We believe there is much being overlooked in what is currently occurring in Nuero Crimes, such as the use of nuero devices and applications to commit crimes against people. Rather than the notion that people's thoughts and not actions constitute a crime. Such crimes include everything from bio-hacking, data mining to nuero-sexual assault through brain imaging, audio and other telepathic application of force via neuroscience. As well as the abuse and monetization of profit motivated industries such as marketing and data breaches as seen by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Indeed congress people and scientist alike have begun sounding the alarm for these abuses.
WE Believe Prevention & (Religious) Intersession to be Solutions to 'crimes' that are thoughts without action. The Christian knows even their Faith is dead without works: Action. Thus we think Nuerocriminology is too preemptive.
In Hebrews 7:25 (ESV)
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
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Debating the Right to FoT
A core feature of democracy is that citizens contribute to the laws that bind them. Whilst it has been argued here that limitations on FoT are hard to imagine, and hence its status as an absolute right should stay in place, this is a matter for public debate. For example, if new technologies are deemed to threaten users' absolute right to FoT, this could stop the further development of such technologies. This may not be deemed desirable given the general benefits such technologies could have. Can a balance be struck here and, if so, how? One option, driven by the precautionary principle, would be to take what Mullender (2000) terms a qualified deontological stance. This would recognize FoT as intrinsically valuable, acknowledge that both it and a culture in which it can flourish are worthy of protection, and demand clear reasons for putting it at risk by brain- or behavior-reading. Another option, a curb-led approach of the form discussed by Brennan in Whalen v. Roe (1977), would take what Mullender (2000) terms a qualified consequentialist stance. This would prioritize the pursuit of generally beneficial outcomes from brain- or behavior-reading (e.g., security), whilst acknowledging that their potential detrimental impact on FoT means there must be limitations on how such practices are pursued, such that they do not act in ways that could be reasonably expected to violate FoT. Given the importance of the mental autonomy that FoT supports, a qualified deontological stance appears more appropriate. This is particularly the case given the tendency of government to subsume individual rights to the pursuit of the general interest (Mullender, 2000) and of corporations to subsume individual rights to the pursuit of profit.
The debate over whether the right to FoT should remain absolute will be driven by the public's desired trade-off between risk and freedom. However, there is a risk that the use of hard cases to frame this debate may lead reasoned argument to be overcome by political pressure. For example, emotions run understandably high in the situation of pedophiles and their potential risk to children. As a result, public sentiment that pedophiles should be punished for their thoughts alone could encourage legislators to make it permissible to violate the FoT of sex offenders (see Doe v. City of Lafayette, Indiana, 2004; Calvert, 2005; Human Rights Watch, 2007). As Calvert notes “It is easy to run for office and to support legislation when it is strategically and narrowly framed, such as the concise and visceral frame of “protect children from a pedophile” rather than the more complex and less emotionally appealing frame of “protect a constitutional right from legislative usurpation” (p. 130). If this Rubicon was crossed, with second-order sexual thoughts about children being punishable, other types of thought would inevitably be deemed suitable for thought punishment. This creates a “slippery slope” argument in favor of retaining the absolute status of the right to FoT. But should we abhor any attempt to limit the right to FoT because of what it may lead to, or is the risk of starting down such a slope one that needs to be taken (Volokh, 2003)?
There is also need to encourage the academic community to engage in the debate about the nature of the right to FoT. One barrier to this is the unchallenged promulgation of the idea that to take threats to FoT seriously is to engage in a “mental privacy panic” [Shen, 2013, p. 656]. Another is the perception that neural information, which could reveal someone's thoughts, could never be obtained without someone's knowledge and consent. For example, Smith (2013) notes that “you need a 15-ton, US$3-million fMRI machine and a person willing to lie very still inside it and actively think secret thoughts.” Similarly, Ryberg (2017) dryly notes that “one does not just end up in an MRI-scanner without knowing this” (p. 198).
There are two objections to this. First, wearable brain-reading technology will be developed. Once it is, it is highly likely to be enthusiastically embraced by society once commercially available, due to the convenience it will offer. People will queue up to have their brains read. Soon, as with cars and the internet, it could become effectively impossible to function in society without this technology. Second, even if one is skeptical of this threat, one cannot ignore the clear and present danger posed to FoT posed by behavior-reading. Our inner world is already in the process of being inferred, without anyone going near a scanner.
The academic community hence needs to think now about the legal and ethical implications of new technologies for the right to FoT. This process could mirror that in the artificial intelligence (AI) community, which is considering both contemporary ethical issues raised by AI, as well as the ethical issues it could raise in the future as AI technology further advances (e.g., Bostrom and Yudkowsky, 2014; Dignum, 2018).
We may also want to consider whether the culture we live in has shifted from that in which the ideal of the mentally autonomous, self-determining individual was born. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights granted people rights to achieve the culturally evolved ideal of being an autonomous individual (Zuboff, 2019). However, the rise of neoliberal market economics created a society which began to undermine the ability of people to be self-determining (Smail, 2018; Zuboff, 2019). Arguably, there is now a “yawning gap between the right of self-assertion and the capacity to control the social settings which render such self-assertion feasible” (Bauman, as cited in Zuboff, 2019, p. 45).
Not only may the ability for self-determination be ebbing, but so may the desire to think itself. Jacobs (2018) has argued that “Relatively few people want to think. Thinking troubles us; thinking tires us” (p. 17). There is some evidence for this. Consider a recent study by Wilson et al. (2014). This began by noting that the 2012 American Time Use Survey found that 83% of American adults spent no time at all “relaxing or thinking.” Could it be, Wilson and colleagues asked, that people do not enjoy thinking? To test this, they left college students in a room on their own for 15 minutes, without their belongings, and asked them “to spend the time entertaining themselves with their thoughts.” However, they were permitted one potential activity; they could press a button and get an electric shock. Two-thirds of men, and a quarter of women, gave themselves at least one electric shock in the 15 min period. How far have we come from the centrality of thought to human life, as stressed by the Founding Fathers of the United States and its most eminent Supreme Court Justices, when we would rather torture ourselves than think? Would we rather governments and corporations do our thinking for us, by serving up predictions and nudges for us to simply follow?
Other questions also arise along these lines. Have we morphed into a “culture of control” (Garland, 2001), more driven by the desire to prevent risk than preserve freedom? Has surveillance capitalism's interest in us being predictable rather than free impacted our view of ourselves (Zuboff, 2019)? How do we conceive what it is to be human today, and how does this conception map onto a right to FoT?
This paper hopes to stimulate a public debate on FoT, as well as interdisciplinary conversations between lawyers, neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers and those working in the technology industries. Society needs to be structured to encourage and support citizens to be able to think in such debates. Adapting Balkin's (1990) arguments relating to free speech, there is a need to move away from simply considering judicial protection of “free thought rights” to a wider implementation of what we could call “free thought values” into the fabric of society and its institutions. In a time-poor society, in which everything, even opinions, need to be delivered on demand, we may ask where the space currently is for thought. This encourages rule-of-thumb thought. Rule-of-reason thought takes time and effort and hence risks becoming privileged. As Virginia Woolf put it “five hundred [pounds] a year stands for the power to contemplate” (p. 125). Governments need to give their citizens tools and time for thought, which they have a duty to do under the positive aspect of the right to FoT. As has been noted by the U.S. Supreme Court, without opportunities for “serenity and reflection… freedom of thought becomes a mocking phrase, and without freedom of thought, there can be no free society” (Kovacs v. Cooper, 1949). And yet, thinking is also a communal process. U.S Supreme Court Justice Brandeis was fond of quoting Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Rosen, 2016). Thinking is something we must also do together, rather than just in isolation potentially based on for-your-eyes-only micro-targeted information.We hence need both public and private spaces for thought.
The fate of FoT is not just in governmental hands. It also depends on citizens. We must value free thought. We must be courageous, as mental autonomy comes at a price. To allow FoT, one must accept a degree of risk. The land of the free has to also be the home of the brave. The fate of FoT hence depend on both top-down governmental support and bottom-up popular support. Should we collectively stumble in our defense of humanity's right to FoT, the creature that gets to its feet again may not be recognizably human.
The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and has approved it for publication.
Conflict of Interest
The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
The author is grateful to the two reviewers of this paper, as well as Richard Mullender, Brendan Kelly, Patrick O'Callaghan, and Roseline McCarthy-Jones, for their insightful comments on this manuscript. The author would like to acknowledge Ms. Susie Alegre for introducing him to the right to freedom of thought in international law as applied to contemporary technological developments, including the work of Vermeulen (2006), Bublitz (2014), Bublitz and Merkel (2014) and Boire (2001). This framework was applied in a separate analysis in Alegre (2017).
Keywords: human rights, privacy, psychology, law, machine learning, big data
Citation: McCarthy-Jones S (2019) The Autonomous Mind: The Right to Freedom of Thought in the Twenty-First Century. Front. Artif. Intell. 2:19. doi: 10.3389/frai.2019.00019
Received: 26 June 2019; Accepted: 04 September 2019;
Published: 26 September 2019.
Nicola Lettieri, Istituto nazionale per l'analisi delle politiche pubbliche (INAPP), Italy
Source: Frontiers In