Although continued research has led to the development of various applications of Brain Computer Interface (BCI) technology and its benefits in various fields, there are a few risks associated with brain computer interface, which can be a significant limitation to technological development.
Various technological innovations being developed to merge the physical and digital worlds. However, very few technologies have managed to actually bridge the gap between the two realms. One such technological innovation is the Brain Computer Interface, a computerized system that reads the mind and converts the brain (neuron) signals into an exact output as desired by the user. Some of the most significant benefits and risks of brain computer interface are stated below:
Benefits of Brain Computer Interface
Despite BCI being in its initial stage of development, it is expected to provide several benefits to its users in various fields. Some of the major benefits of BCI are as follows:
Technology that is ‘Smart’
One of the biggest reasons why BCI is deemed as advanced technology is because it can make previously passive devices into ‘smart’ and active ones. An example of such devices is prosthetics. For instance, a prosthetics user can use this technology to hold a glass of water and drink using it just like using natural hands. Likewise, deaf and dumb people who want to communicate with each other can do so by utilizing this technology using BCI-controlled communication devices.
Telepresence is a technology that gives the ability to someone to make their presence felt, at a remote location, with the help of telerobotics. Telepresence, with the incorporation of BCI, can give military personnel the ability to keep an eye on any suspicious activity that might take place at the border. Telepresence can thus detect any suspicious activity and help combat it.
Car-related accidents are one of the most serious causes of death worldwide. A BCI-enabled car can thus prevent any such incident from occurring by recognizing what is going on in the driver’s mind and by taking the decision in just a matter of seconds. Automobile manufacturer Nissan has revealed that it is conducting research on a BCI-enabled car control system that will allow the system to slow the vehicle or turn the steering wheel 0.2 to 0.5 seconds faster than the driver himself. This technological innovation can potentially be a major breakthrough in the automobile industry.
Risks of Brain Computer Interface
The BCI system, being directly linked to the human brain, can have a negative impact on its users in case it is not utilized properly. Some of the potential risks associated with BCI are as follows:
Inaccuracy of Results
The brain is a highly complex organ. Sometimes we ourselves are unable to understand what goes on in our minds. So it is unfair to expect man-made BCI to correctly interpret all our brain signals. BCI can, sometimes, misinterpret the user’s intentions. For instance, a disabled person with a prosthetic who actually wants to raise his index finger is not correctly identified by the BCI and this might result in lifting up of the middle finger. Hence, the inaccurate result is a huge risk that is associated with the BCI technology.
Bulky Nature of the System
Since the BCI system involves the connection of several wires due to the interfacing between the brain and the computer, it can often result in an extremely uncomfortable user experience. This bulky nature of the BCI system, thereby, acts as one of the major cons of BCI technology since a lot of wiring involved could possibly put a lot of mental and physical stress on the user.
Lack of Security
Whenever you buy or subscribe to a digital product or service, you expect security to be an essential requirement. In fact, in the case of BCI technology, the security of your data cannot be guaranteed. Due to the computerized system, anyone may decode what is going on in your mind and thus invade your privacy. For instance, in the case of BCI based military application, there might be a possibility that an attacker from a rival country be able to hack into any military personnel's mind and can eventually leak all confidential information. Since the scientists have revealed that within five years attackers can potentially be able to rewrite memories in people’s mind.
BCI, being an emerging technology, can bring about a revolutionary change in different fields. For instance, in case of telepresence, the incorporation of BCI could allow humans to work in conditions that would otherwise put their health and safety in danger. This can potentially be of great help to military personnel. Similarly, the idea of BCI-enabled cars could help promote safety in the transportation sector. Even though there is a wide range of applications of brain computer interfaces and a diverse range of benefits it promises, adopters and developers of BCI should also keep in mind the risks of brain computer interfaces and act upon them accordingly to make the technology safer to adopt.