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.