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Responsible neuroengineering: Neurotechnology and artificial intelligence (AI) can enhance our lives if it preserves our 1) privacy, 2) identity, 3) agency and 4) equality, researchers say

After hav­ing elec­trodes implant­ed in the brain to stim­u­late neur­al activ­i­ty, some peo­ple have report­ed feel­ing an altered sense of iden­ti­ty.

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Four eth­i­cal pri­or­i­ties for neu­rotech­nolo­gies and AI (Nature):

Arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and brain–computer inter­faces must respect and pre­serve people’s pri­va­cy, iden­ti­ty, agency and equal­i­ty, say Rafael Yuste, Sara Goer­ing and col­leagues.

Con­sid­er the fol­low­ing sce­nario. A paral­ysed man par­tic­i­pates in a clin­i­cal tri­al of a brain–computer inter­face (BCI). A com­put­er con­nect­ed to a chip in his brain is trained to inter­pret the neur­al activ­i­ty result­ing from his men­tal rehearsals of an action. The com­put­er gen­er­ates com­mands that move a robot­ic arm. One day, the man feels frus­trat­ed with the exper­i­men­tal team. Lat­er, his robot­ic hand crush­es a cup after tak­ing it from one of the research assis­tants, and hurts the assis­tant. Apol­o­giz­ing for what he says must have been a mal­func­tion of the device, he won­ders whether his frus­tra­tion with the team played a part.

This sce­nario is hypo­thet­i­cal. But it illus­trates some of the chal­lenges that soci­ety might be head­ing towards…It might take years or even decades until BCI and oth­er neu­rotech­nolo­gies are part of our dai­ly lives. But tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ments mean that we are on a path to a world in which it will be pos­si­ble to decode people’s men­tal process­es and direct­ly manip­u­late the brain mech­a­nisms under­ly­ing their inten­tions, emo­tions and deci­sions; where indi­vid­u­als could com­mu­ni­cate with oth­ers sim­ply by think­ing; and where pow­er­ful com­pu­ta­tion­al sys­tems linked direct­ly to people’s brains aid their inter­ac­tions with the world such that their men­tal and phys­i­cal abil­i­ties are great­ly enhanced…

Under­ly­ing many of these rec­om­men­da­tions is a call for indus­try and aca­d­e­m­ic researchers to take on the respon­si­bil­i­ties that come with devis­ing devices and sys­tems capa­ble of bring­ing such change. In doing so, they could draw on frame­works that have already been devel­oped for respon­si­ble inno­va­tion.”

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