BRAIN COMPUTER INTERFACE COMPANIES OPPOSE GOVERNMENT “OVERREGULATION”
Yes, the brain implant industry is growing.
And during a conference this past week hosted by the U.S. Commerce Department, industry execs pleaded for the government not to “overregulate” firms working on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs).
Specifically, reps pleaded to be allowed to source microchips from Chinese manufacturers, according to The Los Angeles Times.
BCIs are dual-use technologies, which have both civilian and military uses.
Consequently, they come under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Industry and Standards of the Department of Commerce and may eventually be subject to export restrictions, the LA Times noted.
Military uses of BCIs being explored by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) include enabling soldiers to operate weapons with their thoughts, and more.
The Biden administration, which initially relaxed Trump era restrictions on some Chinese tech companies, has since turned around and restricted use of Chinese microchips, while trying to subsidize more American production, via the “Inflation Reduction Act” of 2022.
BCI companies at last week’s conference, including Elon Musk’s Neuralink Inc., Blackrock Neurotech of Salt Lake City, and others, generally expressed concerns about what they called government interference that might hinder the industry.
They said that the technology had important therapeutic uses in aiding patients with blindness and other maladies, and also attested that military applications remain relatively far-off use cases, given the current state of the technologies involved.
But the LA Times story noted that government officials including Assistant Secretary for Export Administration Thea Kendler have said the technology is sensitive enough already to warrant restrictions.
“An outright condemnation of export controls is not tenable given the potential for the technology’s nefarious uses,” Kendler commented in May 2022 concerning BCI technologies.
BCI Innovation and Potential Abuse
This past December, Elon Musk said his company’s Neuralink brain interface would be ready to test in patients within six months.
Another major BCI innovator, Synchron, has a BCI that it has been testing in patient candidates with conditions including ALS.
According to euronews.com, the initial patients to try Synchron’s brain-computer interface in 2022 both suffer from ALS.
“This is a new horizon. It really is,” Philip O’Keeffe, one of the patients said in an interview. “Having a direct link between your brain and your computer, it’s just another step down the path of human evolution.”
A 2022 report from global cyber security NCC Group warned that though BCIs presented positives, they might also be exploited because of security vulnerabilities that allowed an especially intrusive and dangerous kind of hacking. The group also mentioned surveillance issues.
The NCC Group report said:
“Whereas a user of a PC may lose data or the use of their device, the costs of having an implanted BCI hacked are much greater. If a malicious actor were to gain access to a user’s BCI, it could lead to paralyzation, severe brain damage or even potentially a loss of life.”