The United Nations (UN) has warned about the potential dangers of implanting artificial intelligence (AI) chips in the brain, saying that it could threaten mental privacy.
UNESCO, the UN’s agency for science and culture, has started developing a global ‘ethical framework’ to address human rights concerns posed by neurotechnology, it said at a recent conference in Paris.
‘Potentially harmful’ advances in neurotechnology, could allow AI to infringe on private, human thoughts through brain implants and scans, according to Agence France-Presse.
‘The development of neurotechnology is raising a number of ethical concerns,’ Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO, told AFP.
‘We need to ensure that this technology is used in a way that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms.’
Neurotechnology refers to technology that is used to connect electronic devices to the nervous system. It’s currently being applied to treat neurological disorders and restore movement, communication, vision or hearing.
Unlike other technologies, neurotechnology can directly access and manipulate the structure of the brain, which affects human identity, freedom of thought, autonomy, privacy and well-being.
The increasing possibilities to modify the brain, and consequently the mind, in an invasive and pervasive way has prompted the global agency to think about new ‘neuro-specific human rights’ to protect our mental privacy.
Recently neurotechnology has been supercharged by AI algorithms which can process and learn from data in ways never before possible, said Mariagrazia Squicciarini, a UNESCO economist specialising in AI.
‘It’s like putting neurotech on steroids,’ she said.
UNESCO cited cases like Hannah Galvin, a woman with epilepsy who had a neurotech device installed in her brain to detect seizures and notify patients of when to lie down.
The device ultimately made life worse for Galvin who said she ‘felt like there was someone in my head’ and ultimately had it removed.
While the technology can be used to help paralysed people walk, with artificial intelligence enhancing the neurotech field, experts are urging caution.
A UN report from last year discussing the ethical issues of neurotechnology specifically warned about the use of AI chips to monitor and control people’s thoughts and emotions.
It also raised concerns about the potential for AI chips to be used to manipulate people’s behaviour.
Governments around the world are considering how to mitigate the dangers of emerging AI technology, which could reshape the global economy and change the international security landscape.
The United Nations Security Council will hold its first formal discussion on artificial intelligence (AI) this week in New York.