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Brain-Computer Interfaces: Good or Evil Intentions Are Possible
From:
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Tenafly, NJ
Thursday, May 4, 2023

 
BeingWell
Published in
4 min read1 hour ago

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The BCI computer age has caught up with Hollywood’s sci-fi films, and we must face some harsh realities now before it’s too late.

Photo by David Cassolato: https://rb.gy/1juu1

The brain holds many secrets, and we have only begun to discover a small number of them, but with the advent of AI, the future holds discoveries beyond belief, or so researchers seem to think. One area of intense scrutiny is the advent of brain-computer interfaces that promise freedom from mobility, verbal, and auditory issues, as well as neurologic disorders. And, at the pace we are now gearing up for, the time between discovery and use is becoming shorter and shorter, and AI is seeing to that, too.

Medical science may be eager to utilize the new computer interfaces in neurosurgery, but one major issue must be resolved: ethics. BCIs raise a number of ethical difficulties, some of which are related to privacy, data security, autonomy, and informed consent. Researchers eager to continue on this journey of discovery and career enhancement may gloss over the issue of consent, and I’ve seen it in research where subjects are never told the unvarnished truth.

Other examples of where BCIs may stub its toe against ethical issues are if they are able to directly extract private data from the brain, such as honesty, personality traits, mental states, and interpersonal attitudes. BCIs may also pose risks such as the potential for hacking, abuse, or incorrect interpretation of the data. We’ve already seen the dangers of looming hacking in currently implanted medical devices. Any data may still have human oversight and misunderstanding, as all coders well know.

Additionally, there are BCI-related psychological and physical effects that need more research. The physical repercussions of BCIs, including potential tissue damage or other detrimental health effects, are one topic that ethicists have not thoroughly addressed. Concerns have also been raised about the psychological implications of BCIs, including possible effects on autonomy and sense of self.

Hacking is no laughing matter today, especially when it involves malware or the deliberate destruction of software or the physical units upon which they operate. We’ve all seen what happened when a computer science student wanted to illustrate how easily security could be compromised. Actually, his career turned out to be pretty good because today he’s a tenured professor at MIT.

But the human desire to beat competitors or explore new fields can, unintentionally, as it did with Morris, prove to be a grave danger to some. Wasn’t that what Gordon Moore wanted to do when he established his “law” regarding transistors? Of course, Moore wanted to make a point about the limits of transistors, and now his law is being questioned anew. New materials and new theories are gaining ground in this field, too.

The need for nanotechnology has created new technology that will leave transistors in the dust. In fact, the fields of nanotechnology and BCI are merging to provide even greater success in medicine. “This new generation of technologies will be able to communicate with the brain in ways that support contextual learning and adaptation to changing functional requirements. This applies to both invasive technologies aimed at restoring neurological function, as in the case of neural prosthesis, as well as non-invasive technologies enabled by signals such as electroencephalograph (EEG).”

A key concern in the creation and application of BCI technology has been noted as its psychological implications. The ongoing research on the psychological consequences of BCI devices has emphasized the risks associated with businesses creating technology that have the power to significantly alter a person’s life. General mental load, cognitive functions, distraction, visual fatigue, loss of attention, motivation, and comfort have all been found to have an impact on or alter the use of BCIs.

The influence of psychosocial factors on BCI performance in people with various neurological diseases has been the subject of numerous investigations. For instance, one study looked at how the psychological well-being indicators of quality of life, depression, present mood, and motivation affected BCI performance in people with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Another study looked into how different study designs led to conflicting results about the long-term effects of BCI therapy in the absence of consistent motor rehabilitation.

It’s important to note that this application of BCI technology will likely be highly contentious and present considerable ethical and legal difficulties. Additionally, such a dystopian scenario would need to be avoided due to the fact that BCI technology is still in its early stages and faces numerous practical and technical difficulties. However, it is critical to be aware of the potentially harmful applications of this technology and to guarantee that its development and implementation are carried out in a responsible and ethical manner.

There is no conclusive proof that despotic countries have manipulated their citizens via Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology. However, there are worries that governments or other organizations with authoritarian tendencies could use this technology in oppressive ways. BCI technology enables direct brain-to-computer connection, which has implications for both advantageous and disadvantageous uses.

The future is upon us, and we must maintain a strong leash on our motivation to push it ever further in development to the point where it is out of our control. It is not unthinkable that this could happen when placed in the wrong hands and used for the wrong purposes. What safeguards are present now, and are they sufficient? These are the questions we must be asking.

Website: www.drfarrell.net

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Twitter: @drpatfarrell

Attribution of this material is appreciated.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D.
Title: Licensed Psychologist
Group: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., LLC
Dateline: Tenafly, NJ United States
Cell Phone: 201-417-1827
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