Artificial Intelligence Could Hijack Brain-Computer Interfaces and Take Control of Our Minds

Brain-computer interfaces (BCI), such as those being developed by Elon Musk’s Neuralink startup, risk being hijacked by a rogue artificial intelligence, experts have warned—meaning a person’s thoughts, decisions and emotions could be manipulated against their will by AI.

The warning comes in a comment piece in the scientific journal Nature this week written by 27 neuroscientists, ethicists and machine intelligence engineers.

The researchers use the hypothetical example of a paralysed man participating in a brain-computer interface trial who doesn’t like the research team working with him. Artificial intelligence reading his thoughts could take his dislike as a command to harm the researchers, despite no direct command being given by the paralysed man.

The researchers write: “Technological developments mean that we are on a path to a world in which it will be possible to decode people’s mental processes and directly manipulate the brain mechanisms underlying their intentions, emotions and decisions; where individuals can communicate with others simply by thinking; and where powerful computational systems linked directly to people’s brains facilitate their interactions with the world such that their mental and physical abilities are greatly enhanced.”

In order to protect against this, the group of researchers say there are four ethical priorities that need to be addressed: privacy and consent, agency and identity, augmentation, and bias.

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