Guarding the Mind: The Rise of Neurorights in an Age of Advanced Neurotechnology and Law

Foysol Mahmud

Advancements in neuroscience and neurotechnology are sparking concerns about the potential manipulation of people’s thoughts, preferences, and interests. In April 2021, Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brain-machine interface company, showcased a video of a monkey playing a video game with brain implants, hinting at a future filled with possibilities.

Neurotechnology, encompassing brain activity monitoring and intervention, holds the power to transform society profoundly. In the coming years, it may enable thought decoding and direct brain-computer network connections to enhance cognitive functions, challenging our very notion of humanity.

Neurorights, a set of ethical, legal, and social principles, aim to shield the human brain and mind from the risks posed by neurotechnologies and AI-based brain data analytics methods. They emphasize protecting mental privacy, integrity, and cognitive freedom. Some states are considering integrating neurorights into their legal frameworks, yet inconsistencies persist in the philosophical, ethical, and legal underpinnings of these discussions.
Under various neurorights organizations, five core rights emerge: Personal identity, Free will, Mental privacy, Equal access, and Protection against biases.
The right to privacy, a fundamental tenet enshrined in the Constitution of Bangladesh and recognized internationally as a human right, plays a pivotal role in neurorights. It safeguards sensitive information in a person’s mind from unauthorized access, storage, use, or deletion.
The digital age has ushered in transformative technological innovations, revolutionizing our way of life. However, it has also given rise to concerns about protecting neurorights, which encompass human rights concerning the brain and nervous system.
Notably, international human rights law currently lacks explicit references to neurotechnology or AI, despite their potential to impact rights like privacy, freedom of thought, mental integrity, freedom from discrimination, and protection against self-incrimination.

Expert warnings emphasize the importance of addressing these concerns before technology matures beyond our regulatory control. The Neurorights Foundation has taken up the mantle to raise awareness and develop policies that safeguard these rights in the digital era.
Chile has taken a groundbreaking step by passing a bill to amend its constitution, establishing protections for “neurorights.” This move sets a global precedent, aiming to safeguard mental privacy, free will, and equal access to neurotechnology while granting personal brain data the same legal status as an organ.

Chile is not alone in its concerns; Spain, the United States, France, and Argentina have initiated studies on this matter. International organizations like the United Nations and the Organization of American States are also showing a strong interest.
Society must acknowledge and confront these challenges to ensure responsible and ethical technological advancements.

The writer is a 2nd year Law student at Jagannath University, Dhaka.