iRights.Lab, FRIAS and ETH Zurich hold con­fer­ence on neu­rotech­nol­o­gy and brain data

The con­fer­ence “Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence, Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy and Brain Data” took place on 11th and 12th April in Freiburg. Around 40 sci­en­tists from all over Ger­many, Switzer­land and the USA attend­ed the con­fer­ence.

Among other things, it dealt with eth­i­cal and legal aspects of the newly emerg­ing mar­ket of neu­rotech­no­log­i­cal appli­ca­tions for con­sumers and the ques­tion of what exact­ly brain data actu­al­ly are and how they should be han­dled legal­ly, polit­i­cal­ly and social­ly. The event was orga­nized by the Freiburg Insti­tute for Advanced Stud­ies of the Albert-Lud­wigs-Uni­ver­si­ty, the Health Ethics & Pol­i­cy Lab of the ETH Zurich and iRights.Lab.

One of the high­light was a pub­lic panel dis­cus­sion on Thurs­day evening. Under the title “From smart­phones, fit­ness track­ers to brain data: Chal­lenges for data and con­sumer pro­tec­tion” Prof. Niko­la Biller-Andorno, Bio­med­ical Ethics at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Zurich, Prof. Ralf Jox, Neu­rol­o­gy and Med­ical Tech­nol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty Hos­pi­tal of Lau­sanne, Prof. Orsolya Friedrich, Phi­los­o­phy and Med­ical Ethics at the LMU Munich and the FU Hagen, and Philipp Otto, Direc­tor of iRights.Lab dis­cussed about the most impor­tant top­ics of this field. One aspect of the dis­cus­sion was the ques­tion of the auton­o­my of users if, for exam­ple, the analy­sis of brain data leads to a dis­crep­an­cy between self-per­cep­tion and what a cor­re­spond­ing data mea­sure­ment of an affect­ed per­sonn indi­cates. This could lead to an influ­ence on per­son­al deci­sions or to a change in cer­tain behav­iour pat­terns. In addi­tion, it can have con­sid­er­able effects on inter­per­son­al inter­ac­tions if it is no longer pos­si­ble to hide one’s own men­tal state, thoughts and emo­tions from oth­ers.

Philipp Otto called for urgent social and polit­i­cal debates on how to deal with this sen­si­tive per­son­al data. It should be clar­i­fied who decides when and how, and how cer­tain data is clas­si­fied and who may use it under which cir­cum­stances.

The final con­clu­sion of the dis­cus­sion was that the increas­ing spread of med­ical and para­med­ical appli­ca­tions and the increas­ing amount of per­son­al data in con­nec­tion with the need for pub­lic dis­course on ade­quate reg­u­la­tion, as well as the degree of respon­si­bil­i­ty of pol­i­tics, busi­ness, sci­ence and the users them­selves, are increas­ing. Above all, peo­ple should be able to under­stand and influ­ence the rela­tion­ships between what data they want to dis­close to whom and to whom they do not want to do so.

In addi­tion to the pub­lic panel dis­cus­sion, the par­tic­i­pants worked on both con­fer­ence days in three dif­fer­ent break-out groups deal­ing with ques­tions of reg­u­la­tion and data pro­tec­tion, clas­si­fi­ca­tion and def­i­n­i­tion of brain data and human rights aspects. The groups were led by Dr. Mar­cel­lo Ienca, ETH Zurich, Dr. Philipp Kellmey­er, Uni­ver­si­ty Hos­pi­tal Freiburg, and Philipp Otto, Direc­tor of iRights.Lab.

The con­fer­ence was the pre­lude to a process of broad debate on the issues raised. Togeth­er, we are now orga­niz­ing fur­ther events aimed at inves­ti­gat­ing and debat­ing the use of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and neu­rotech­no­log­i­cal data.

The results, which are com­pre­hen­sive­ly doc­u­ment­ed, will be eval­u­at­ed and fur­ther devel­oped in fur­ther work steps. At the end of the process, con­crete guide­lines will be drawn up which will rep­re­sent an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to pub­lic dis­course.

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