The quoted sentence conveys the idea that the mind is a kind of last refuge of personal freedom and self-determination. While the body can easily be subject to domination and control by others, our mind, along with our thoughts, beliefs and convictions, are to a large extent beyond external constraint. Yet, with advances in neural engineering, brain imaging and pervasive neurotechnology, the mind might no longer be such an unassailable fortress. Today, pervasive neurotechnology applications include brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) for device control or real-time neuromonitoring, neurosensor-based vehicle operator systems, cognitive training tools, electrical and magnetic brain stimulation, wearables for mental wellbeing, and virtual reality systems. Mental decoders are capable of decoding mental states and translating them into observable outputs such as text, verbal signals or graphic images. For example, Herff and Mirkovic have independently demonstrated the effectiveness of a decoder capable of reconstructing speech from brain waves. While these advances can be greatly beneficial for individuals and society, they can also be misused and create unprecedented threats to the freedom of the mind and to the individuals' capacity to freely govern their behavior.
We claim that, similarly to the historical trajectory of the ‘genetic revolution’, the ongoing ‘neuro-revolution’ will reshape some of our ethical and legal notions. In particular, we argue that the growing sensitivity and availability of neurodevices will require in the coming years the emergence of new rights or at least the further development of traditional rights to specifically address the challenges posed by neuroscience and neurotechnology. This argument is in accordance with the observation of how human rights have historically emerged and developed in modern societies. Human rights, in fact, have always arisen as specific responses to recurrent threats to fundamental human interests (Nickel 1987), to human dignity (Habermas 2010), or to what is required by a “minimally good life” (Fagan 2005). The individual quest to exert control over one’s own neuro-cognitive dimension as well as the emergence of potential threats to basic human goods or interests posed by the misuse or inadequate application of neurotechnological devices require a reconceptualization of some traditional human rights or even the creation of new neuro-specific rights.
Our goal is to host a Global Neuroethics Conference that will educate the general populace on the current exponential growth within the fields of neuroscience and neurotechnology; while simultaneously elaborating on the need for new neuro-specific human rights. This will be a community funded event relying solely on donations, sponsorship contributions, and fundraising campaigns. Lectures will be provided by a number of very distinguished speakers who have dedicated their lives to the fields of neuroscience, neuroethics, and human rights. There will also be a segment during the conference which will allow the victims of human rights violations in the neurological field to give brief testimonials to the audience. A panel of legal experts, neuroscientists, technology developers, neuroethicists, and human rights advocates has been formed, and will continue accepting membership applications. This panel has created a rough draft of the Neuro-Specific Human Rights Bill, which will be distributed to all conference attendees. Discussion regarding the current state of the bill is highly encouraged as it will be presented to legislative assembly later in the year. All suggestions regarding any potential revisions to the bill will be acknowledged, reviewed, and deliberated by the panel. This conference will be covered by multiple media outlets, and representatives from all 4 major political parties will be invited.
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