Brain Recording, Mind-Reading, and Neurotechnology: Ethical Issues from Consumer Devices to Brain-Based Speech Decoding

Sci Eng Ethics. 2020 Aug;26(4):2295-2311. doi: 10.1007/s11948-020-00218-0. Epub 2020 Apr 30.


Brain reading technologies are rapidly being developed in a number of neuroscience fields. These technologies can record, process, and decode neural signals. This has been described as 'mind reading technology' in some instances, especially in popular media. Should the public at large, be concerned about this kind of technology? Can it really read minds? Concerns about mind-reading might include the thought that, in having one's mind open to view, the possibility for free deliberation, and for self-conception, are eroded where one isn't at liberty to privately mull things over. Themes including privacy, cognitive liberty, and self-conception and expression appear to be areas of vital ethical concern. Overall, this article explores whether brain reading technologies are really mind reading technologies. If they are, ethical ways to deal with them must be developed. If they are not, researchers and technology developers need to find ways to describe them more accurately, in order to dispel unwarranted concerns and address appropriately those that are warranted.

Keywords: Language; Mind reading; Neuroethics; Neuroprosthetics; Neuroscience; Neurotechnology; Philosophy; Speech.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain*
  • Humans
  • Morals
  • Neurosciences*
  • Privacy
  • Speech Recognition Software* / ethics
  • Speech*