It’s no secret. Tech companies have amassed vast fortunes by predicting the behavior of online users using rudimentary metrics such as clicks, swipes, and taps. Today, corporate coffers are full and ready to fund research on direct measures of how you think, feel, and react when plugged into the web.
70% of all new economic value created by tech companies in this next decade will be claimed by digital platforms and services that commodify all aspects of our life, predicts the World Economic Forum. The majority of this value will be harvested from our personal data, including biometric brain data gathered through neurotechnologies.
Neurotechnologies are steadily becoming more integrated into everyday wearables (e.g. headphones, earphones). More invasive neurotechnologies that have existed for decades in a clinical capacity (for example, to treat conditions such as depression and Parkinson’s disease), are also now undergoing commercial development. Most notable of these is Elon Musk’s Neuralink and the dark horse Synchron.
Advances in neurotech are hurtling forward without taking the time to ensure adequate space for ethical discussion, particularly around privacy protection. Nevermind that our very brains are becoming public commodities. Most of us can agree that predicting and influencing user behavior with overt metrics is one thing, but taking a peek inside unsuspecting users’ heads to make a buck may be a step too far. The fight for privacy protection today, like the pioneering Chilean Neurorights Bill, is a fight for Self-Sovereign Brains in the not-too-distant future.