The Future of Human Hybridization Under Debate
A few days ago, I read a post by a successful Cybersecurity manager, which inspired me to reflect on human hybridization and its potential consequences. I have searched for more information and I would like to share it with you.
What if someone faced employment discrimination because the algorithms that drive a neurotech application used for recruitment misread their neurodata? What consequences would it bring if a criminal could obtain previous or current neurological data from the secretary of defence and manage to steal secret state information?
With all the global challenges we face, we need technology to match up, and neurotechnology is a field with revolutionary potential that promises to transform our lives. This discipline aims to connect the human brain to sophisticated machines, computers, and mobile phones —devices that are already part of our daily lives—, to interpret, infer, or modify information generated by any part of our nervous system. This possibility not only has applications at the health level since it could be used in education, entertainment, or transportation. But not everything is promising: there are still no regulations when it comes to the development or deployment of neurotechnology.
Rafael Yuste —Spanish neurobiologist, professor at Columbia University— and Darío Gil —IBM vice president engineer and director of its research area— were summoned by the United States National Security Council (NSC) last November to discuss this uncertain future that is closer than it seems. At the end of 2021, Chile became the first country to enshrine neurorights in its constitution and is now finalizing legislation to regulate technologies that record or alter brain activity. It is vitally important that there is a debate between researchers, regulators, lawyers, and philosophers about the extent to which it is permissible to meddle in people's brains and increase human capabilities, something that —as Yuste also warns— will create a gap greater than the current one between those who will have access to this new technology that modifies human nature and those who will not have it.
"In the short term, the most imminent danger is the loss of mental privacy," warns Yuste. According to the report published by NeuroTech Analysis in 2021, neurotechnology companies have invested more than 33.2 billion dollars in the last decade. Although most of these companies are in the medical sector, there are also companies like Neuralink, Facebook, and Google investing thousands of dollars in these technologies.
Yuste's foundation (The NeuroRights Foundation) argues that neurorights should include five fundamental principles: non-interference with mental privacy, personal identity and free will, fair access to mental augmentation, and protection against biases. The foundation is also drafting a technocratic oath that will provide an ethical framework for entrepreneurs, researchers, and investors developing neurotechnologies.
Altamirano, Paula. "It is already possible to extract and place data in the brain through neurotechnology". Fast Check CL, 2022, https://www.fastcheck.cl/2021/01/22/ya-es-posible-extract-y-colocar-datos-en-el-cerebro-a-traves-de-la- neurotechnology/.
Ansede, Manuel. "Having a sensor in the head will be essential in 10 years, just like now everyone has a smartphone." El País, 2022,
Gil, Dario. "The Ethical Challenges of Connecting Our Brains To Computers." Scientific American, 2020, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-ethical-challenges-of-connecting-our-brains-to-computers/.
NeuroTech Analytics. Neurotech Industry Global Neurotech Industry Investment Digest. 2021, http://analytics.neurotech.com/neurotech-inve