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How could neurotechnology change the way we work?

Last week, the Law Society published a report on neurotechnology and its potential impact on the law and the legal profession. Although in its infancy, neurotechnology has been attracting an increasing amount of interest and investment in recent years and, in 2021, Chile became the first country to start implementing legislation protecting mental privacy, free will and non-discriminatio in citizen's access to neurotechnology.

So... what is neurotechnology? 

Neurotechnology is technology that monitors and records brain activity, or at least acts to influence it. It is seen as a way of effectively merging humans with artificial intelligence and is likely to appear in the form of either wearable technology (such as wristbands and headsets) or (more invasively) a digital chip implanted in the brain. Going a step further than current tech such as Fitbits and Apple Watches which can monitor our activity, neurotechnology will act to enhance our abilities and give us greater cognitive skills. For example, neurotechnology is starting to be designed with the aim of treating neurological conditions, with companies such as Neuralink already designing devices which will give individuals suffering from paraylsis an improved ability to communicate. 

Naturally, neurotechnology will present us with a number of opportunities. However, as life-changing as some of its capabilities might be, there is understandably significant concern about the issues it poses for not only mental privacy and data protection, but also individuals' human rights, particularly relating to bodily integrity, surveillance and manipulation of individual behaviour by large corporations who own such technology. 

The report highlights that it could also cause problems for equality in society, depending on who has access to neurotechnology and whether it comes at a cost. Will employers provide / pay for this technology? Will employees be expected to invest in it to enhance their own skillset and 'download' new skills and knowledge? Will it create a division in the job market between those who are neurologically enhanced and those who choose not to or cannot afford to be? 

Unsurprisingly, the report concludes that neurotechnology would have a significant impact on society, the law and the way we work. As the report makes clear, neurotechnology could greatly improve the lives of many but also facilitate ethical failures and even human rights abuses. Our current legal and regulatory frameworks are unlikely to be broad enough to capture the scope of new issues that will arise, for example from employing a neurotechnological workforce. Areas such as employment law are likely to need significant modernisation. 

Some tricky questions for the law will emerge, such as: “where do people end and the devices they use begin?”


data protection, employment, technology