China’s police may already be working in America

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Advances in neuroscience, engineering and artificial intelligence have brought us a world of greater brain transparency. With the coming of age of wearable consumer brains, we can now monitor brain activity as easily as we monitor heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and steps taken in a day. that will revolutionize our relationship with technology and our understanding of ourselves and others.

Wearable consumer brain gadgets can empower us to take charge of our mental health and well-being, but they also threaten the last bastion of our freedom.

Consumer brain wearables are devices with brain sensors embedded in everyday technology, such as headphones, earphones and watches, that can detect brain activity to give us insight into our own minds. Powerful algorithms can decode and classify brain activity to understand whether a person is focused, stressed, engaged, frustrated, mediating and more. This means that as you listen to music or take a conference call, your brain activity can be recorded in real time.


I’m not talking about the future. I am describing technology that has already arrived.

TikTok is just one example of how China monitors the behavior of people using certain technology. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

Hundreds of thousands of wearable brain devices are already being used worldwide by people to meditate, improve their focus, monitor their sleep activity, reduce their stress levels, or even play video games with their minds. Already helping people with ADHD better manage their symptoms, it may soon give people with epilepsy advanced warning of impending seizures.

Brain wearables cannot literally read our thoughts, but they can be used to probe a person’s mind to identify facts, numbers, words, shapes, images and even political biases.

So they also introduce unprecedented risks to our mental privacy and threaten a new kind of neural surveillance. These are risks that are already being felt in places like the People’s Republic of China, where workers and students have reportedly been forced to use wearable brain devices to monitor their attention and focus throughout the day.

Conductors on the world’s busiest high-speed rail line – the Beijing-Shanghai line – have brain sensors embedded in the brims of their hats. So do workers at utilities such as Hangzhou Zhongheng Electric and State Grid Zhejiang Electric Power.

Workers have been sent home when their brain measurements reveal less than stellar performance or their emotional states are at risk of being disrupted in the workplace. And the minds of Chinese citizens are supposed to be probed for the citizens’ loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party.

It’s not just government officials in China who are subject to nervous surveillance. In 2019, the Wall Street Journal revealed that fifth-graders at an elementary school in Jinhua had to wear headphones to monitor their brain activity, which fed data to teachers, parents and the situation about focus and their attention during their school. day.

This kind of coercive neural surveillance, especially by an authoritarian state actor, regardless of what may or may not be inferred from brain activity has a chilling effect on freedom of thought, is used to enforce compliance, and undermines the very ability to think freely.


We should be particularly concerned about the misuse of data from portable brain devices sold on the US market by regimes that do not respect freedom of thought. Flowtime, a popular wearable brain device sold in the United States and abroad, is manufactured by Hangzhou Enter Electronic Technology (Entertech), a company based in China.

Wearable brain devices cannot literally read our thoughts, but they can be used to probe a person’s mind to identify facts, numbers, words, shapes, images and even political biases.

Entertech has collected millions of recordings of brain activity from people around the world engaged in everything from playing mind-controlled video games to working and sleeping. But Entertech collects much more than brain activity data from its users.

It also records personal information, GPS signals, device sensors, computers, services a person uses, IP addresses, operating systems, referring website and other pages visited. Which means the US government will not only have to investigate whether it should ban TikTok, but also whether brainwave data is being captured from US users while on the platform.


We must move quickly to preserve the right to self-determination in our brains and psychic experiences. We should begin by recognizing the human right to cognitive freedom, to secure individual self-determination over corporate or government interests of peer surveillance.

We also urgently need greater public debate about the potential uses and implications of consumer neurotechnology. We should act quickly to ensure that these devices are used for the benefit of humanity and not as a tool of apparent or real spiritual tracking and manipulation.

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