especially writing in brains; setting an equitable distribution and access to these technologies; and putting limits on neuro-algorithms.

Spanish scientist Rafael Yuste, an expert on the subject from Columbia University in New York, told AFP some of these technologies already exist, and even the most remote will be available within 10 years.

They are already being applied to animals in laboratories.

Scientists have experimented with rats, implanting images of unfamiliar objects in their brains and observing how they accept those objects in real life as their own and incorporate them into their natural behavior.

"If you can enter there (into the chemical processes of the brain) and stimulate or inhibit them, you can change people's decisions. This is something we've already done with animals," said Yuste.

The science has opened the possibility of designing hybrid humans with artificially enhanced cognitive abilities.

The risk is that, without proper safeguards, the technology might be used to alter people's thoughts, employing algorithms via the internet to re-program their hard wiring, to dictate their interests, preferences or patterns of consumption.

"To avoid a two-speed situation with some enhanced humans and others who aren't, we believe these neuro-technologies need to be regulated along principles of universal justice, recognizing the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," said Yuste.

Yuste considers neuro-technology a "tsunami" that humanity will have to deal with, which is why people need to be prepared.

"Neuro-technology can be scary if you think about dystopian science-fiction scenarios. However, for every dystopian scenario, there are 10 beneficial ones," said Yuste, who sees neuro-technology as "a new Renaissance for humanity."

Already, neuro-technologies are used on patients suffering from Parkinson's or depression by stimulating the brain with electrodes to "alleviate the symptoms," said Yuste.

Similarly, deaf people are treated with "cochlear implants in the auditory nerve" that stimulate the brain.

It is hoped that something similar in the future will restore sight to the blind or treat those with Alzheimer's by strengthening the memory's neuronal circuits.

"It will be a beneficial change for the human race," said Yuste.

© 2021 AFP

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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Gaikoku: Countries moving forward with neurotechnology and assessing the dangers. Elon Musk's Neurolink developing Brain-Machine-Interfaces.

Japan: Our "AI" can detect the very special unique quality of our wagyu beef!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Picture: Biggest Chile's clown !!..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

State-controlled, digital and print media is the

- “technology that seeks to "increase, diminish or disturb" people's mental integrity without their consent.” -

This ‘present’ danger is not so futuristic and high tech. Some counties make great use of it everyday.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Social media is another

- “technology that seeks to "increase, diminish or disturb" people's mental integrity...

yet, it’s *with** their consent. - *

A simple, “unsubscribe” button, or better yet, the “on/off” power-switch is still available, at this time.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Seems ‘a little late’ to begin worrying about ‘omnipresent algorithms’ -

- "If this technology manages to read (your mind), before even you're aware of what you're thinking, it could write emotions into your brain: life stories that aren't yours and that your brain won't be able to distinguish whether they were yours or the product of designers."

in every aspect of our daily lives: media, entertainment, shopping, the distribution & delivery of goods, healthcare, and so on.
-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Appears ‘altruistic’ -

- “call on all countries to anticipate the future and to adequately protect, not just our citizens' data and information, but also their thoughts, their feelings, to prevent these being manipulated by new technologies,"

yet, it’s being proposed by a government ‘leader’.

Perhaps: “Let’s ‘beta-test’ some ‘legislation’ in one of the smaller, developed yet, semi-democratic countries first and see if people go fo it.”

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The government “shepherds” will always try to disguise some ‘pork’ while claiming to be looking out for the sheep.

*- “The bill contains legislation: setting an equitable distribution and access to these technologies.*

That’s the underlying truth of the proposal: wanting ‘a share of the profits’.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Scary stuff in the wrong hands!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There's only Georgia on my mind

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think we can start worrying about AI brain technology as soon as automated computer help lines actually start helping anyone. That seems to be a while off. And then, if the tech is controlled by governments, it won’t work anyway.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Elon Musk. Soon as he wires in with his looney brain enhancement transplant gizmos and jerks around like a spastic monkey - then it will get tossed into the trash can it belongs. What's next - amputation and replacement with a bionically enhanced artificial cyborg limb.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The initiative as it is presented includes way too much, "...a constitutional reform blocking technology that seeks to "increase, diminish or disturb" people's mental integrity without their consent." would actually include a lot of marketing and publicity techniques.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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