The Social Dangers of Brain-Controlling Technologies
Despite their apparent benefits, some people are concerned about the social dangers of brain-controlling technologies. This article highlights some of the issues surrounding this topic, including privacy concerns, commanding limbs to move, eavesdropping, and obesity.
Eavesdropping on thoughts
Using brain scanning technologies to rewrite a person’s brainwaves is not only the newest technology on the block, it also raises some very serious ethical concerns. Activists like Marcello Ienca, bioethicist at the Federal Polytechnic School of Zurich, have called for legislation requiring tech companies to disclose what they are doing with their brain enhancing devices.
Neuralink, a company helmed by Elon Musk, is working on a similar technology. Using electrodes, the company hopes to one day “link” you with a computer. While the company has been testing the technology on animals, its first human tests are scheduled for the middle of next year. If the company’s claims are true, this technology will be a boon to patients suffering from epilepsy, mental illness, and PTSD.
One of the more exciting aspects of this new technology is that it will enable researchers to accurately rewrite a person’s brainwaves without invasive surgery. This is a significant milestone for those with speech disabilities.
Commanding limbs to move
Using your mind to command your limbs is a socially destructive activity. This is a problem not confined to humans. In fact, monkeys have been known to do it. Several laboratories have been able to record signals from the cerebral cortex of a monkey. This is not to mention the fact that some monkeys have commanded a robotic arm, without ever being able to see the output.
One of the best brain-controlled robotic devices on the market, the BrainGate system by Brown University, consists of a baby aspirin sized device with a grid of 96 tiny electrodes. These electrodes measure the electrical activity of the neurons of the motor cortex. The resulting data is analyzed by the computer to determine what the animal is actually thinking about, and what the corresponding impulse is. The result is a computer program that converts this pattern into commands to operate assistive devices.
The BrainGate system has been tested in a pilot clinical trial, a sign that it’s ready for prime time. The system has also been used to control a separate robot remotely over an internet protocol.
Currently, obesity has become one of the most widespread chronic diseases in the world. It is linked to diabetes, hypertension, and depression. Obesity can also lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Obesity is characterized by lower brain volumes, a higher body mass index (BMI), and reduced cognitive function. However, more research is needed to understand the role of obesity in cognitive performance. There is also a lack of coherence between obesity measures, as well as the moderating effects of physical activity.
Obesity affects cognition differently depending on age. Midlife obesity has been linked to lower whole brain volumes and cognitive impairment. Older adults have also been found to have smaller hippocampal volumes and larger waist-to-hip ratios. Similarly, obese women have been found to have poor executive function.
Obesity may also affect academic achievement. Children with high fat levels have lower academic performance than normal-weight peers. This may be linked to lower levels of executive function and inhibitory control. It may also be due to attenuated central inflammation.
Increasingly, privacy concerns with brain-controlling technologies are being raised. This technology has the potential to be used for a variety of purposes, including medical treatment. But there are also concerns that it could cause harm.
One of the most significant concerns is that people’s brain data can be commercialized. It is one of the most sensitive forms of personal information. This means that it is important to know what is at stake. Currently, people are not aware of how much value their data has. It could be used to make novel forms of manipulation, and the potential for discrimination could be enormous.
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are emerging technologies that enable individuals to control machines with thoughts. Researchers are attempting to decipher how BCIs will affect privacy and the law.
While these devices are still in the early stages of development, many companies are investing in them. Some are hoping to implant electrodes inside the brain and link it to a computer. Others are hoping to use these technologies to detect seizures in people with epilepsy.