Global Neuroethics Conference May 22-25, 2019, Banff, Alberta, Canada

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Neuro-Specific Human Rights

The volume and variety of neurotechnology applications is rapidly increasing inside and outside the clinical and research setting. The ubiquitous distribution of cheaper, scalable and easy-to-use neuroapplications has the potential of opening unprecedented opportunities at the brain-machine interface level and making neurotechnology intricately embedded in our everyday life. While this technological trend may generate immense advantage for society at large in terms of clinical benefit, prevention, self-quantification, bias-reduction, personalized technology use, marketing analysis, military dominance, national security and even judicial accuracy, yet its implications for ethics and the law remain largely unexplored. We argue that in the light of the disruptive change that neurotechnology is determining in the digital ecosystem, the normative terrain should be urgently prepared to prevent misuse or unintended negative consequences. In addition, given the fundamental character of the neurocognitive dimension, we argue that such normative response should not exclusively focus on tort law but also on foundational issues at the level of human right law.

This proposal of neuro-specific human rights in response to emerging advancements in neurotechnology is consistent with and a logical continuation of the proposal of developing genetic-specific human rights in response to advancements in genetics and genomics as set out by the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights and the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data.

The freedom of thought, freedom from slavery, torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are regarded by international human rights law as not subject to any exceptions and, therefore, as absolute rights. Absolute rights cannot be limited for any reason. No circumstance justifies a qualification or limitation of absolute rights. Absolute rights cannot be suspended or restricted, even during a declared state of emergency. The right to cognitive liberty, the right to mental privacy, the right to mental integrity, and the right to psychological continuity should also be considered as absolute rights.

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