Products that blend machine technology with the human brain must be subjected to far more scrutiny, scientists have concluded through a study.
The research acknowledges that an element of telepathic capability could be on the horizon for humans in future, however experts say that the ability to read the thoughts of another person would present ethical issues.
The controversy of such technology would only deepen were corporations able to tap into thought-sharing. Those behind the study concluded that commercial products should not be issued by “a handful of companies.”
The study, named “iHuman: Blurring the lines between mind and machine”, brought the UK’s Royal Society’s top scientists together to assess the opportunities and risks associated with brain-to-computer devices. The innovations are typically thought of as gadgets, either integrated into the human body or worn outside of it, which trigger activity in the brain or nervous system.
The research considered some of the potentials presented by the equipment, such as
- A “neural postcard” which the user could send to another person in another location
- The ability to converse with another person using thoughts instead of speech
- The capacity to simply “download” new skills
Within the study, scientists engaged with members of the public to gauge society’s reaction to the thought of such an interface. The results showed a strong approval for the use of the devices in healthcare – the technology being used to help patients recover from injury, operation or a medical condition. Less support was shown for using the gadgets to bestow super-human strengths, such as improving the mental or physical powers of healthy people.
Within the dangers uncovered in the report were ideas around how thoughts or moods could be accessed by big companies, as well as the broader ethical conundrum concerning how the devices might change the meaning of being human.
As reported by the BBC news website, Dr Tim Constandinou, director of the next generation neural Interfaces (NGNI) at Imperial College London, and co-chair of the study, said:
“By 2040 neural interfaces are likely to be an established option to enable people to walk after paralysis and tackle treatment-resistant depression, they may even have made treating Alzheimer’s disease a reality.
“While advances like seamless brain-to-computer communication seem a much more distant possibility, we should act now to ensure our ethical and regulatory safeguards are flexible enough for any future development.
“In this way, we can guarantee these emerging technologies are implemented safely and for the benefit of humanity.”
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