I’m Paula Santolaya, reporting live from SANTOLIVE in my virtual reality. Have comments, questions, or suggestions? Post them in the comments section or email me at email@example.com.
An eighteen-year-old boy was arrested in the state of Indiana for threatening his university with the publication of a video in which he was shooting students in the corridors. The video turned out to be an augmented reality game, but the police interpreted it as a mental projection of his intention to commit a real massacre. Can we imagine a society in which people are arrested just for ‘thinking’ about committing a crime?
Neuroscience, artificial intelligence and machine learning already allow scientists to penetrate the human brain through the electrical discharges generated by our neurons. There are devices capable of decoding forms, numbers or simple words and one day soon human thoughts could be read using a scanner. Currently, this technology is applied in the field of health so that people with some type of paralysis can communicate without needing to say a single word. An example of this is the iBrain system, used by the late Stephen Hawking. But, China has gone much further: the drivers of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed train wear an EEG (electroencephalography) device to monitor their brain activity while driving; and, in some factories controlled by the government, employees are required to use these sensors to observe their productivity and emotional state, so they can even get fired if their brains show any sign of stress or lack of concentration.
Humanity is heading towards a world of mental transparency in which brains, like computers, can be hacked to extract their information. Freedom of thought, one of the democratic achievements of the nineteenth-century revolutions, is now threatened by this practice that attempts not only the freedom of the people but also the right to privacy of our own mind. Therefore, it is necessary to include in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a new right that protects our thoughts.