At Facebook’s F8 conference this spring, the social media giant announced that a future ethics board will monitor the technology that allows users to experience brain-computer interface.
A business writer with The Lincolnian Online news organization reported on the development that is aimed to prevent ethics violations, noting that plans for the board—and the technology—are in the early stages.
Would technology that enables our brains to directly communicate our thoughts into a computer aid in areas such as medicine, education and other realms? Absolutely. However, these advancements come with great ethical responsibilities. For example, will such computer technology read our minds without our permission? If the answer is yes, I can think of no greater violation of individual personhood and privacy. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it won’t impact human beings on an ethical level. As Christians, we are implored to “bring every thought captive” to Christ, and that includes how science and technology affects all of us daily.
The debate over the ethics of brain-computer interface comes on the heels of news that Facebook is working on “technology that allows users to type straight from their thoughts without having to lift a finger to work the keyboard,” the Lincolnian further reported, noting that the head of a secretive Facebook research group said that “the brain-computer interface had the capacity to revolutionize how human beings use and interact with technology.”
It may seem out of place that a seminary addresses areas of science and technology, but all good things come from God, and that includes the God-given ability to make such technological discoveries and innovations. However, all technological advances change our lives. We must always ask the important questions: How will this change our lives? What are the trade-offs? What can we do to mitigate the possible negative impacts on our citizens and our culture?
Dr. Richard Land is president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and former president (1988-2013) of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention’s official entity assigned to address social, moral and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families.