New Report Promotes Innovation and Protects Human Rights in Neurotechnology

Rafael Yuste, professor of biological sciences and director of Columbia's NeuroTechnology Center, has coauthored a report commissioned by the U.N. secretary general.

May 13, 2022

The Neurorights Foundation recently launched a publication, International Human Rights Protection Gaps in the Age of NeurotechnologyDr. Rafael Yuste, chair of the Neurorights Foundation and professor of biological sciences at Columbia, as well as director of the University's Neurotechnology Center, coauthored the report. 

The Neurorights Foundation promotes research, outreach, and advocacy to guide ethical innovation within neurotechnology, and to address its human rights challenges. The foundation engages with international organizations, including the United Nations and UNESCO, governments, and industry stakeholders and entrepreneurs. 

International Human Rights Protection Gaps in the Age of Neurotechnology is the first comprehensive analysis of international human rights law as applied to neurotechnology. It analyzes how well seven international human rights treaties, authored by the United Nations, protect neurorights, and proposes a path forward. The report’s key findings ultimately reveal that existing international human rights law is ill-prepared to address the human rights implications of neurotechnology, and makes recommendations for how these treaties might close protection gaps.   

Notably, the report also finds that the “neurorights” framework is a source of growing international consensus for how to describe neurotechnology’s impact on human rights. Under present international human rights law, the “best protected” neurorights are the right to agency, followed by freedom from algorithmic bias. The “worst protected” neuroright is the right to identity. While the concepts of free will and self-determination are present in international human rights law, the terms used to describe them are not well defined--necessitating the further interpretation of treaty provisions.