Security in nanotech
Security is a challenge for any networked technology. However, neurotechnology raises the stakes considerably by introducing the possibility that our very thoughts might be invaded and possibly compromised. Yes it’s a scary reality we are marching toward, but does this mean that we should avoid this path entirely?
Some might argue for this extreme position, but let’s face it that isn’t really how technology and advancement actually work. We realize there’s a better way and eventually we pursue it. But also, what about all the lives that stand to be improved immeasurably by the possibilities opened up by neurotechnology?
So if we know an area of amazing advancements comes with some considerable security challenges, what can we do to face those challenges head on?
To get a sense of the importance of encryption, let’s take a quick look at the nuts and bolts of how neurotechnology actually works. First, (hopefully) you have a brain. Connected to this is a brain-computer interface which interprets your brain signals and sends commands along to some kind of device, whether that is a deluxe toaster, a device that analyzes your mental state, a prosthetic arm or perhaps even one day a robotic version of yourself.
There is a steady feed of incredibly personal data flowing from your mind to a device. OK it’s less of a big deal if someone hacks in and discovers your personal toast preferences, but I think most people would agree that data relating to your mental health, your desires and the control you exert over your body need to be seriously secure.
In recognition of these crucial considerations, Neurogress is working to set in place within its neurocontrol software a mandatory encryption of signals and the integration of state of the art anti-hacking technologies.
The peculiar challenges of brain-linked social media
But really, the issue of encryption is an obvious one. There’s a more insidious security issue to consider. Facebook recently announced that it has a department focused on integrating neurotechnology with social media. To break that down further, they are talking about introducing a means by which we can post to Facebook with nothing but our brains.
More than ever we are living in a world where our thoughts and lives are being blended with those of others. Some might greet this news with excitement while others might groan in anticipation of yet more posts about the hijinks of their sister’s cat, Mittens.
Now consider also that Facebook was in the news recently with less positive press. It had been revealed that they had recently completed an enormous social research study in which they had analyzed the mood response of users when their social media feed was adjusted.
Facebook’s explanation was that the study was a good thing because it improved their “understanding how people respond to different types of content.” The problem is that Facebook isn’t just a product. It also affects people’s lives. Transfer this tension to something as all pervasive as a brain interface and the stakes become much higher. This is an ongoing challenge that will be debated hotly as we progress further into the use of neurotechnology.
The right to switch off
Noninvasive methods of utilzing a brain-computer interface, such as the software being developed by Neurogress, are a powerful safeguard. By creating software that works through a removable device, there is far less risk to persistent violations of our right to cognitive liberty.
So the excellent news is, it looks like we can always take the device off and just go for a walk!
Neurotechnology is not without its security challenges but it’s something we are tackling head on both at a technical and societal level. Invest in the interactive mind-controlled devices of the future by buying tokens now and help to promote innovation.