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Report sounds alarm over brain-reading technology and neurocapitalism

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“Your brain, the final privacy frontier, may not be private much longer.”

Vox report that swiftly sparked alarm across the internet Friday outlined how, “in the era of neurocapitalism, your brain needs new rights,” following recent revelations that Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink are developing technologies to read people’s minds.

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As Vox‘s Sigal Samuel reported:

Mark Zuckerberg’s company is funding research on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that can pick up thoughts directly from your neurons and translate them into words. The researchers say they’ve already built an algorithm that can decode words from brain activity in real time.

And Musk’s company has created flexible “threads” that can be implanted into a brain and could one day allow you to control your smartphone or computer with just your thoughts. Musk wants to start testing in humans by the end of next year.

Considering those and other companies’ advances and ambitions, Samuel warned that “your brain, the final privacy frontier, may not be private much longer” and laid out how existing laws are not equipped to handle how these emerging technologies could “interfere with rights that are so basic that we may not even think of them as rights, like our ability to determine where our selves end and machines begin.”

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Samuel interviewed neuroethicist Marcello Ienca, a researcher at ETH Zurich who published a paper in 2017 detailing four human rights for the neurotechnology age that he believes need to be protected by law. Ienca told Samuel, “I’m very concerned about the commercialization of brain data in the consumer market.”

“And I’m not talking about a farfetched future. We already have consumer neurotech, with people trading their brain data for services from private companies,” he said, pointing to video gamesthat use brain activity and wearable devices that monitor human activities such as sleep. “I’m tempted to call it neurocapitalism.”

The Vox report broke down the four rights that, according to Ienca, policymakers need to urgently safeguard with new legislation:

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  1. The right to cognitive liberty: You should have the right to freely decide you want to use a given neurotechnology or to refuse it.
  2. The right to mental privacy: You should have the right to seclude your brain data or to publicly share it.
  3. The right to mental integrity: You should have the right not to be harmed physically or psychologically by neurotechnology.
  4. The right to psychological continuity: You should have the right to be protected from alterations to your sense of self that you did not authorize.

“Brain data is the ultimate refuge of privacy. When that goes, everything goes,” Ienca said. “And once brain data is collected on a large scale, it’s going to be very hard to reverse the process.”

Samuel’s report generated concerned commentary on Twitter, with readers calling the piece “the scariest thing you’ll read all day” and declaring, “I do not want to live in this future.”

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Tech reporter Benjamin Powers tweeted, “So how long until this is co-opted for national security purposes?”

Ienca, in his interview with Samuel, noted that the Defense Department’s advanced research agency is assessing how neurotechnologies could be used on soldiers. As he explained, “there is already military-funded research to see if we can monitor decreases in attention levels and concentration, with hybrid BCIs that can ‘read’ deficits in attention levels and ‘write’ to the brain to increase alertness through neuromodulation. There are DARPA-funded projects that attempt to do so.”

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Such technologies raise concerns about abuse not only by governments but also by corporations.

Journalist Noah Kulwin compared brain-reading tech to self-driving cars, suggesting that the former “can’t possibly work as presently marketed,” and given that governments aren’t prepared with human rights protections, companies will be empowered to “do a bunch of unregulated experimentation.”

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Trump attorney Sekulow’s impeachment defense of Trump blown out of the water with Lindsey Graham statement

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On Saturday, one of the biggest opening arguments made by President Donald Trump's legal team at the impeachment trial was that there was, in fact, a risk that Ukraine had meddled in U.S. elections.

"Mr. Schiff and his colleagues repeatedly told you that the intelligence community assessment that Russia was acting alone, responsible for the election interference, implying this somehow debunked the idea there might be in — you know, interference from other countries, including Ukraine," said Trump counsel Jay Sekulow. "This is basically what we call a straw man argument."

But MSNBC's Brian Williams knocked down this defense with a clip from none other than one of President Donald Trump's biggest allies: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

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So much for ‘originalism’ — Trump’s impeachment defense is a constitutional dumpster fire

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In the absence of any exculpatory evidence, Donald Trump's defense against impeachment increasingly relies on arguments that fly directly in the face of the Constitution. Trump himself set the standard last July with his grandiose claim that "Article II says I can do anything I want," which encountered no serious pushback from his fellow Republicans.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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Trump lawyer Purpura busted by MSNBC for lying on the Senate floor during impeachment trial

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Moments after the end of the Saturday's Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump concluded, MSNBC host Brian Williams pointed out that one of Donald Trump's attorney's lied on the Senate floor about the president's Ukraine scandal-- and he had a clip handy to prove it.

Sharing footage of attorney Mike Purpura stating the higher-ups in Ukraine were unaware that Donald Trump was withholding aid until after the government helped him by announcing an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, the MSNBC host called the attorney out.

To make his point that Pupura was being untruthful, Williams then showed a clip of Defense Department official Laura Cooper, who testified that Ukrainians were asking about the delay on the day of the Trump phone call that was the starting point of the impeachment trial.

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