Since Isaac Asimov published a collection of stories entitled Yo Robot in 1950, clearly ascribed to the science fiction genre, to the present day, when the ethical and legal problems of intelligent robots are the subject of discussion and debate by the Council of the European Union, it has not been that long. Technological advances, at any time, bring advantages, introducing improvements in the quality of life of people, but they can also generate risks, due to their possible impact on the known social order, risks that must be known, debated, and reduced or avoided. as far as possible. Regarding this, what about neurosciences and neurorights?
We have to address the importance of the privacy of citizens, in relation to neruscience and neurorights, to reconcile both worlds
One of the characteristics of this new technological Revolution is the enormous speed with which the changes are produced, which are not limited to a sectorial scope, but have economic, social, and cultural repercussions of a general nature. Faced with those who are always in favor of technology and accept it with uncritical fascination, or those who look at everything with suspicion, even fear, it is necessary to deepen the social, ethical and legal debate on the changes that digital transformation entails. and artificial intelligence.
The Council of the European Union presented in February 2019 the importance of guaranteeing full respect for the rights of citizens through the application of ethical guidelines for the development and use of artificial intelligence.
Neuroscience and Neurorights How to reconcile?
Thus it is worth mentioning as a concept Neuroscience as a field of science that studies the nervous system and all its aspects; such as its structure, function, ontogenetic and phylogenetic development, biochemistry, pharmacology and pathology; and how its different elements interact, giving rise to the biological bases of cognition and behavior.
Neuroscience in the last decade has brought many important advances that may begin to affect the way our brains are used and shared, and that’s what we’re talking about when we talk about neurorights. Currently there are imaging techniques that allow very crudely to have a line of thoughts of a subject. That suggests that one could in principle look at the activity of the brain and predict more or less partially what things the person is thinking.
At the current rate of investigation, a person could be exposed to all of their thoughts and mental privacy being exposed to scrutiny by someone. There is a threat to mental privacy there, in terms of someone being able to know what I want and what I think, and it is not up to me whether the person knows.
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Another issue that comes up when we talk about neurorights has to do with the ability that neuroscience has today to intervene in the brain. In other words, I can improve the brain, and therefore I can make brains that are more capable than others, and that can generate inequality in the population, with empowered human beings, which creates a whole ethical problem. That is also part of this discussion.
The brain-machine interface, the fact that we can connect to a robot or a machine, is another point that enters into this debate. But if the machine is wrong, whose fault is it? The computer? The programmer? My brain? There are already patients in whom interventions are performed on the brain in terms of the brain-machine interface. So this is not something that is going to happen, but something that is already happening, in a rather primitive way, but it is starting to happen. There are wheelchairs that are being controlled by the head, and patients suffering from Parkinson’s that improve through direct stimulation of the spinal cord, which also computation and brain.
Technological advances, well used, are a great opportunity for development
In 2017 Rafael Yuste, director of the Center for Neurotechnology at Columbia University and who leads the BRAIN Project (Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), an American initiative that since 2013 seeks to understand the functioning of our brain’s synaptic networks, signed with 25 other leading scientists an article in Nature Magazine entitled “Four ethical priorities for neurotechnologies and Artificial Intelligence”.
Yuste, who has been one of the promoters in this matter, then became the spokesperson for a proposal that seeks to define neural data –based on the brain activity of each individual–, in order to be able to give them legal protection and incorporate them into the bill of human rights five inalienable neurorights: mental privacy, personal identity, free will, equal access and non-discrimination in access to neurotechnologies.
Vision in Chile, regarding neuroscience and Neurorights
In Chile, the emergence of this topic had an immediate echo in the scientific community, and through the Senate’s Future Challenges Commission, an interdisciplinary group of scientists is developing the proposal for our country to lead the first worldwide protection pilot Ethics and legal of neurodata. This, in order to set an example and demonstrate that it is possible to move forward to regulate its relationship with artificial intelligence, the ethical, biological impact, its relationship with the maintenance of the dignity of the person, and the challenges that arise given the implications of Know these signs.
Today around the world there are Artificial Intelligence policies, and in those policies guidelines are established to protect the data, but not to protect the mental right to have one’s brain read or not. This much more limited proposal seeks for Chile to be a pioneer in identifying the rights of people in relation to new technologies and the brain.
Legislating on issues of neuroscience and neurorights is necessary!
The neuroscientific community here is small, therefore it has the opportunity to discuss these things more efficiently than a community where there are thousands of scientists, with thousands of different perspectives. And considering that Chile is a fairly small country in terms of legislation, it can promote such a thing faster than other countries, and therefore has the opportunity to become a pioneer.
* Director of the Department of Neuroscience and researcher at the Millennium Institute of Biomedical Neuroscience (BNI), of the Faculty of Medicine of the U. de Chile
Chile could be the first country to protect neurorights by law, since in April 2021 the initiative was approved in the Senate, however it still must be approved in the Lower House for its full dispatch. Unanimously, the Senate Chamber approved the constitutional reform project that modifies article 19, number 1, of the Fundamental Charter “to protect mental integrity and indemnity in relation to the advancement of neurotechnologies.”
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In this way, Chile is only one step away from becoming the first country in the world to include neuro-rights in its Constitution.
The initiative (together with the one for the protection of neurorights and mental integrity) born in the Challenges of the Future commission and chaired by Senator Guido Girardi, is being closely watched by the international community, especially by Spain, France, the United States and United Nations. After its approval in the Senate Chamber, Girardi stated that “this project is going to be a marker worldwide and Chile is going to be the flagship, the first pilot that is going to regulate neurorights so that these technologies are for the good of humans “.
The senator also specified that “President Piñera is going to take this project to Prosur, he has already discussed it with several Latin American leaders, as well as with the president of France (Emmanuel Macron) and other European leaders. This project unites Chile, it is the example that we can have common visions and work together on the great challenges facing the country”.
Neuroscience and neurorights, much to learn!
The constitutional reform project that modifies article 19, number 1, of the Fundamental Charter “to protect mental integrity and indemnity in relation to the advancement of neurotechnologies”, indicates that “scientific and technological development will be at the service of people and will be carried out with respect to life and physical and mental activity.The law will regulate the requirements and conditions for its use in people, and must tend especially to safeguard brain activity, as well as the information coming from it “.
In this way, it can be less than the reality mentioned in many articles from the famous Singularity University about the inevitable fusion of people to technology through AI, Cloud, Virtuality among others, it is already a concrete fact and then the ethical dilemma arises. , to ask ourselves how far is the limit of humanity, what defines us as such and from where we begin to be cyborgs. The theme of several films comes drastically into our lives, the bicentennial man in full is no longer science fiction.
AFS (Sources: U.Barcelona Bioethics Magazine, LaTercera Press)