Login et outils

The brain-computer interface is coming and we are not ready

 — 15 septembre 2020
Brain - computer interfaces are the focus of many a research program, progressing at a steady rate. But we are not quite ready to face the ethical, legal or security issues raised by the prospect of being able to read and write brain signals.

Facebook is in fact one of at least five companies working on a non-invasive, or minimally invasive, brain-computer interface. DARPA, meanwhile, has funded six groups, mostly in academia (including one at the Applied Physics Laboratory), to develop a device capable of sensing and stimulating the brain—reading from it and writing to it—as good as instantly. All have been making slow but, by their accounts, steady progress.

Some envision a day when a device worn in a hat can understand and transmit thoughts. “Think of a universal neural interface you could put on and seamlessly interact with anything in your home environment, and it would just know what you need to do when you need to do it,” said Justin Sanchez, former director of the Biological Technologies Office at DARPA, where he oversaw the Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3) program, now life sciences technical fellow at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, one of the N3 participants.

For all its potential benefits, the potential pitfalls of Sanchez’s vision are legion. If there were devices that could measure all the neurons in a brain, they would create privacy issues that make Facebook’s current crop look trivial. Making it easy to fly a military drone via thinking might not be a welcome development in areas of the world that have experienced US military drones flown by hand. Some privileged people could use a non-invasive brain-computer interface to enhance their capabilities, exacerbating existing inequalities. Think of data security: “Whenever something is in a computer, it can be hacked—a BCI is by definition hackable,” said Marcello Ienca, a senior researcher at the Health Ethics & Policy Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Zurich. “That can reveal very sensitive information from brain signals even if [the device] is unable to read [sophisticated] thoughts.”

Then there are the legal questions: Can the cops make you wear one? What if they have a warrant to connect your brain to a computer? How about a judge? Your commanding officer? How do you keep your Google Nest from sending light bulb ads to your brain every time you think the room is too dark?

A wearable device that can decode the voice in your head is a way’s off yet, said Jack Gallant, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley and a leading expert in cognitive neuroscience. But he also said, “Science marches on. There’s no fundamental physics reason that someday we’re not going to have a non-invasive brain-machine interface. It’s just a matter of time.

“And we have to manage that eventuality.”

Mots-clés : Humanité augmentée


Laissez vous dériver… choisissez votre prochaine étape

The Intersection
Worldbuilding – Gaming and Art in the Digital Age
Et si demain, votre montre remplaçait votre psy ?
Eco-airship contract to launch 1,800 jobs in South Yorkshire
The race is on to bioengineer carbon-neutral, recyclable, biodegradable, and affordable materials
Une des plus grandes fermes verticales d'Europe ouvre ses portes au Danemark
Des scientifiques créent des bâtiments imprimés en 3D en terre
Agriculture de précision : pourquoi est-ce une fausse bonne idée ?
Qualité de vie au travail : bienvenue dans l’ère du « greatwashing »
A Google Co-Founder Is Building a Massive 400-Foot Airship for Humanitarian Missions