Companies and governments are closer than ever to introducing mind-reading technology. The problem? Our legal system is ill-equipped to handle the privacy concerns that will no doubt accompany it. Neuro-ethicist Nita Farahany joins the conversation in Fast Company.
There are a variety of reasons why mind-reading technology has captured our attention; some altruistic, some not. Regardless of the motive, the technology may be apart of our lives sooner than we think. And at the moment, there are no safeguards to our private thoughts, even the most intimate.
“There’s a significant societal interest in being able to listen to the brain activity of, say, a trucker or a pilot,” says Nita Farahany, a Duke professor and scholar in the field of bioethics. “But we need space for mental reprieve. It’s fundamental to what it means to be a human. Governments are starting to adopt broad privacy legislation, and some of that may implicate when and if companies can track this information. This is data like any other type of data, but I don’t yet see governments focusing on brain data, in particular. It’s something we need to be thinking about.”
Farahany predicts the early adopters of mind-reading tech will be in healthcare, aviation, gaming and trucking, to name a few industries. Farahany, who works as the principal investigator at Duke University’s SLAP Lab, recently ran a study to determine how sensitive people considered their brain information. “Participants treated their Social Security number or phone conversations as most sensitive,” she explains. “People don’t yet understand both what’s possible with brain technology and then the negative implications if that information was accessible by others.”
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