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  • In the months following the 2009 presidential election in Iran,

  • protests erupted across the country.

  • The Iranian government violently suppressed

  • what came to be known as the Iranian Green Movement,

  • even blocking mobile signals

  • to cut off communication between the protesters.

  • My parents, who emigrated to the United States in the late 1960s,

  • spend substantial time there,

  • where all of my large, extended family live.

  • When I would call my family in Tehran

  • during some of the most violent crackdowns of the protest,

  • none of them dared discuss with me what was happening.

  • They or I knew to quickly steer the conversation to other topics.

  • All of us understood what the consequences could be

  • of a perceived dissident action.

  • But I still wish I could have known what they were thinking

  • or what they were feeling.

  • What if I could have?

  • Or more frighteningly,

  • what if the Iranian government could have?

  • Would they have arrested them based on what their brains revealed?

  • That day may be closer than you think.

  • With our growing capabilities in neuroscience, artificial intelligence

  • and machine learning,

  • we may soon know a lot more of what's happening in the human brain.

  • As a bioethicist, a lawyer, a philosopher

  • and an Iranian-American,

  • I'm deeply concerned about what this means for our freedoms

  • and what kinds of protections we need.

  • I believe we need a right to cognitive liberty,

  • as a human right that needs to be protected.

  • If not, our freedom of thought,

  • access and control over our own brains

  • and our mental privacy will be threatened.

  • Consider this:

  • the average person thinks thousands of thoughts each day.

  • As a thought takes form,

  • like a math calculation or a number, a word,

  • neurons are interacting in the brain,

  • creating a miniscule electrical discharge.

  • When you have a dominant mental state, like relaxation,

  • hundreds and thousands of neurons are firing in the brain,

  • creating concurrent electrical discharges in characteristic patterns

  • that can be measured with electroencephalography, or EEG.

  • In fact, that's what you're seeing right now.

  • You're seeing my brain activity that was recorded in real time

  • with a simple device that was worn on my head.

  • What you're seeing is my brain activity when I was relaxed and curious.

  • To share this information with you,

  • I wore one of the early consumer-based EEG devices

  • like this one,

  • which recorded the electrical activity in my brain in real time.

  • It's not unlike the fitness trackers that some of you may be wearing

  • to measure your heart rate or the steps that you've taken,

  • or even your sleep activity.

  • It's hardly the most sophisticated neuroimaging technique on the market.

  • But it's already the most portable

  • and the most likely to impact our everyday lives.

  • This is extraordinary.

  • Through a simple, wearable device,

  • we can literally see inside the human brain

  • and learn aspects of our mental landscape without ever uttering a word.

  • While we can't reliably decode complex thoughts just yet,

  • we can already gauge a person's mood,

  • and with the help of artificial intelligence,

  • we can even decode some single-digit numbers

  • or shapes or simple words that a person is thinking

  • or hearing, or seeing.

  • Despite some inherent limitations in EEG,

  • I think it's safe to say that with our advances in technology,

  • more and more of what's happening in the human brain

  • can and will be decoded over time.

  • Already, using one of these devices,

  • an epileptic can know they're going to have an epileptic seizure

  • before it happens.

  • A paraplegic can type on a computer with their thoughts alone.

  • A US-based company has developed a technology to embed these sensors

  • into the headrest of automobilies

  • so they can track driver concentration,

  • distraction and cognitive load while driving.

  • Nissan, insurance companies and AAA have all taken note.

  • You could even watch this choose-your-own-adventure movie

  • "The Moment," which, with an EEG headset,

  • changes the movie based on your brain-based reactions,

  • giving you a different ending every time your attention wanes.

  • This may all sound great,

  • and as a bioethicist,

  • I am a huge proponent of empowering people

  • to take charge of their own health and well-being

  • by giving them access to information about themselves,

  • including this incredible new brain-decoding technology.

  • But I worry.

  • I worry that we will voluntarily or involuntarily give up

  • our last bastion of freedom, our mental privacy.

  • That we will trade our brain activity

  • for rebates or discounts on insurance,

  • or free access to social-media accounts ...

  • or even to keep our jobs.

  • In fact, in China,

  • the train drivers on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail,

  • the busiest of its kind in the world,

  • are required to wear EEG devices

  • to monitor their brain activity while driving.

  • According to some news sources,

  • in government-run factories in China,

  • the workers are required to wear EEG sensors to monitor their productivity

  • and their emotional state at work.

  • Workers are even sent home

  • if their brains show less-than-stellar concentration on their jobs,

  • or emotional agitation.

  • It's not going to happen tomorrow,

  • but we're headed to a world of brain transparency.

  • And I don't think people understand that that could change everything.

  • Everything from our definitions of data privacy to our laws,

  • to our ideas about freedom.

  • In fact, in my lab at Duke University,

  • we recently conducted a nationwide study in the United States

  • to see if people appreciated

  • the sensitivity of their brain information.

  • We asked people to rate their perceived sensitivity

  • of 33 different kinds of information,

  • from their social security numbers

  • to the content of their phone conversations,

  • their relationship history,

  • their emotions, their anxiety,

  • the mental images in their mind

  • and the thoughts in their mind.

  • Shockingly, people rated their social security number as far more sensitive

  • than any other kind of information,

  • including their brain data.

  • I think this is because people don't yet understand

  • or believe the implications of this new brain-decoding technology.

  • After all, if we can know the inner workings of the human brain,

  • our social security numbers are the least of our worries.

  • (Laughter)

  • Think about it.

  • In a world of total brain transparency,

  • who would dare have a politically dissident thought?

  • Or a creative one?

  • I worry that people will self-censor

  • in fear of being ostracized by society,

  • or that people will lose their jobs because of their waning attention

  • or emotional instability,

  • or because they're contemplating collective action against their employers.

  • That coming out will no longer be an option,

  • because people's brains will long ago have revealed their sexual orientation,

  • their political ideology

  • or their religious preferences,

  • well before they were ready to consciously share that information

  • with other people.

  • I worry about the ability of our laws to keep up with technological change.

  • Take the First Amendment of the US Constitution,

  • which protects freedom of speech.

  • Does it also protect freedom of thought?

  • And if so, does that mean that we're free to alter our thoughts however we want?

  • Or can the government or society tell us what we can do with our own brains?

  • Can the NSA spy on our brains using these new mobile devices?

  • Can the companies that collect the brain data through their applications

  • sell this information to third parties?

  • Right now, no laws prevent them from doing so.

  • It could be even more problematic

  • in countries that don't share the same freedoms

  • enjoyed by people in the United States.

  • What would've happened during the Iranian Green Movement

  • if the government had been monitoring my family's brain activity,

  • and had believed them to be sympathetic to the protesters?

  • Is it so far-fetched to imagine a society

  • in which people are arrested based on their thoughts

  • of committing a crime,

  • like in the science-fiction dystopian society in "Minority Report."

  • Already, in the United States, in Indiana,

  • an 18-year-old was charged with attempting to intimidate his school

  • by posting a video of himself shooting people in the hallways ...

  • Except the people were zombies

  • and the video was of him playing an augmented-reality video game,

  • all interpreted to be a mental projection of his subjective intent.

  • This is exactly why our brains need special protection.

  • If our brains are just as subject to data tracking and aggregation

  • as our financial records and transactions,

  • if our brains can be hacked and tracked like our online activities,

  • our mobile phones and applications,

  • then we're on the brink of a dangerous threat to our collective humanity.

  • Before you panic,

  • I believe that there are solutions to these concerns,

  • but we have to start by focusing on the right things.

  • When it comes to privacy protections in general,

  • I think we're fighting a losing battle

  • by trying to restrict the flow of information.

  • Instead, we should be focusing on securing rights and remedies

  • against the misuse of our information.

  • If people had the right to decide how their information was shared,

  • and more importantly, have legal redress

  • if their information was misused against them,

  • say to discriminate against them in an employment setting

  • or in health care or education,

  • this would go a long way to build trust.

  • In fact, in some instances,

  • we want to be sharing more of our personal information.

  • Studying aggregated information can tell us so much

  • about our health and our well-being,

  • but to be able to safely share our information,

  • we need special protections for mental privacy.

  • This is why we need a right to cognitive liberty.

  • This right would secure for us our freedom of thought and rumination,

  • our freedom of self-determination,

  • and it would insure that we have the right to consent to or refuse

  • access and alteration of our brains by others.

  • This right could be recognized

  • as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

  • which has established mechanisms

  • for the enforcement of these kinds of social rights.

  • During the Iranian Green Movement,

  • the protesters used the internet and good old-fashioned word of mouth

  • to coordinate their marches.

  • And some of the most oppressive restrictions in Iran

  • were lifted as a result.

  • But what if the Iranian government had used brain surveillance

  • to detect and prevent the protest?

  • Would the world have ever heard the protesters' cries?

  • The time has come for us to call for a cognitive liberty revolution.

  • To make sure that we responsibly advance technology

  • that could enable us to embrace the future

  • while fiercely protecting all of us from any person, company or government

  • that attempts to unlawfully access or alter our innermost lives.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

In the months following the 2009 presidential election in Iran,

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    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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