As the sci-fi thriller “Inception” dominated box offices around the world, audiences were elated and dismayed by its futuristic story of a criminal gang invading people’s dreams to steal valuable data.
More than a decade later, the technology envisioned by filmmaker Christopher Nolan is probably not far off, according to Chilean experts, who have moved the security debate beyond burglar alarms to protect the most valuable real estate. never possessed: their mind.
South American nation aims to be the first in the world to legally protect the “neurological rights” of citizens, with lawmakers supposed to embrace constitutional reform blocking technology that aims to “increase, decrease or disrupt” mental integrity people without their consent.
Opposition Senator Guido Girardi, one of the authors of the bill, is concerned about the technology – whether it’s algorithms, bionic implants or any other gadget – that could threaten ” the essence of humans, their autonomy, their freedom and their free will ”.
“If this technology manages to read (your mind), before you even know what you are thinking,” he told AFP, “it could write emotions in your brain: life stories that are not yours and that your brain will not be able to tell if it is yours or the product of designers. “
– ‘Prevent manipulation’ –
Dozens of science fiction films and novels have offered audiences the dark side of neurotechnology – possibly summoning criminal brains living in secret strongholds, manipulating the world with vile laughter while petting a cat.
In fact, 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 disease, of Parkinson’s and epilepsy.
Back in Chile, the Minister of Science Andres Couve told AFP that the debate on neuro-rights “is part of the consolidation of a new scientific institutionality in the country which now holds international attention”.
But many are worried about the possibility of bad actors abusing technological advancements.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera proposed at last week’s Ibero-American summit in Andorra that countries jointly legislate on the thorny issue.
“I call on all Ibero-American countries to anticipate the future and to adequately protect, now, not only the data and information of our citizens, but also their thoughts, their feelings, their neural information, to prevent these are not manipulated by new technologies. “, Said curator Pinera.
The Chilean bill contains four main areas of legislation: data protection of the human mind, or neurodata; set the limits of the neuro-technology of reading and especially of writing in the brain; establish equitable distribution and access to these technologies; and put limits on neuro-algorithms.
Spanish scientist Rafael Yuste, a subject matter expert at Columbia University in New York, told AFP that some of these technologies already exist, and even the most distant will be available within 10 years.
– ‘A new Renaissance’ –
They are already applied to animals in laboratories.
Scientists experimented with rats, implanting images of unknown objects into their brains and observing how they accept these objects in real life as their own and incorporate them into their natural behavior.
“If you can get into it (into the chemical processes of the brain) and stimulate or inhibit it, you can change people’s decisions. This is something that we have already done with animals, ”said Yuste.
Science has opened up the possibility of designing hybrid humans with artificially enhanced cognitive abilities.
The risk is that, without proper safeguards, the technology can be used to alter people’s thoughts, using algorithms via the Internet to reprogram their wiring, to dictate their interests, preferences or consumption patterns.
“To avoid a two-tiered situation with some humans improved and others who are not, we believe that these neuro-technologies should be regulated according to principles of universal justice, recognizing the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. man, ”Yuste said.
Yuste sees neurotechnology as a “tsunami” that humanity will have to deal with, which is why people need to be prepared.
“Neurotech can be scary if you think of dystopian sci-fi scenarios. However, for every dystopian scenario, there are 10 that are beneficial, ”said Yuste, who sees neurotech as“ a new Renaissance for humanity ”.
Already, neuro-technologies are being used on patients with Parkinson’s disease or depression by stimulating the brain with electrodes to “relieve symptoms,” Yuste said.
Likewise, people who are deaf are treated with “hearing nerve cochlear implants” which stimulate the brain.
It is hoped that something similar in the future will restore sight to blind people or treat people with Alzheimer’s disease by strengthening neural circuitry in memory.
“It will be a beneficial change for the human race,” Yuste said.
© 2021 AFP