Neurodights: what they are, types and legal implications

The evolution of neuroscience is unstoppable, just like neurotechnology in parallel. It will take a few decades to invent electronic devices capable of decoding information in our brains and entering the depths of our minds.

Using technology capable of similar power is a double-edged sword because while it will mean big breakthroughs in areas such as criminology, finding out whether a suspect is the perpetrator of a crime raises the also serious ethical issues such as the ability to alter our memories or manipulate our decision making.

This is why many neuroscientists have warned in recent years about the need to establish ethical limits to the use of technologies capable of influencing our minds, coming into play what have been called neurodights. Below we will see what they are and how important they are.

    What are neurodights and why are they important?

    Advances in neuroscience, disciplines that study the functioning of the brain and research the biological foundations of human behavior, have raised concerns about the use that could be made of the technologies that benefit from their discoveries. Neurotechnology, combined with artificial intelligence, has the potential to profoundly influence society according to activists for neurodights, a very dangerous tool to be used irresponsibly and for commercial gain.

    Neurodights have been raised as a product of this concern, a new international legal framework for human rights focused on the protection of the human brain and its individuality against the irresponsible use of new technologies. Although it sounds like science fiction, we get closer to knowing through an x-ray or electrodes what a person thinks, feels, believes and thinks, an extremely dangerous possibility if a fall in the wrong hands occurs. why these neurotechnological rights are so necessary.

      BRAIN Project and NeuroRights Initiative

      One of the most advanced projects in brain mapping and behavioral analysis and its neurological foundations is the BRAIN INITIATIVE (Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), based in the United States. This project was initiated by former US President Barack Obama in 2013 and has a budget of around $ 4.5 billion.

      At the time, that gave enough to talk about, as it was a powerful program with which to trace mental activity in detail by developing tools with which to know what a person is thinking or feeling from their neurological activity. traceable. His goal was, in fact, to be able to take a dynamic photograph of the brain in action and gain a better understanding of how we think, learn and remember.

      Having already passed a few years, the discoveries made by those involved in this project and the information that has been collected are so important and valuable that even neuroscientists themselves warn of the great need to establish a series of universal rights. guaranteeing the protection of individuality. and mental privacy. If international rights are not approved, there is a risk that neurotechnologies will be misused..

      One of the advocates of the need to establish these human rights is the Spanish neurobiologist Rafael Yuste, director of the Center for Neurotechnology at Columbia University (United States). Yuste is one of the main promoters of the BRAIN project, but also of the defense of neurodights and therefore also heads the NeuroRights Initiative, which is in fact focused on this task.

      Neuroscientists are human beings well aware of the ethical implications of their advances, which is why they are the first to want neurodress to be recognized internationally. His neuroscientific advances aim to improve people’s lives by uncovering what lies behind diseases and disorders of the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. . By knowing how they are given to the brain, it will be possible to find a definitive cure for it..

      But knowing the brain can also lead to interests that go beyond improving the quality of life of people with neurological diseases. Companies could use the most sophisticated neuroscience to manipulate individuals and, by shifting their desires and interests in their minds, get them to buy their products. It can also be a tool used by corrupt governments and totalitarian regimes, interested in identifying citizens who disagree with their ideas by violating their mental privacy and stopping them for having certain thoughts.

        What are neurodights?

        Given the ethical implications and potential risks posed by advances in neuroscience, neuroscientists and human rights activists demand that large organizations understand five fundamental neurodights.

        Indeed, a campaign is underway for these rights to be enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations because, if it were carried out, it would have a real link, forcing governments, authorities, the sector private and citizens to respect them. the country where they were.

        For now, the five fundamental neurodights mentioned are as follows.

        1. Right to personal identity

        The right to personal identity calls for the imposition of limits which prohibit technologies from altering the sense of self. This right aims to protect the individuality and personal autonomy of individuals so that, where neurotechnology can connect people to social networks, there could be a risk that the line between the consciousness of the person and external technological inputs. fades.

          2. Right to free will

          The right to free will it ensures that people can make decisions freely, of their own accord and without being manipulated by technology. This right provides for the possibility that if our brain is connected via brain activity readers to a computer, it will not be free to make decisions or it could even happen that someone invades our brain, hacking our mind.

            3. Right to mental privacy

            The neuro-right to mental privacy aims to prevent data obtained from analysis and measurement of neural activity from being used without the person’s consent. Added to this, it requires the strict regulation of any interaction and transaction of commercial use of this data.

              4. Right to equitable access to neurocognition

              Behind these neurosciences, it is a question of determining guidelines and guidelines that delimit and regulate the application of all technologies to improve brain activity. The aim of this right is to ensure that this cognitive increase is accessible to all, in a way that is fair and not reserved for a small, privileged and well-off sector of society.

                5. Right to protection against prejudice and discrimination

                This right requires that knowledge in neuroscience is not discriminatory and distinctions based on race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, creed, political opinion, national or social origin, birth, economic status or any other condition.

                  Activism and legislation for the protection of our spirit

                  The neuroscientific community of neuroscientists seeks to ensure that our minds are not manipulated and that our privacy is respected. Our thoughts, opinions, beliefs, emotions and other aspects that are lodged in our minds and which are hidden from the public eye must remain hidden. even if technologies are developed capable of eliminating them with a simple x-ray, electrodes or neuroimaging.

                  What is intended for them is that all neuroscientific advances are aimed at achieving a better society, being for the common good, and that they do not lead to situations of greater inequality or social crises.

                  With recognized neurodights, the work of decoding neural networks would require taking into account the ethical and legal component of research with the brain, just as today the technological advances of mobile phones and other devices require exaggerating the rules of security of personal data in force.

                  As the neurosciences unravel the mysteries of the brain, the privacy and protection of data that might be in the mind must be guaranteed. The goal would be to prevent the information available on our brains from being used for purposes beyond the public interest.

                  At present, one of the most advanced countries in the field of neuroscience is Chile, which presented a draft reform of the Constitution to recognize these rights and thus becoming the first state to approve specific legislation to this effect.

                  Important steps have also been taken in the European Union, with the creation of an artificial intelligence committee announced in 2019. and that it explore the feasibility of a legal framework on its transparency, accountability and security, managed by the European Human Rights Council.

                  Bibliographical references

                  • The home page of the NeuroRights Foundation (sf). The NeuroDroits Foundation. New human rights in the age of neurotechnology. Retrieved from:
                  • Rafael Yuste (2017). “The Origins of the BRAIN Initiative: A Personal Journey” (PDF). Cell. 171 (4): 726-735. doi: 10.1016 / j.cell.2017.10.026. PMID 29100068. S2CID 206566794
                  • Yuste, Rafael; Church, George M. (2014). “The New Century of the Brain” (PDF). American scientist. 310 (3): 40. Bibliographic code: 2014SciAm.310c..38Y
                  • Al-Rodhan N (May 27, 2021). “The rise of neurotechnology calls for a parallel approach to neuroscience.” American scientist. Accessed October 25, 2021.

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