In the 1995 film Batman Forever, the Riddler used 3-D television to secretly access viewers most personal thoughts in his hunt for Batmans true identity. By 2011, the metrics company Nielsen had acquired Neurofocus and had created a consumer neuroscience division that uses integrated conscious and unconscious data to track customer decision-making habits. What was once a nefarious scheme in a Hollywood blockbuster seems poised to become a reality.
Recent announcements by Elon Musk and Facebook about brain-computer interface (BCI) technology are just the latest headlines in an ongoing science-fiction-becomes-reality story.
BCIs use brain signals to control objects in the outside world. Theyre a potentially world-changing innovation imagine being paralyzed but able to reach for something with a prosthetic arm just by thinking about it. But the revolutionary technology also raises concerns. Here at the University of Washingtons Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE) we and our colleagues are researching BCI technology and a crucial part of that includes working on issues such as neuroethics and neural security. Ethicists and engineers are working together to understand and quantify risks and develop ways to protect the public now.
All BCI technology relies on being able to collect information from a brain that a device can then use or act on in some way. There are numerous places from which signals can be recorded, as well as infinite ways the data can be analyzed, so there are many possibilities for how a BCI can be used.
Some BCI researchers zero in on one particular kind of regularly occurring brain signal that alerts us to important changes in our environment. Neuroscientists call these signals event-related potentials. In the lab, they help us identify a reaction to a stimulus.
Examples of event-related potentials (ERPs), electrical signals produced by the brain in response to a stimulus. Tamara Bonaci, CC BY-ND
In particular, we capitalize on one of these specific signals, called the P300. Its a positive peak of electricity that occurs toward the back of the head about 300 milliseconds after the stimulus is shown. The P300 alerts the rest of your brain to an oddball that stands out from the rest of whats around you.
For example, you dont stop and stare at each persons face when youre searching for your friend at the park. Instead, if we were recording your brain signals as you scanned the crowd, there would be a detectable P300 response when you saw someone who could be your friend. The P300 carries an unconscious message alerting you to something important that deserves attention. These signals are part of a still unknown brain pathway that aids in detection and focusing attention.
P300s reliably occur any time you notice something rare or disjointed, like when you find the shirt you were looking for in your closet or your car in a parking lot. Researchers can use the P300 in an experimental setting to determine what is important or relevant to you. Thats led to the creation of devices like spellers that allow paralyzed individuals to type using their thoughts, one character at a time.
It also can be used to determine what you know, in whats called a guilty knowledge test. In the lab, subjects are asked to choose an item to steal or hide, and are then shown many images repeatedly of both unrelated and related items. For instance, subjects choose between a watch and a necklace, and are then shown typical items from a jewelry box; a P300 appears when the subject is presented with the image of the item he took.
Everyones P300 is unique. In order to know what theyre looking for, researchers need training data. These are previously obtained brain signal recordings that researchers are confident contain P300s; theyre then used to calibrate the system. Since the test measures an unconscious neural signal that you dont even know you have, can you fool it? Maybe, if you know that youre being probed and what the stimuli are.
Techniques like these are still considered unreliable and unproven, and thus U.S. courts have resisted admitting P300 data as evidence.
For now, most BCI technology relies on somewhat cumbersome EEG hardware that is definitely not stealth. Mark Stone, University of Washington, CC BY-ND
Imagine that instead of using a P300 signal to solve the mystery of a stolen item in the lab, someone used this technology to extract information about what month you were born or which bank you use without your telling them. Our research group has collected data suggesting this is possible. Just using an individuals brain activity specifically, their P300 response we could determine a subjects preferences for things like favorite coffee brand or favorite sports.
But we could do it only when subject-specific training data were available. What if we could figure out someones preferences without previous knowledge of their brain signal patterns? Without the need for training, users could simply put on a device and go, skipping the step of loading a personal training profile or spending time in calibration. Research on trained and untrained devices is the subject of continuing experiments at the University of Washington and elsewhere.
Its when the technology is able to read someones mind who isnt actively cooperating that ethical issues become particularly pressing. After all, we willingly trade bits of our privacy all the time when we open our mouths to have conversations or use GPS devices that allow companies to collect data about us. But in these cases we consent to sharing whats in our minds. The difference with next-generation P300 technology under development is that the protection consent gives us may get bypassed altogether.
What if its possible to decode what youre thinking or planning without you even knowing? Will you feel violated? Will you feel a loss of control? Privacy implications may be wide-ranging. Maybe advertisers could know your preferred brands and send you personalized ads which may be convenient or creepy. Or maybe malicious entities could determine where you bank and your accounts PIN which would be alarming.
The potential ability to determine individuals preferences and personal information using their own brain signals has spawned a number of difficult but pressing questions: Should we be able to keep our neural signals private? That is, should neural security be a human right? How do we adequately protect and store all the neural data being recorded for research, and soon for leisure? How do consumers know if any protective or anonymization measures are being made with their neural data? As of now, neural data collected for commercial uses are not subject to the same legal protections covering biomedical research or health care. Should neural data be treated differently?
Neuroethicists from the UW Philosophy department discuss issues related to neural implants. Mark Stone, University of Washington, CC BY-ND
These are the kinds of conundrums that are best addressed by neural engineers and ethicists working together. Putting ethicists in labs alongside engineers as we have done at the CSNE is one way to ensure that privacy and security risks of neurotechnology, as well as other ethically important issues, are an active part of the research process instead of an afterthought. For instance, Tim Brown, an ethicist at the CSNE, is housed within a neural engineering research lab, allowing him to have daily conversations with researchers about ethical concerns. Hes also easily able to interact with and, in fact, interview research subjects about their ethical concerns about brain research.
There are important ethical and legal lessons to be drawn about technology and privacy from other areas, such as genetics and neuromarketing. But there seems to be something important and different about reading neural data. Theyre more intimately connected to the mind and who we take ourselves to be. As such, ethical issues raised by BCI demand special attention.
As we wrestle with how to address these privacy and security issues, there are two features of current P300 technology that will buy us time.
First, most commercial devices available use dry electrodes, which rely solely on skin contact to conduct electrical signals. This technology is prone to a low signal-to-noise ratio, meaning that we can extract only relatively basic forms of information from users. The brain signals we record are known to be highly variable (even for the same person) due to things like electrode movement and the constantly changing nature of brain signals themselves. Second, electrodes are not always in ideal locations to record.
All together, this inherent lack of reliability means that BCI devices are not nearly as ubiquitous today as they may be in the future. As electrode hardware and signal processing continue to improve, it will be easier to continuously use devices like these, and make it easier to extract personal information from an unknowing individual as well. The safest advice would be to not use these devices at all.
The goal should be that the ethical standards and the technology will mature together to ensure future BCI users are confident their privacy is being protected as they use these kinds of devices. Its a rare opportunity for scientists, engineers, ethicists and eventually regulators to work together to create even better products than were originally dreamed of in science fiction.
Eran Klein, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Neurology at Oregon Health and Sciences University and Affiliate Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Washington and Katherine Pratt, Ph.D. Student in Electrical Engineering, University of Washington
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Read this article:
- Neurotechnology and the Future of Hope - Robotics Tomorrow (press release) - August 25th, 2017
- Canaccord Genuity Keeps Rating And Raises Price Target On Stryker Corporation (SYK) - Modern Readers - August 25th, 2017
- Technology Key to Fighting Neurological Disease - R & D Magazine - August 25th, 2017
- Could this back-pain device end need for opioids? - The Columbus Dispatch - August 20th, 2017
- In the Future, Humans Will Use Brain to Brain Communication and Download Their Memories If Elon Musk Has His Way - Newsweek - August 14th, 2017
- Open-source Morpheo Platform to Use Artificial Intelligence to Help Diagnose Sleep Disorders - Sleep Review - August 8th, 2017
- Stryker Exceeded Analysts' Sales Estimates in 2Q17 - Market Realist - August 2nd, 2017
- Elon Musk talks of his life's 'highs' and 'lows' in a few painfully honest tweets - Mashable - July 31st, 2017
- Team Neurotechnology Innovations Translator - July 30th, 2017
- Stryker Corporation (NYSE:SYK) and Uroplasty (UPI) Financial Survey - Stock Observer - July 29th, 2017
- Tufts Hosts Engineering Conference - Tufts Now - July 28th, 2017
- Stryker reports 6.1% Q2 growth, installs 26 Mako systems: 7 things ... - Becker's Orthopedic & Spine - July 28th, 2017
- Arshya Vahabzadeh: Innovating at the Intersection of Brain, Behavior, and Technology - HuffPost - July 27th, 2017
- Capstone Asset Management Company Has Boosted By $555078 Its Raytheon Co (RTN) Holding, Stryker (SYK)'s ... - Herald KS - July 26th, 2017
- Trivascular Technologies (TRIV) & Stryker Corporation (SYK) Critical Review - Stock Observer - July 26th, 2017
- fMRI, EEG Tests May Detect Consciousness in Severe TBI Patients - PsychCentral.com - July 24th, 2017
- BRAIN center gathers to ponder future, direction - Arizona State University - July 20th, 2017
- Preserving the Right to Cognitive Liberty - Scientific American - July 19th, 2017
- Comparing Uroplasty (UPI) and Stryker Corporation (NYSE:SYK) - The Cerbat Gem - July 18th, 2017
- Insider Activity Stryker Corporation (NYSE:SYK) - Highlight Press - July 15th, 2017
- Neurotechnology: 5 braincomputer interface innovations - Red Bull - Red Bull - July 12th, 2017
- DARPA invests further in neurotechnology - SD Times - SDTimes.com - July 11th, 2017
- Infinitely Flexible 3D Printing with Ultrasonic Manipulation? - ENGINEERING.com - July 11th, 2017
- HIRREM Neurotechnology Better Than Placebo for Insomnia - Sleep Review - July 10th, 2017
- What is NIT? Neurotechnology Innovations Translator - July 5th, 2017
- Mind-blowing ultrasonic 'printer' uses lasers and high-frequency sound to assemble electronics - Digital Trends - July 1st, 2017
- Neurotechnology Explains Ultrasonic Manipulation in 3D Printing - 3DPrint.com - June 30th, 2017
- Neurotechnology Develops 3D Printing Method with Non-Contact Ultrasonic Manipulation Technology - 3DPrint.com - June 26th, 2017
- Neurotechnology makes a number of updates to the MegaMatcher product line - Biometric Update - June 23rd, 2017
- Neurotechnology adds face recognition, tracking to video surveillance systems; researchers win competition - Biometric Update - June 23rd, 2017
- SentiVeillance Server - Face Recognition and Analytics to Video Management Systems - Officer.com (press release) (registration) (blog) - June 22nd, 2017
- Brain data, neurotechnology and education | code acts in ... - June 21st, 2017
- Neurotechnology Announces SentiVeillance Server Facial Recognition Solution - findBIOMETRICS - June 21st, 2017
- New SentiVeillance Server from Neurotechnology Adds Face Recognition and Analytics to Video Management Systems - PR Newswire (press release) - June 19th, 2017
- Accuray (ARAY) versus Stryker Corporation (SYK) Head-To-Head Review - The Cerbat Gem - June 17th, 2017
- Neurotechnology Researchers Win Kaggle Competition with Deep Neural Network Solution for The Nature ... - PR Newswire (press release) - June 15th, 2017
- Neurotechnology Wins Fisheries-Focused Computer Vision ... - findBIOMETRICS - June 15th, 2017
- A Hardware Update for the Human Brain - HardOCP - June 15th, 2017
- Neurotechnology Releases MegaMatcher Accelerator Extreme, the Fastest Biometric Engine in the World - PR Newswire (press release) - June 14th, 2017
- Helping or hacking? Engineers and ethicists must work together on brain-computer interface technology - San Francisco Chronicle - June 14th, 2017
- Favorable Press Coverage Very Likely to Affect Stryker Corporation (SYK) Stock Price - Sports Perspectives - June 14th, 2017
- Neurotechnology Announces MegaMatcher Accelerator Extreme - findBIOMETRICS - June 12th, 2017
- Head to Head Analysis: Accuray (ARAY) and Stryker Corporation (SYK) - Sports Perspectives - June 12th, 2017
- Welch Capital Partners Increased By $3.59 Million Its Eqt (EQT) Position, Stryker (SYK) Sellers Decreased By 3.59 ... - UtahHerald.com - June 10th, 2017
- Comparing Accuray (ARAY) & Stryker (SYK) - The Cerbat Gem - June 9th, 2017
- Shoosmiths advises PD Neurotechnology on 1.34m (EUR) investment - Shoosmiths legal updates (press release) - June 7th, 2017
- Shoosmiths advises PD Neurotechnology on 1.34m investment - Scottish Legal News - June 7th, 2017
- Stryker (SYK) Earning Somewhat Favorable Media Coverage, Report Finds - Chaffey Breeze - June 5th, 2017
- Stryker (SYK) Receives Media Impact Score of 0.15 - Chaffey Breeze - June 3rd, 2017
- Scientists remotely move a mouse's whiskers with electrodes outside its brain - The Verge - June 1st, 2017
- The tiny cyborg dragonfly drones have taken flight - Mashable - June 1st, 2017
- Somewhat Positive Press Coverage Likely to Impact Stryker (SYK) Stock Price - The Cerbat Gem - June 1st, 2017
- Stryker (SYK) Getting Positive News Coverage, Study Shows - Chaffey Breeze - May 28th, 2017
- $20000 ONtrepreneurs Pitch Challenge Winner Announced - Canada NewsWire (press release) - May 23rd, 2017
- FAQ Neurotechnology Innovations Translator - May 13th, 2017
- Rythm Accelerates Sleep Research and Neurotechnology Efforts With a Prestigious Scientific Advisory Board and ... - PR Newswire (press release) - May 13th, 2017
- Freedom of the mind under threat with new technology - BioEdge - May 8th, 2017
- Do We Have a Right to Mental Privacy and Cognitive Liberty? - Scientific American (blog) - May 4th, 2017
- Future tech could jeopardise 'freedom of mind': experts - Outlook India - Outlook India - May 2nd, 2017
- This Is Your Brain on Business - Fortune - May 2nd, 2017
- Future tech could jeopardise 'freedom of mind', say experts - Daily News & Analysis - April 30th, 2017
- Will your computer delete your thoughts? - TRUNEWS - April 28th, 2017
- Researchers advocate neurorights to protect brain data - The Stack - April 28th, 2017
- Download - Neurotechnology - April 27th, 2017
- Rise of Neurotechnology: Defend Against Brain Hackers Before It's Too Late - Sputnik International - April 27th, 2017
- A new category of human rights: neurorights - BMC Blogs Network (blog) - April 27th, 2017
- In a neuro-techno future, human rights laws will need to be revisited - Science Daily - April 27th, 2017
- New computers could delete thoughts without your knowledge ... - The Independent - April 27th, 2017
- Stryker Co. Announces Quarterly Dividend of $0.43 (SYK) - The Cerbat Gem - April 25th, 2017
- PTSD Symptoms May Be Eased by Non-Invasive Neurotechnology - Psychiatry Advisor - April 25th, 2017
- Academia, Industry Collaborate on Solutions to Neural Disease, Injury - Texas Medical Center (press release) - April 25th, 2017
- Reduction of Post -Traumatic Stress Symptoms Associated with Non-Invasive Neurotechnology - Newswise (press release) - April 19th, 2017
- Academia, industry collaborate on solutions to neural disease, injury - Medical Xpress - April 19th, 2017
- Analyst Activity Jefferies Group LLC Reiterates Hold on Stryker (NYSE:SYK) - Market Exclusive - April 15th, 2017
- Brain, the last frontier! - Huffington Post - April 12th, 2017
- Synchron Inc. Secures $10 Million in Series A Financing Round - PR Newswire (press release) - April 7th, 2017
- Elon Musk Wants to Merge Man and MachineHere's What He'll ... - Observer - April 3rd, 2017
- How Neurotechnology Is Helping The San Francisco Giants Train Better - PSFK (subscription) - April 3rd, 2017
- Elon Musk wants to merge man and machine here's what he'll need to work out - The Conversation UK - April 2nd, 2017
- Neurotechnology releases new biometric access solutions - Planet Biometrics - March 29th, 2017