Brain to brain technology (B2B), is an emerging field with the idea that in the future, humans will be able to connect their brains to those of the people around them in order to communicate more effectively – similarly to the way computers do at the moment. However, many ethical issues arise given the nature of this technology in regards to areas such as personal individuality, privacy, consent, and the responsibility of one’s actions.
Responsibility and Humanity
With the technology of brain-to-brain interface being developed, people could gain the ability to control the actions of others by simply connecting our brain with someone else. It is possible that we could operate their brain in a similar way to our own, thus being able to control them remotely. This kind of technology could be beneficial to the disabled, as it has been suggested that it would aid people that have been paralysed regain motor function, or could help the blind see the world again as visual data could be sent directly into their brain. As such a utilitarian approach is applicable as the technology has the potential to improve the lives of the majority of the population, even if there are some negative considerations. For example, it may result in deplorable consequences if one person is totally controlled by another. It is possible that they may commit a crime without realising it was not of their own volition, resulting in the prosecution of the person who committed the act instead of the actual criminal who commanded it, since there would be no evidence that would suggest they had not been acting of their own accord.
Another aspect of B2B technology is that it could theoretically bring humanity closer than it has ever been, in addition to creating the possibility for true inter-species communication. This generates numerous scientific possibilities, but it could also lead to a loss of appreciation towards our environment, where so much of your time is taken up inside an individual’s own head that it could be a struggle to function outside of it. Some companies, such as the 2045 Strategic Social Initiative, plan to take the technology significantly further in the future, with the end goal being to live as a ‘hologram-like avatar’ in a virtual community by 2045. This would mean that there would no longer be any use for an organic body, with a person’s consciousness downloaded into an artificial brain, effectively having reached cyber-immortality. This step in evolution goes against nature, as one of the driving forces in life is the event of our deaths and time running out, it is not clear what the disregard of mortality will do to the human experience, nor can it be theorised accurately. Throughout all of history the idea of attaining immortality has been the pinnacle of human achievement, so many would argue that if this was possible, then it is our responsibility to see it through for the sake of the generations beforehand that did not have this opportunity. However it can also be argued that immortality is the spawn of the egotistical nature of humans and may very well be our downfall and as our universe is governed by unwritten laws that everything has a beginning and an end, then why should we deprive ourselves of the venture of death?
Privacy and Personal Identity
The idea of a complete conjugation of your thoughts, emotions, and opinions with another person comes parallel with the loss of your own individuality. As every person has experienced a different set of events, consequently, each one of us will have a different set of ideas and opinions. These generate that feeling of uniqueness which we are familiar with throughout our lifetime. Losing that feeling might result in an unknown psychological phenomenon never formerly considered. Ownership of genuine ideas is another area of consideration. Where, for example, if one person comes up with an idea where it is immediately transferred to another person’s brain; who owns that idea? Who has the right to gain financial or social profit from the idea? On the other hand, having more than one brain concentrating on a specific set of ideas may enhance them, making brainstorming much more efficient and successful, in addition to negating communication barriers such as language. For instance, in engineering, group work is the main system in use for providing services and products in real world situations. The trade-offs between personal identity and the advantages of community thought have to be carefully evaluated when B2B technology advances, with the ethical considerations behind how personal data is protected in an environment where everything is geared towards global communication. This is particularly prevalent given the possible economic benefits of such a system which will drive the technology forward without much regard to possible side effects, in an attempt to get the products on the market as soon as possible.
B2B technology also has major implications regarding privacy and consent. In the event of individuals or corporations being able to send or receive data from a variety of sources without necessarily knowing that the data has been exchanged, rather than being an individual thought; it could breach many ethical codes. For example, a recent experiment allowed one person to control the muscle movements of another without the recipient being aware they were being controlled by another person, they were only aware of their hand moving. This could be applied to advertising, a company could trigger a thought or stimulus making a consumer think about, or subconsciously want, a specific product. As such, there would need to be a strict consent system that would prevent individuals from receiving information without the knowledge that it was being sent from an outside source. However, such issues arose when computer technology was being improved with the invention of the internet, and for the vast majority of users, the current system of consent with regard to the sharing of information is acceptable.