Neurotechnology is a new and emerging field of IT and tech, and one that fascinates scientists like Gina Benderson. Essentially, the technology is one that can read brain activity and some are worried that it can alter brain activity as well. As a result of this, it has also grabbed the attention of human rights activists, who feel people need to be protected from having their brain information hacked, abused, or stolen.

The new movement is gaining momentum, not in the least because the field of neurotechnology is developing very rapidly as well. In today’s hospitals, the technology is readily available to treat various conditions, but it is already entering the commercial field as well. In fact, brain stimulators and games that can be played by using the mind, are now available in certain stores.

The Issue of Ethics

Facebook recently admitted that they have a team of 60 people trying to understand how to read the mind of its users. The result of this is that there is now an important question of ethics. For many, the brain is the only place where humans still have privacy, and neurotechnology seems to be taking this away.

The question becomes, therefore, whether current human rights laws are sufficient to protect people from this technology. Many, including Gina Benderson, agree that they do not. There is an absolute and urgent need to protect the minds of people from this type of technology.

Key issues that activists and scientists want to look at include psychological continuity, mental integrity, mental privacy, and cognitive liberty. This means that people should be allowed the choice of whether to use or not use technology that can change their mental state. Without these types of laws, and particularly the latter two, employers could potentially zap the brains of employees in an effort to make them more productive, for instance. If that sounds weird, transcranial direct current stimulation has already been used and devices can now be purchased on various markets.

There is a huge gap between the technical and legal safeguards that are in place and those that are needed. Legally, anyone who can develop the technology is allowed to read other people’s minds. Again, this technology is not outside of the reals of possibilities, considering clips of films people had watched were reconstructed in 2011 by University of California Berkeley scientists. There simply aren’t any rules on how information can be plucked from someone’s brain, nor on how this can be shared. Potentially, therefore, everybody’s most private thoughts are up for grabs.

The Issue of Mind Control

The mental integrity right that activists want to implement focuses on brain implants. The goal is to put safeguards in place so that these devices do not get used to alter consciousness. Psychological continuity, meanwhile, must be put in place to stop people from losing their personal sense of identity. Again, this is not something that can’t happen. People with Parkinson’s, for instance, use deep brain stimulation through implanted electrodes. Some people have stated that these implants made them feel like someone other than themselves.