February 10, 2007
In case you needed any more evidence that science and technology are racing ahead faster than our ability to understand the implications and prepare for responsible governance, read this:
A team of world-leading neuroscientists has developed a powerful technique that allows them to look deep inside a person’s brain and read their intentions before they act.The research breaks controversial new ground in scientists’ ability to probe people’s minds and eavesdrop on their thoughts, and raises serious ethical issues over how brain-reading technology may be used in the future.
The team used high-resolution brain scans to identify patterns of activity before translating them into meaningful thoughts, revealing what a person planned to do in the near future. It is the first time scientists have succeeded in reading intentions in this way.
Whether it is neuroscience, genetic engineering, or nanotechnology, it is clear that a great deal more emphasis should be placed on studying the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of these emerging technologies.
We’re not advocating to slow down the technical track — that would be nearly impossible, and unwise to boot — but governments, corporate groups, and international issue organizations must prioritize and amply budget for serious applied studies of risks, benefits, and potential regulatory strategies.