hacking the brainThe past several years has seen a new emphasis on medical and scientific research delving into how our minds work. As we learn more about the brain and become adept at translating the electrical impulses that characterize thought patterns, we will see more and more interfaces that use thought to manipulate computers and machines. This past year has seen remarkable strides in systems that allow paraplegics to regain control of their limbs by harnessing neurological impulses.

In the near future, we are going to have to address consequences of this technological advancement that are just coming to light. An article by Marcello Ienca and Roberto Andorno in the journal Life Sciences, Society and Policy (via Kurzweilia.net)  foresees that we will acquire the ability to not only read minds and see what others are thinking, but also manipulate thoughts and delete memories. That has serious privacy implications. The article anticipates the need for new human rights laws that would offer some protection against such practices. I’m sure we will develop technological solutions as well.

We are at the beginning of a significant transformation in technology and society. It’s a good thing that we’re imagining some of the possible consequences.


Rapid advancements in human neuroscience and neurotechnology open unprecedented possibilities for accessing, collecting, sharing and manipulating information from the human brain. Such applications raise important challenges to human rights principles that need to be addressed to prevent unintended consequences. This paper assesses the implications of emerging neurotechnology applications in the context of the human rights framework and suggests that existing human rights may not be sufficient to respond to these emerging issues. After analyzing the relationship between neuroscience and human rights, we identify four new rights that may become of great relevance in the coming decades: the right to cognitive liberty, the right to mental privacy, the right to mental integrity, and the right to psychological continuity.