Neurotechnology Law Approved in Chile
In May of this year, Chile made a bet on an innovative solution – to legislate a future in which the world of films such as “The Matrix” becomes a reality. It will not be just science fiction when the paths of technology and the human mind intersect are enshrined in its constitutional “neuro-law” on the human right regarding one’s brain and thoughts.
This is a far-sighted move aimed at futuristic and dystopian stories coming true from films such as “Origin” (2010), where human behavior is changed by implanting ideas into the brain, or “The Matrix” (1999), in which the main character receives direct knowledge by installing a program in his brain.
To avoid some future applications of neurotechnologies, Chile has carried out a constitutional reform that adds the idea of preserving the “physical and mental integrity” of a person. So that “no authority or individual” can use technology to “increase, decrease or violate said personal integrity without proper consent.”
Previously, we’ve told you about the crazy telekinesis ideas of Elon Musk. If you’ve missed it, you can read more here.
What is the law about?
Recently, the world has been shocked by the emergence of a new field of science: brain-computer interfaces (BCIs).
This area is engaged in implanting tiny threads directly into the brain. Such an invasive and medically risky procedure is unlikely to be accepted by the public. However, even though the area is poorly studied, it still has some achievements in the field of non-invasive BCIs, for example, using electroencephalographic BCIs (eBCIs), which measure electrical activity on the outer surface of the scalp.
The main problem of using such technologies is the ethical issues raised by these eBCI systems, which relate to privacy and agency.
All the information obtained with the help of such tools can give important information about how the subjects think, feel, and behave. Neural data can be used to determine various aspects related to the subject’s intentions, emotional reactions, and decision-making, along with their conscious and unconscious interests.
So, these tools can become sources of collecting biometric data of consumers for companies. EBCIs users are offered incentives to transfer their neural information to third parties, just as they now exchange personal data as they move around the internet.
Another important ethical issue raised by the new generation of two-way eBCIs concerns “agency.” This refers to “the subjective awareness of control over our own actions and, as a consequence, over events in the outside world.” There is a subtle but serious problem here due to the brain’s inability to distinguish the source of its own inputs, an ability known as “proprioception.” This means a person’s perceptions could be manipulated without them realizing it.
The project was unanimously approved by the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies – now it has become a reality, embodied in the Chilean Magna Carta of Freedom.
Opposition Senator Guido Girardi, one of the supporters of this law, explained that the initiative is aimed at protecting the “last frontier” of human rights – the mind.
There are four main areas that this law enshrines:
- The protection of identity and mental integrity (i.e., control over who you are and what you do).
- The protection of the privacy of one’s thoughts.
- The guarantee of fair access to beneficial neurotechnologies.
- The protection from algorithmic bias (i.e., such technologies must not be designed to create prejudice).
Spanish scientist Rafael Yuste, one of the world’s leading experts in this field, stated on this occasion that “although it sounds like science fiction, some of these technologies already exist, and at most, it may take about 10 years to become a reality. Some are even applied to animals in their laboratories.”
“With rats, they have already managed to embed images of things in the brain that they have never seen and which they take as their own ideas and incorporate into their natural behavior.”
“If you can get in there (into the chemical processes of the brain) and stimulate or suppress them, you can change people’s decisions. This is what we are already doing with animals,” says Yuste.
Augmented reality can create hybrid people with a neurotechnological mindset in a decade, who have cognitive growth, but risk-taking ideas or knowledge programmed using algorithms as their concepts.
“To avoid a two-speed situation with people who have augmentation and others who do not, we think that these neurotechnologies should be regulated from the point of view of the universal principle of justice, reflecting the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” notes Yuste.
The expert believes that neurotechnology is a “tsunami” that has overtaken everyone in the form of the Covid-19, and now threatens humanity, so it is important to be prepared for it when this threat appears.
“Neurotechnology can be scary if you think of dystopian science fiction scenarios, but for every dystopian scenario, there are 10 favorable scenarios,” admits Yuste, adding that he sees “the inclusion of neurotechnologies for humanity as a new Renaissance.”
“It will change humanity for the better,” says Yuste.
Recording memories, reading thoughts and controlling the image that our brain receives through a connected device may seem like fantastic plots about the future. However, such technologies are not far off, and at least one country has decided to prepare for their regulations in advance.
Don’t forget about cybersecurity issues during the coronavirus pandemic. Stay safe and protected!