Questions Christians Need to Ask Before Using Brain-Computer Interfaces

BCIs could help reverse devastating medical conditions but could also change what it means to be human.

by Patricia Engler on November 25, 2022
Featured in Answers in Depth
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“Mind-reading” used to be a figure of speech. The brain was the inner sanctum of privacy, agency, and autonomy. Telepathy existed only in fiction. But not anymore. The dawning epoch of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) has researchers calling for “Brave new rights for a brave new world.”1 With the integrity of our minds—if not the core aspects of our humanity—in the balance, everyday Christians need to carefully consider how to navigate the ethical world of BCIs.

With the integrity of our minds—if not the core aspects of our humanity—in the balance, everyday Christians need to carefully consider how to navigate the ethical world of BCIs.

Let’s investigate what BCIs entail, how these technologies are being pursued, and how a biblical worldview can inform our thinking about them. From this foundation of God’s Word, we can then identify key questions that will help guide a biblical, informed response to BCI technologies as they emerge.

A World of Possibilities

For starters, we must understand the technology itself. BCIs are systems where a machine records an organism’s neural activity as input for a computer program—or vice versa, where a computer inputs signals directly into a brain. BCI devices may be invasive, requiring surgical implants, or non-invasive, touching only the scalp. Either way, BCIs grant unprecedented access to brains in ways which pack incredible potential both for benefit and peril.

Medically, the benefits are astounding. BCIs let paralyzed individuals accomplish anything from controlling computers to maneuvering wheelchairs to manipulating prostheses, simply by thinking.2 Powers of vision,3 hearing,4 communication,5 and mobility can be restored. Seniors may attain more independent living by tackling physically difficult tasks with their minds.6

Then again, many BCIs have nothing to do with medicine. Whether gamers neurologically interacting with virtual worlds,7 soldiers mentally piloting drones,8 or families mind-controlling “smart” appliances in their homes,9 countless BCI applications reach far beyond the therapeutic. Even simple entertainment may incorporate BCIs, such as headphones which select songs according to users’ mental states.10

But why stop with linking brains to machines? BCI technology also enables brain-to-brain interfaces (BTBIs). In an early demonstration, one person’s thinking triggered another person’s hand movement.11 Humans can already link brains to communicate, collaborate, and problem-solve wordlessly.12 BTBIs can even cross species boundaries, allowing researchers to mentally move the tail of a rat,13 guide rodents through mazes,14 and control cockroach locomotion.15 In the words of one research team, “With the technology of BMI,16 animals’ locomotion behavior can be precisely controlled as robots.”17 BTBIs may also someday feed mental information from animals to humans, for instance, by allowing first responders to connect their brains with a dog’s sense of smell.18

With a little genetic engineering, even more precise control over individual neurons is possible, thanks to a BCI technology called optogenetics. Optogenetics uses a gene editing system such as CRISPR-Cas 9 to make specific neurons express a light-sensitive protein, so that those neurons can be activated (or silenced) on demand when hit with certain colors of light.19 Through optogenetics, the non-profit engineering firm Draper transformed live dragonflies into remote-controllable “drones” capable of surveillance.20 While optogenetics could be used to treat a wide range of human neurological illnesses, it also raises multiple ethical questions.21

Optogenetics further enables extremely detailed mapping of the brain, which again poses incredible potential both for better and for worse.22 On the bright side, knowing how individual neurons work in the human brain would unlock an enormous knowledge base for treating neural diseases. On a darker note, such knowledge would also unlock the potential for monitoring, mining, and manipulating brains like never before.23 As neuroscientist Rafael Yuste of Columbia University remarked about his research with freshwater invertebrates known as hydras,

In a way, you could argue that we’re trying to read the hydra’s mind because we can measure the activity of every neuron in [a] hydra while the hydra is behaving. . . . Can we input thoughts into a hydra; can we write the patterns of activity and change the behavior of the animal? We’re trying to do this in hydra[s] and we’re trying to do this in mice. We can imagine that you could do this with humans in the future.24,25

Pursuing the Future

Given the incredible prospects in reach, the dark side of brain-mapping and BCIs hasn’t deterred major stakeholders from pursuing these technologies—hard. In 2013, for instance, the US government launched the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative,26 which involves “accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies” associated with “revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain.”27,28 Then in 2016, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced their Neural Engineering Design System program, which “aims to develop an implantable neural interface able to provide unprecedented signal resolution and data-transfer bandwidth between the human brain and the digital world.”29 The same year, Elon Musk and cofounders unveiled their corporation, Neuralink. According to Neuralink’s website,

We’re aiming to design a fully implantable, cosmetically invisible brain-computer interface to let you control a computer or mobile device anywhere you go. Micron-scale threads would be inserted into areas of the brain that control movement. Each thread contains many electrodes and connects them to an implant called the “Link.”30

Given that the implant can apparently not only record neural activity, but also directly stimulate31 the brain via 1024 electrodes, it would not necessarily be propagandistic to compare the device’s threads to over a thousand potential puppet strings attached to individual neural regions. In fairness, the website says, “Neuralink is currently focused on developing medical devices.” 32 But the paragraph continues,

We expect that as our devices continue to scale, and as we learn to communicate with more areas of the brain, we will discover new, non-medical applications for our BCIs. Neuralink’s long-term vision is to create BCIs that are sufficiently safe and powerful that the general population would want to have them.33

Neuralink isn’t alone in pursuing non-medical BCIs for the general public. Social media corporations, for instance, have been increasingly investing in BCI technologies as preparation for the “metaverse”34—the sphere of virtual and augmented reality which, according to the social media company Meta, “will transform the way we live, work, and play.”35 Meanwhile, entrepreneur Bryan Johnson invested $100M to launch a BCI development corporation named Kernel, stating, “In building Kernel, my objective is to radically improve humans in every imaginable and unimaginable way.”36

All these initiatives are part of the larger transformation which Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum (WEF) calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution, commenting, “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”37 Presumably referring to such changes, WEF conference speaker Professor Yuval Noah Harari—who has authored a book claiming that technology will eventually make humans “like God”38—commented in a videotaped interview,

The big story of our era is the ability to hack human beings. And by this, I mean that, if you have enough data and you have enough computing power, you can understand people better than they understand themselves. And then you can manipulate them in ways which were previously impossible. And in such a situation the old democratic system stop[s] functioning. We need to reinvent democracy for this new era in which humans are now hackable animals.39 You know the whole idea that humans have this soul or spirit, and they have free will . . . that’s over.40

As intimidating as these statements may sound, God’s Word assures us they’re not entirely true. For starters, the reality that humans’ material brains can now potentially be externally controlled is irrelevant to the question of whether humans possess immaterial souls. Even more important is the fact that our loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God has—and always will have—total free will, total control, and total sovereignty. As the history of Babel in Genesis 11 reminds us, God does not allow humanity’s ambitious schemes to flourish apart from his purposes. Meanwhile, civilization will not benefit from Christians reacting to the prospects of technological revolution with panic, fear, and unsubstantiated rumor mongering41 rather than responding with “power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Enacting this proper response requires starting from the proper foundation: God’s Word.

A Biblical Perspective

How can Christians respond to BCIs from the foundation of Scripture? While the Bible doesn’t talk about modern technologies directly, a biblical worldview does provide clear paradigms and principles to guide our thinking about BCIs.

While the Bible doesn’t talk about modern technologies directly, a biblical worldview does provide clear paradigms and principles to guide our thinking about BCIs.

For starters, Genesis affirms that God created us in his image, distinguishing us from animals and enabling us to relate with God and with each other in a unique way. Many of the capacities that express our nature as image-bearers—including our faculties for knowledge, logic, self-awareness, language, emotions, and relationships—are associated with the immaterial, immortal elements of ourselves.42 They’re aspects of the “inner persons” who make us, us. These immaterial traits transcend our material brains. Yet, reflecting another biblical principle that God created humans as embodied beings, many expressions of our non-physical aspects correlate to physical processes that happen in our brains.

In other words, while we are in our earthly bodies, our brains provide the physical scaffolding for many of the activities which reflect our spiritual nature as image-bearers.43 Nothing that happens to our brains can change our image-bearing nature; physical events can only affect our earthly ability to express certain capacities associated with this nature. Even so, the fact that God provided our brains as material scaffolds for expressing our immaterial nature suggests that the human brain occupies a place of sanctity, deserving extreme respect and care. We must therefore exercise profound responsibility when dealing with technologies that may directly involve—or interfere with—the brain.

Genesis reveals that one way we’re called to express our faculties as image-bearers is to care for creation, which God placed under human dominion (Genesis 1:28 and 2:5–15). While exercising this dominion, we can apply our creativity as image-bearers to develop thoughtful technologies—an action made possible because God created an orderly universe conducive to scientific inquiry. However, the first chapters of Genesis also remind us that this orderly universe features distinct boundaries. These include boundaries between humans and animals, between life and non-life, and between different kinds of living things—boundaries which reveal that we are not evolving, nor were we meant to “evolve,” into something other than humans. But the ultimate boundary exists between creature and Creator. We are not God. For all these reasons, we must not apply our God-given creativity in ways that may overstep proper dominion of God’s orderly creation—and certainly not with intentions of trying to make ourselves “like God.”

Even so, humans have sought to “be like God” since Eden (Genesis 3:5), rebelling against God’s authority as Creator. This original rebellion corrupted physical creation, resulting in a fallen world filled with suffering, sickness, and death. In this fallen world, we are called to “bear one another’s burdens” in love (Galatians 6:2). Biblical teachings to care for the needy grant us precedent to apply our creativity to develop technology that can help ease others’ suffering. But along the way, we must also apply wisdom, knowing that fallen humans are thoroughly corrupted (Romans 3:9–23). Because of our fallen nature, we can anticipate that—especially without careful guidelines, boundaries, and safeguards—technology that can be used for great good may also be used for great evil.

Five Questions to Ask Now

This biblical foundation provides us with principles for thinking about every new application of BCI technology. For instance, given their potential to help ease the effects of our fallen planet, BCIs’ medical applications seem overwhelmingly positive. However, we should seriously question whether other applications of BCIs outweigh the benefits. Here are just five such questions to ask in preparation for the world of BCIs:

1) How do we protect our humanity?

In a sense, every BCI involves human enhancement. Humans aren’t naturally mind-reading beings who communicate telepathically, hack into other species’ nervous systems, and control items via disembodied thoughts. Some might argue that such actions are no different than using tools—such as microscopes, smart phones, or airplanes—as extensions of our bodies. But our bodies still provide an intermediate agent between brain and tool, thought and action, mind and message. In bypassing embodiment, or in combining our embodied senses with those of other species, do BCIs violate a core element of being human?

2) How do we protect human relationships?

Another core aspect of humanity is relationality.44 By enabling more direct access to others’ thoughts, emotions, memories, and even muscles, BCIs alter the landscape of human interaction. Imagine attending a class where mental state monitoring meant you couldn’t conceal your irritation with a classmate’s audible snack-crunching any more than they could conceal the fact that they think you’re cute. The social dilemmas might never cease.45

On a broader scale, we may also need to consider whether the enhancement potential of BCIs could lead to separate “castes” of humans—those with unbelievable technological abilities, and those without them.46 What consequences might result from this kind of scenario, where some people may be considered less biotechnologically “evolved” than others? How could we protect against such consequences?

3) How do we protect the vulnerable?

Unfortunately, the landscape of BCIs can quickly change from socially strenuous to downright sinister. Multiple researchers, for instance, have voiced concerns about “neural security,”47 especially since neurological data can reveal sensitive information like banking details.48 In the age of big tech, apprehensions about privacy, surveillance, and targeted marketing already prevail without corporations needing access to users’ neurological data. Relatedly, abusive parents, partners, caregivers, bosses, and governments cause enough destruction without abusers being able to directly monitor—or potentially manipulate—victims’ mental states.

4) How do we protect freedom?

The fact that BCIs could allow governments, corporations, and other stakeholders such intimate access to brains poses further questions for freedom. Today’s “cancel culture” raises enough concerns for freedom of speech without BCIs also enabling attacks on freedom of thought. BCIs simultaneously heighten the stakes associated with “thought crimes,” because the more everyday items become connected to a BCI-enabled “internet of things,” the more basic necessities become privileges that can be monitored, limited, subjected to changeable “terms and conditions,” or “canceled.”49 And if human bodies could potentially be controlled like rat tails, certain types of BCIs also raise questions for free will, autonomy, and responsible agency.50

5) How do we protect ourselves from ourselves?

Compounding these risks is humans’ track record of trading freedom and privacy for convenience and entertainment. Worse still is humanity’s moral record. While some researchers have raised concerns about BCIs malfunctioning,51 rogue technology is only a possibility. Humanity’s sinful nature means that rogue people are a guarantee. And Scripture predicts that humans will only become more visibly evil, more deceptive, and more distant from God as history advances.52 We don’t need digitally enhanced brains to recognize that decreasing mortality plus increasing technology make for a precarious equation.

Even when technology consisted of hammers and nails, the Romans engineered crosses. But the Romans, with their many false deities, arguably had a stronger moral foundation than today’s Western culture, which popularly denies objective morality. With such a tenuous foundation for ethics, is now a wise time to introduce powerful technology for tampering with the organ of ethical reasoning?

Now What?

Ultimately, we cannot afford to let BCIs revolutionize humanity without a second thought. As consumers, voters, parents, pastors, educators, business-owners, neighbors, friends, and praying disciples, we have plenty of opportunities for influence in the matter. Given the potential stakes for better or worse, now is the time to prepare our responses to BCIs from an informed biblical perspective.

From this perspective, therapeutic applications that are not possible or effective without BCIs currently appear the most justifiable. But, considering the ethical questions involved, it’s far harder to show that the benefits of many BCIs outweigh the risks for widescale application in consumerism, recreation, and entertainment.

We can pick our own music. We can turn lights on manually. We can forgo telepathy and type messages into apps—or better yet, talk to neighbors in person. But without extremely strong justification, we must not hand over the keys to humanity’s final fortress of privacy, the (literal) headquarters of consent, autonomy, decision-making, logic, curiosity, creativity, and competence.

Then, in an age where “mind-reading” is no longer a figure of speech, we can say yes to applications of BCIs which restore human flourishing, while calling for caution against applications which could undermine humanity.

Instead, we must apply our brains to defend their own integrity: to ask careful questions, to exercise biblical wisdom regarding each application of BCI technology, and to contend for everything that makes us human. Then, in an age where “mind-reading” is no longer a figure of speech, we can say yes to applications of BCIs which restore human flourishing, while calling for caution against applications which could undermine humanity.

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Footnotes

  1. Marietjie Botes, “Brain Computer Interfaces and Human Rights: Brave New Rights for a Brave New World,” (in 2022 ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, Seoul, Republic of Korea/New York, June 21–24, 2022), 1154–1161.
  2. Andrea Bonci et al., “An Introductory Tutorial on Brain–Computer Interfaces and Their Applications,” Electronics 10, no. 5 (2021): 560.
  3. Soroush Niketeghad and Nader Pouratian, “Brain Machine Interfaces for Vision Restoration: The Current State of Cortical Visual Prosthetics,” Neurotherapeutics 16, no. 1 (2019): 134–143.
  4. Tobias Moser and Alexander Dieter, “Towards Optogenetic Approaches for Hearing Restoration,” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 527, no. 2 (2020): 337–342.
  5. Jonathan Brumberg et al., “Brain–Computer Interfaces for Speech Communication,” Speech Communication 52, no. 4 (2010): 367–379.
  6. Abdelkader Belkacem et al., “Brain Computer Interfaces for Improving the Quality of Life of Older Adults and Elderly Patients,” Frontiers in Neuroscience 14 (2020): 692.
  7. Christopher Coogan and Bin He, “Brain-Computer Interface Control in a Virtual Reality Environment and Applications for the Internet of Things,” IEEE Access 6 (2018): 10840–10849.
  8. Ji-Hoon Jeong et al., “Towards Brain-Computer Interfaces for Drone Swarm Control,” (in 2020 8th International Winter Conference on Brain-Computer Interface [BCI], Gangwon, South Korea, February 2020), 1–4.
  9. Seonghun Park et al., “Development of an Online Home Appliance Control System Using Augmented Reality and an SSVEP-Based Brain-Computer Interface,” (in 2020 8th International Winter Conference on Brain-Computer Interface [BCI], Gangwon, South Korea, February 2020), 1–2.
  10. See Steffen Steinert and Orsolya Friedrich, “Wired Emotions: Ethical Issues of Affective Brain–Computer Interfaces,” Science and Engineering Ethics 26, no. 1 (2020): 351–367.
  11. Rajesh Rao et al., “A Direct Brain-to-Brain Interface in Humans,” PLOS ONE 9, no. 11 (November 5, 2014): e111332.
  12. Linxing Jiang et al., “BrainNet: A Multi-Person Brain-to-Brain Interface for Direct Collaboration Between Brains,” Scientific Reports 9, no. 1 (2019): 1–11.
  13. Seung-Schik Yoo et al., “Non-Invasive Brain-to-Brain Interface (BBI): Establishing Functional Links Between Two Brains,” PLOS ONE 8, no. 4 (April 3, 2013): e60410.
  14. Shaomin Zhang et al., “Human Mind Control of Rat Cyborg’s Continuous Locomotion with Wireless Brain-to-Brain Interface,” Scientific Reports 9, no. 1 (2019): 1–12.
  15. Guangye Li and Dingguo Zhang, “Brain-Computer Interface Controlled Cyborg: Establishing a Functional Information Transfer Pathway from Human Brain to Cockroach Brain,” PLOS ONE 11, no. 3 (March 16, 2016): e0150667.
  16. BMI stands for brain-machine interface, which can be another term for brain-computer interface.
  17. Jiacheng Zhang et al., “Brain-Machine Interface-Based Rat-Robot Behavior Control,” Neural Interface: Frontiers and Applications, ed. Xiaoxiang Zheng (Springer: Singapore, 2019): 123–147.
  18. Botes, “Brain Computer Interfaces.”
  19. Valentina Emiliani et al., “Optogenetics for Light Control of Biological Systems,” Nature Reviews Methods Primers 2, no. 1 (2022): 1–25; Haifeng Ye and Martin Fussenegger, “Optogenetic Medicine: Synthetic Therapeutic Solutions Precision-Guided by Light,” Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine 9, no. 9 (2019): a034371.
  20. Emily Matchar, “Turning Dragonflies into Drones: The DragonflEye Project Equips the Insects with Solar-Powered Backpacks that Control Their Flight,” Smithsonian, February 10, 2017,
    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/turning-dragonflies-drones-180962097/.
  21. For examples of these questions and the scholarly debate surrounding them, see Agnieszka K. Adamczyk and Przemysław Zawadzki, “The Memory-Modifying Potential of Optogenetics and the Need for Neuroethics,” NanoEthics 14, no. 3 (2020): 207–225; Frederic Gilbert et al., “Burnt in Your Memory or Burnt Memory? Ethical Issues with Optogenetics for Memory Modification,” AJOB neuroscience 12, no. 1 (2021): 22–24; and Agnieszka Adamczyk and Przemysław Zawadzki, “Personality and Authenticity in Light of the Memory-Modifying Potential of Optogenetics: A Reply to Objections about Potential Therapeutic Applicability of Optogenetics,” AJOB neuroscience (2021): 1–4.
  22. For now, at least, one research team has remarked, “The most powerful technologies developed to map, monitor, and modulate neural network activity in mouse studies are out of bounds in human studies not because a concentrated effort could not make them work, but because their applications are not considered safe or ethically justified at present.” However, they added, “As the technologies become more refined and the therapeutic applications in devastating neurological, mental, and substance use disorders, the risk/benefit balance is likely to change.” (Walter Koroshetz, Jackie Ward, and Christine Grady, “NeuroEthics and the BRAIN Initiative: Where Are We? Where Are We Going?” AJOB Neuroscience 11, no. 3 [2020]: 140–147.)
  23. Some of these implications are noted in Koroshetz et al., “NeuroEthics and the BRAIN Initiative” (2020).
  24. Statement by Rafael Yuste in “When Thoughts Control Machines,” YouTube video posted by The Economist, May 17, 2018, accessed November 2022, 3:31–4:04, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91qx0LMdJtI.
  25. Noteworthily, Yuste was also among those who called for four clauses protecting against breaches of ethics regarding neurotechnology to be added to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Rafael Yuste et al., “Four Ethical Priorities for Neurotechnologies and AI,” Nature 551, no. 7679 [2017]: 159–163.)
  26. On the plus side, an early report stated that a component of the BRAIN Initiative would be to “consider ethical implications of neuroscience research,” since “BRAIN Initiative research may raise important issues about neural enhancement, data privacy, and appropriate use of brain data in law, education and business.” So long as these ethical implications are more than simply considered, this is an important element. (BRAIN 2025 Report, June 5, 2014, https://braininitiative.nih.gov/strategic-planning/brain-2025-report.)
  27. “What is The BRAIN Initiative®?” National Institutes of Health, n.d., accessed November 2022, https://braininitiative.nih.gov/.
  28. Notably, Rafael Yuste, quoted above regarding the hydra research, was one of the original leaders behind the BRAIN initiative. (Rafael Yuste, “The Origins of the BRAIN Initiative: A Personal Journey,” Cell 171, no. 4 (2017): 726–735.) Similar projects to the BRAIN initiative have also been launched in multiple other countries. See Rafael Yuste and Cori Bargmann, “Toward a Global BRAIN Initiative,” Cell 168, no. 6 (2017): 956–959.
  29. “Bridging the Bio-Electronic Divide: New Effort Aims for Fully Implantable Devices Able to Connect with Up to One Million Neurons,” DARPA, January 19, 2016, accessed November 2022, https://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2015-01-19. See also “Towards a High-Resolution, Implantable Neural Interface Neural Engineering System Design Program Sets out to Expand Neurotechnology Capabilities and Provide a Foundation for Future Treatments of Sensory Deficits,” DARPA, July 10, 2017, https://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2017-07-10.
  30. “The Link,” n.d., accessed October 2022, https://neuralink.com/approach/.
  31. E.g., the webpage about the science behind the device states, “By stimulating in specific temporal sequences across many electrodes, it is possible to create patterns of activity that elicit a desired sensation, for example the feel of an object in the hand or a visual image. Stimulation can also reduce or eliminate the pathological patterns of activity that occur in neurological disorders, such as reducing movement deficits in Parkinson’s disease.” (“How Does Neural Simulation Work?” n.d., accessed October 2022, https://neuralink.com/science/.
  32. “Will The Link or Future Systems Be Available to the General Population?” n.d., accessed October 2022, https://neuralink.com/applications/.
  33. “Will The Link or Future Systems Be Available to the General Population?”
  34. Sissi Cao, “Snap’s Latest Acquisition Is a Bet on a Metaverse Controlled By Thoughts,” Observer, March 24, 2022, accessed October 2022, https://observer.com/2022/03/snap-acquire-nextmind-brain-computer-interface-metaverse/; Josh Constine, “Facebook Is Building Brain-Computer Interfaces for Typing and Skin-Hearing,” TechCrunch, April 19, 2017, accessed October 2022, https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/19/facebook-brain-interface/.
  35. “Our Most-Read Tech Stories of 2021,” Tech at Meta, December 21, 2021, accessed October 2022, https://tech.fb.com/artificial-intelligence/2021/12/year-in-review-2021/.
  36. Statement made by Bryan Johnson in “When Thoughts Control Machines,” YouTube video posted by The Economist, May 17, 2018, 4:56–5:16, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91qx0LMdJtI, accessed October 2022.
  37. Klaus Schwab, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: What It Means, How to Respond,” World Economic Forum, January 14, 2016, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/.
  38. Yuval Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (London: Random House, 2016; originally published in Hebrew by Divir, 2015).
  39. This statement makes an implicit worldview claim—the evolutionary assumption that humans are (merely) animals. And if something is an animal, what real right does it have not to be hacked like any other lab rat, cockroach, or dragonfly?
  40. Statement made by Yuval Harari in “Hebrew University’s Prof. Yuval Noah Harari on The Era of the Coronavirus: Living in a New Reality,” YouTube video posted by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Official, October 29, 2020, accessed October 2022, 24:47–25:49, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltJTRnNLYqY&t=1s.
  41. For tips on recognizing, evaluating, and thinking critically about “conspiracy theories,” see Critical Thinking Scan Season 15 on Answers TV (https://www.answers.tv/ct-scan/season:15). One relevant key is to discern between observable, well-documented facts and mere assumptions or speculations.
  42. For instance, the souls of martyrs that the Apostle John saw in his vision of heaven (Revelation 6:9–11) expressed such capacities despite not currently being in material bodies. It’s vital to note that, biblically speaking, we are not persons because we have these capacities; rather, we have these capacities because we are persons (image-bearers). Human beings (including preborn infants) who lack the physical capability to fully express the capacities inherent to their nature as image-bearers are still therefore persons deserving of full human rights.
  43. By analogy, language is an element of image-bearing which is ultimately non-physical; however, the verbal expression of language corresponds to structures in our physical body—the regions of our brains that devise sentences and the speech organs which articulate these sentences. The significance of language transcends the speech organs, but while we’re in our earthly bodies, the speech organs (generally) provide a physical scaffold for verbally expressing this linguistic aspect of being an image-bearer. (Notably, multiple other physical forms of linguistic expression exist as well.)
  44. This is evident from the very first pages of Scripture; for instance, God said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
  45. More commentary on the potential social impacts of BCIs is available in Lydia Montalbano, “Brain-Machine Interfaces and Ethics: A Transition from Wearable to Implantable,” Journal of Business & Technology Law 16 (2021): 191.
  46. Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Novel Neurotechnologies: Intervening in the Brain (Report), June 2013, 176–177, https://www.nuffieldbioethics.org/publications/neurotechnology.
  47. E.g., Sergio López Bernal et al., “Security in Brain-Computer Interfaces: State-of-the-Art, Opportunities, and Future Challenges,” ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR) 54, no. 1 (2021): 1–35.
  48. Mario Quiles Pérez et al., “Breaching Subjects’ Thoughts Privacy: A Study with Visual Stimuli and Brain-Computer Interfaces,” Journal of Healthcare Engineering 2021 (August 10, 2021), https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/5517637. See also Ivan Martinovic et al., “On the Feasibility of Side-Channel Attacks with Brain-Computer Interfaces,” (in Proceedings of the 21st USENIX Conference on Security Symposium [USENIX Security 12], Washington D.C., 2012), 143–158.
  49. On that note, consider the following two documents: the first, posted on the Canadian government website in 2017, speculates about a future where a person’s refrigerator places items on a grocery shopping order and schedules production of food that will give a person government “credits” for carbon offsetting (Policy Horizons Canada, “Exploring Biodigital Convergence,” February 11, 2020, https://horizons.gc.ca/en/2020/02/11/exploring-biodigital-convergence/). The second document, also posted on the Canadian government website as early as 2017, discusses how a “social credit” system—like the one linked to the person’s fridge in the first document—could replace a traditional economy of private property ownership, stating that “Linkages between ownership and social status are becoming unstable. Ownership could be displaced or augmented by access to service. Social credit may become a more powerful determinent [sic] of socio-economic inclusion.” (Capital and Debt Research Team, “Capital and Debt,” Canada Beyond 150, n.d., http://canadabeyond150.ca/reports/capital-and-debt.html.)
  50. See Jonathan Pugh et al., “Brainjacking in Deep Brain Stimulation and Autonomy,” Ethics and Information Technology 20, no. 3 (2018): 219–232.
  51. E.g., Alexandre Erler and Vincent C. Müller, (forthcoming) “AI as IA: The Use and Abuse of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Human Enhancement Through Intellectual Augmentation (IA),” in The Routledge Handbook of the Ethics of Human Enhancement, eds. Marcello Ienca and Fabrice Jotterand (London: Routledge).
  52. E.g., 2 Timothy 3:12–13; 2 Peter 3:3; and arguably Matthew 24:11–14.

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