Part 198- Neuralink

Part 198- Neuralink

There’s no denying the bounds of which humanity has advanced to. Beyond just cellphones and organ transplants, now, we’ve reached a level of human modification. Of being able to access human neural processing, effectively transmit and receive information from brain activity into code, and vice versa, in an attempt to change the issues we once deemed impossible, or even highly unlikely to modify so easily.

Background

First introduced in 2016/2017, the concept of Neuralink has grown significantly, growing increased funding and support over the years, eventually becoming approved for human trials in 2020, then 2023. Now, just recently, the first attempt of using Neuralink in a human patient has been carried out.

Neuralink is a new, groundbreaking neurotechnology company founded by Elon Musk, aiming to enable direct communication between the human brain and computers. In 2019, it was announced that Neuralink was working on a ‘sewing machine-like’ device that can implant thin threads into the brain. By doing so, it can wirelessly transmit detailed brain activity, allowing for communication between the brains and external technologies. The implants have a battery, processing chip, Bluetooth radio, and at least a thousand electrode contacts. These electrodes record neuron activity in the brain, and translate human thought into computer commands, and vice versa.
In a way, it’s similar to programming. Except with human activity and neural paths. The main focus of Neuralink is individuals with severe disaboilities; to help patients regain their ability to communicate and control external technologies simply using neural signals. This includes paralysis, motor disabilities, restoring sight in the blind and even sensation.

Previously only tested on animals, pigs and monkeys, Neuralink has progressed to human testing. Although there is little said so far about results, it begs the question of what legal complications these bring up, as well as what the successes of Neuralink could mean for the future of human advancement.

Legal Issues

The biggest aspect in legality with Neuralink is data protection and privacy, as well as human autonomy and control. With Neuralink, you’re giving over basic human function to someone else. A good portion of your brain activity is in the hands of someone else, someone you don’t know at all. Sure, a binding contract could be put in place to prevent any misuse of a person’s information to take place, but how good are contracts? Anyone with any access at all to this information has almost entire possession over that person, in terms of actions and thought. External parties have control over your body, can take control of your neural pathways to do things you may not want to do.

Legal contracts have to be as precise and in-depth to address all of these aspects, such as dat a protection and privacy, consent when dealing with brain-computer interfaces, liability and responsibility in case of unintended and unexpected malfunctions and consequences, as well as what human autonomy is given up in consent for doing so. Because, look at it.
Say someone does take advantage of the data entrusted with them at hand. Say they at first willingly signed the contract, knowing the consequences of breaking it, but decided to overstep that for the sakes of being a little bored. It’s not link anyone had to know, right? It’s just a little something. Besides, it’s not like it’ll hurt anyone. Maybe they’ll make the person ever so slightly wiggle their fingers. Just subconsciously. Or maybe twitch their nose ever so slightly. Or maybe perform a reflex. Say they do get away with it. after all, how would that person know? They can’t physically see who’s got access to their data at all times, and they did willingly give up some rights/human autonomy in signing this contract from their behalf. if they never get caught, who’s to say that person won’t attempt to do it again? Maybe something more drastic this time? With this, the person with access to the patient’s data will know what’s going on in their head.They can interpret thoughts into code and understand that, know what steps the patient would take, and they could prevent them from doing so. Implement new thoughts and actions instead. So there also need to be specification as to what data can be used, and when and how.

Furthermore, this can be applied vice versa. A patient with Neuralink can just as easily control a drone to kill another human being. What then? It open a whole other range of possibilities of potential crimes that can be committed. It also makes way for an extensive modification and altercation of the legal system to design new laws that can effectively punish such crimes. But until then, how would we prosecute criminals? Do we simply keep them in jail? Do we first revoke the Neuralink privileges or is there more to it? Would Neuralink also be held responsible for the crime, or is it just the person who committed it? But would Neuralink be considered as an accomplice in doing so, and would they, if they were to receive a punishment as well, then would it be to a similar to lesser extent? What if someone blames Neuralink for the crime committed. How do we know they’re lying? Or what if they blame it on someone else, saying they used Neuralink to control that person into committing a crime. What then?That aside, let’s picture a different scenario. Say Neuralink turns out to be revolutionary. Say we’ve distributed and inserted Neuralink to a wide majority of the population. In what ways would we implement the uses of Neuralink into our daily lives? Could employers make their employees use neurotechnologeis to monitor brain activity? Could employers penalize employees for lack of attention during meetings, for slacking during work or daydreaming? By doing so, would it be an act of maintaining work efficiency and results, or crossing into the personal lines of an employee’s business?

In all this, there’s also the matter of data being stolen. Just a while ago, there was major news regarding genetic testing firm 23andMe being hacked and having over 7 million people’s DNA information falling into the hands of the hackers. Given this, who’s the say the same couldn’t also happen with Neuralink? What if a hacker some how is able to manipulate Neuralink to be able to control all users, and have them commit a series of crimes or actions without their free will? Who is then the one to blame? Are the people held viable, or the company, or the hacker themselves? Furthermore, what measures are to be taken to prevent the risk of being hacked? What are the security measures, what restrictions are put on the information? Is there a limit to how much access a person has, and specifically who has access to the data information? With the advancement of Neuralink, and other possible neural technologies, we’re looking towards potentially writing up an entire new section of laws dedicated to this new technology.

Neuralink Advancements

Legality aside, Neuralink coudl be one of the biggest advancements for our future. Neuralink opens the number of possibilities to progress scientific and medical research and development, and help cure a number of conditions previously believed to be incurable. Things such as blindness, paralysis, and a number of other disabilities. We can figure out what exactly causes these conditions, and how we can create medication or even come up with cures to help solve these problems for those who are affected.

However, one of the bigger issues at play right now is the validity of Neuralink. Despite numerous logs of testing with monkeys and pigs to assure Neuralink’s functionality, there have been reports of the tests being rather rushed and hastily concluded to speed up the process. Such actions have lead to unnecessary and brutal deaths of the animals used for testing. There have also been complications with the placement of electrodes, resulting in partial paralysis, bloody diarrhea, lost fingers, and brain swelling.Given this, was it really okay to begin human trials? I feel like, even with anything in general, if we were to use something for human development and usage, we need to be extremely thorough with it and how useful it actually is. Especially since we’re working with neural technologies now, it serves as having an even greater need to take extra precautions in testing. At least it’s now being thoroughly reviewed by the FDA due to the improper use of animals during testing, but if Neuralink still can get away and proceed with more human trials with teh results hastily generated, then what would happen. Would Neuralink be shut down? Or would we be seeing Neuralink charged with the murder or harm of those who used Neuralink? Or is there a special contract signed between the two that states the patient cannot blame Neuralink ro any consequences shall they take place? Any of teh potential situations are uneasy to think about, but it just goes to show just how much the advancement of Neuralink would affect our society. If we can somehow create a way to define the loopholes and legal restrictions on neural technologies, then maybe we can start expanding Neuralink to more than just those with medical conditions.

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