Neurotechnology and Human Rights

As we’ve written in this space in the past, the neurotechnology industry will need to be increasingly cognizant of the ethical issues surrounding neurotech devices. This issue became more pronounced this month when the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a draft resolution on neurotechnology and human rights.

The draft resolution was submitted by Greece, Chile, and Singapore and adopted without a vote. It calls on the Council to prepare a study on the impact, opportunities, and challenges of neurotechnology with regard to human rights. “Neurotechnology could be promising for human health and innovation, but, at the same time, the continued development of some of its applications may pose a number of ethical, legal and societal questions that need to be addressed,including in human rights terms,” the resolution states.

One of the leading neuroethicists monitoring ethical concerns surrounding neurotechnology is Allan McCay, from the University of Sydney Law School and Deputy Director of the Sydney Institute of Criminology. McCay recently authored a report, Neurotechnology, law and the legal profession. The report points out several issues that our society will have to confront in the years ahead. One of these is reminiscent of the digital divide equity issue we saw with the advent of the Internet. If some people in society have access to neurotech augmentation that enhances their mental capacities and others do not is that fair?

Another issue: what if a criminal defendant claims that their behavior resulting from their brain implant was hacked? Should we allow states to mandate neurotech interventions in order to reduce the tendency to reoffend, ala Clockwork Orange? And a host of workplace issues will likely emerge, even for lawyers. Will professionals be paid not by the number of billable hours but by billable “units of attention?” the author asks.

To address some of these issues, we’re pleased to report that the upcoming Neurotech Leaders Forum will feature a session devoted to neurotech privacy, security, and ethics. The November 8 session will be moderated by NBR contributing editor JoJo Platt and feature panelists Marcus Gerhardt, the CEO of BCI vendor Blackrock Neurotech, Rob Barnes from Amazon Web Services, and Anna Wexler, an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. This panel features a roundtable discussion to help investors evaluate a technology, founders to learn what’s expected, and developers to understand the considerations that need to be baked in to every device.

We hope to see many of our readers at the conference.

James Cavuoto
Editor and Publisher


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