The Mind and the Machine

18 Jan 2024 11:00h - 11:30h

Event report

Neurotechnology is poised to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain. Given its potential scope, how can we ensure its responsible development, integration and deployment and unlock avenues for human enhancement, medical treatment, communication and cognitive augmentation?

More info: WEF 2024.

Table of contents

Disclaimer: This is not an official record of the WEF session. The DiploAI system automatically generates these resources from the audiovisual recording. Resources are presented in their original format, as provided by the AI (e.g. including any spelling mistakes). The accuracy of these resources cannot be guaranteed. The official record of the session can be found on the WEF YouTube channel.

Full session report

Nita Farahany

The neurotechnology market is projected to reach a value of $27 billion, driven by the significant investment of over $7 billion annually and the active presence of 1,200 companies operating in this field. This growth is being fueled by advancements in implanted neurotechnology for therapeutic purposes. These technologies are enabling the restoration of movement in individuals and improving the self-determination of quadriplegics and those who are unable to communicate verbally.

Another notable development in neurotechnology is the integration of wearable devices and brain sensors into everyday products such as earbuds, watches, and headphones. This integration is providing new opportunities for monitoring and understanding brain activity and is expected to bring these products to market within the next two years. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are also aiding in signal interpretation and device miniaturization, further enhancing the accessibility and functionality of these devices.

However, ethical concerns have arisen regarding the use of brain sensing technology, particularly in coercive contexts such as educational or workplace scenarios. There are concerns about the potential breach of privacy and the manipulation of thoughts and feelings. Similarly, there are concerns about the inclusivity of the data collected by these technologies. Bias in datasets, resulting from the exclusion of individuals with different skin colours or hair types, can lead to discriminatory decisions in high-stakes environments.

Data aggregation and protection are also areas of concern. The use of cognitive biometrics data for targeted advertising raises issues regarding privacy, while the need for secure data storage and overwriting is essential for cybersecurity. Additionally, the use of closed loop systems to manipulate thoughts and feelings raises ethical questions.

Generative AI is accelerating the development of innovative interactions with brain activity. Recent developments have allowed for the recreation of brain activity from functional magnetic resonance imaging, enabling the tracking of stress levels and providing insights into brain health and wellness. The co-evolution of AI and technology enables the release of basic products that can personalize over time, amplifying the potential impact of generative AI.

While AI can help understand individual brain signals, studies have shown that brain signal classifiers trained on one person do not directly apply to another's brain signals. Privacy measures need to be effectively implemented to secure individual data while ensuring its usefulness and application.

Concerningly, some companies are discussing the use of generative AI classifiers to understand individual brain signals. These generative AI systems are designed to co-evolve with the user, learning their specific brain signals. By identifying particular mental states or thought processes, these AI systems can enhance the interaction between individuals and technology.

To address the regulatory challenges associated with neurotechnology and other emerging technologies, a principled approach is suggested. Instead of dealing with technologies separately, this approach can foster effective regulation that tackles similar issues across different technologies.

Furthermore, the recognition of a fundamental right to cognitive liberty is deemed necessary as cognitive biometrics technologies seek to understand mental experiences. This right aligns with existing human rights principles of self-determination, mental privacy, and freedom of thought. The urgency to address this need is further emphasized by the fact that these technologies are already on the market.

AI regulations can be designed to preserve individual privacy while benefiting humanity. By focusing on protecting raw data and allowing for the sharing of individual data with consent for specific studies, significant insights can be gained. The Apple Heart Health study, for example, has demonstrated the value of sharing individual data for specific studies in gaining insights into everyday brain health and activity.

The understanding and awareness of our own brains are currently limited. However, through the proper implementation of brain technology, significant advancements in self-understanding, well-being, and potential treatments for neurological disorders can be achieved. The ability to make transparent what is happening in our brains can have profound implications for mindfulness, meditation, stress levels, depression, and overall self-knowledge. Additionally, the technology has the potential to make significant strides in addressing neurological and movement disorders.

In conclusion, the neurotechnology market is experiencing significant growth, with advancements in implanted neurotechnology and wearable devices with brain sensors. However, there are ethical concerns surrounding the use of these technologies, specifically in coercive contexts, the inclusivity of collected data, and data aggregation and protection. Generative AI is driving the advancement of innovative interactions with brain activity, but there are privacy and uniqueness challenges to overcome. Effective regulation, inclusive of a recognition of cognitive liberty, is essential to navigate the complexities of emerging technologies like neurotechnology and AI.

Gary Marcus

The convergence of AI and neuroscience is still in its early stages, with a limited understanding of how the brain works. Gary Marcus, a cognitive neuroscientist, acknowledges the vast complexity of the brain's 86 billion neurons and the significant knowledge gaps that exist. He believes that the field has a long way to go before devices can read our thoughts.

One concerning aspect is the risk of brain technology being hacked. While current headsets can read a person's emotional state to some degree, inadequate security measures could have serious consequences. Addressing cybersecurity issues is crucial to protect privacy and individual well-being.

Another concern is the lack of legislation surrounding AI and neurotechnology. There are currently no specific laws in place, and the United Nations and governments are only beginning to take initiatives in this area. The absence of regulation may hinder the development and ethical use of neurtechnology.

Data privacy is also a pressing issue. Tools like Apple Vision Pro and Facebook collect data to train classifiers, which Gary Marcus supports, but he also warns that these tools can become Trojan horses for accumulating data. Strong consumer advocacy and literacy campaigns are needed to ensure that users are fully aware of the terms they are agreeing to and the implications of data sharing.

Despite the challenges and risks, there is optimism regarding the potential of neurotechnology. It has the opportunity to assist individuals with disabilities, such as those who are paralyzed or blind. Additionally, emerging technology holds promise for aiding in the treatment of mental disorders, offering new possibilities for improving mental health.

Gary Marcus emphasizes the need for proper privacy laws before advancing neurotechnology further. He cautions against the "Trojan horse problem" where technological advancements may compromise privacy and individual rights.

In conclusion, while there are challenges and risks associated with neurotechnology, there is also great potential. Gary Marcus envisions its application in areas such as memory and reasoning. He highlights the importance of understanding the implications of technology and addressing ethics and privacy concerns.

Jeremy Jurgens

Jeremy Jurgens, the Managing Director of the World Economic Forum and Head of the Center on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is hosting a panel to discuss the current state of neurotechnology. This panel will explore the wide-ranging implications of neurotechnology in various sectors, including healthcare, privacy, and human rights.

One notable point raised by Jurgens is the significant growth of the neurotechnology market, with over $7 billion invested in the industry annually. There are currently close to 1,200 companies operating in this field, indicating a strong market demand. The market is projected to grow to $27 billion, highlighting its potential impact in the future.

However, there is a need to increase consumer literacy and understanding of neurotechnology to protect privacy and safety. Many individuals, including business leaders, lack knowledge about this emerging field. It is crucial for consumers to be well-informed to make sound decisions regarding their privacy and safety.

In terms of regulation, existing laws and frameworks on neurotechnology need to be fully utilized and potentially expanded upon. The rapidly evolving nature of neurotechnology requires careful consideration and adaptation of legal frameworks to ensure responsible and ethical use.

Furthermore, inclusive participation from the private sector, industry, and civil society is crucial for effectively navigating the future of this field. Diverse voices will contribute to a comprehensive understanding and informed decision-making in the development of neurotechnology.

In summary, Jeremy Jurgens' panel discusses the current state of neurotechnology, exploring its implications in various sectors. The neurotechnology market is experiencing significant growth, but there is a need to increase consumer literacy. Existing laws and frameworks need to be fully utilized and potentially expanded upon to address the challenges of this emerging field. Inclusive participation from different sectors is essential in guiding the future development of neurotechnology.

Keywords: neurotechnology, Jeremy Jurgens, World Economic Forum, Fourth Industrial Revolution, panel, healthcare, privacy, human rights, market growth, consumer literacy, regulations, inclusive participation.

Amandeep Singh Gill

The analysis reveals several key arguments regarding the current state of AI technology and its implications.

One key argument is that AI technology is being rushed to the market primarily due to the business opportunities it presents. This rush, however, is resulting in the cutting of corners and potentially compromising the quality and safety of AI systems. This argument highlights the need for a more cautious and thorough approach to the development and deployment of AI technology.

Another argument suggests that rather than creating new human rights specifically for AI, it would be more beneficial to focus on enhancing and effectively implementing existing frameworks. This approach emphasizes the importance of strengthening and enforcing regulations and guidelines that already exist, rather than creating additional layers of legal complexity. By doing so, it is believed that the potential risks and negative implications of AI technology can be better managed.

Although AI technology is becoming increasingly intelligent, the analysis points out that it is still far from being perfected. It highlights the fact that AI systems can still confuse basic human experiences such as light, sleep, and meditation. This observation suggests that despite the advancements in AI, there is still much work to be done in improving the accuracy and understanding of such systems.

The analysis also indicates a significant lack of understanding among policy makers and government leaders regarding the capabilities of technology. It suggests that there is a need for more comprehensive education and awareness campaigns to ensure that decision-makers are well-informed about the potential benefits and risks of AI technology. This understanding is crucial in order to make effective decisions and policies that align with the advancements and challenges posed by AI.

Involving the private sector, startups, and companies in the development of technology is seen as essential. However, the analysis highlights a struggle to achieve this involvement within the United Nations. Overcoming this challenge and fostering collaboration between different stakeholders is crucial for the successful development and implementation of AI technology.

Raising awareness about the capabilities and implications of technology is also emphasized in the analysis. It suggests the importance of promoting diverse messaging and looking at AI through ethical, human rights, and governance lenses. This approach aims to stimulate conversations and discussions that take into account a broader range of perspectives and considerations.

Concerns are raised regarding the potential misuse of technology and the negative impact it could have on the field as a whole. It is argued that the early stage of AI technology requires careful consideration and responsible use, as misuse could hinder the progress of good science and practical applications.

The analysis concludes by highlighting the need for faster progress in terms of governance and awareness around technology advancements. It references a global digital compact to be adopted at the Summit of the Future in New York and a conference organized by UNESCO on this issue. These initiatives reflect the growing recognition and urgency of addressing the governance and awareness challenges posed by rapid technological advancements.

Overall, the expanded summary provides a detailed overview of the main arguments and points raised in the analysis. It underscores the importance of a measured and informed approach to AI technology, highlighting the need for effective governance, awareness, collaboration, and responsible use.


Neurotech development is surpassing expectations, as leading expert Rafael Usted reveals that what used to take five years is now being achieved in just one or two years. This accelerated progress is evident in China, where an astonishing one billion dollars is invested annually in neurotech research. This substantial funding demonstrates the country's commitment to advancing this field.

While the rapid evolution of neurotech brings exciting opportunities, it also raises concerns about data security. The NeuroRights Foundation conducted a comprehensive study on 30 consumer neurotech products and found that all but one company allow the sale or transfer of data collected from these products. This revelation highlights a significant gap in protecting consumer data and requires immediate attention.

To address this issue on a broader scale, the international system needs to react swiftly to the advancements in neurotech. The NeuroRights Foundation has taken the initiative by working towards implementing national regulations in various countries such as the United States, Chile, Brazil, and Mexico. Their efforts aim to establish guidelines that safeguard the privacy and security of individuals using neurotech products.

In addition to data security concerns, the summary also highlights the need for balanced AI regulation, specifically in mental health services. AI has the potential to revolutionise mental health therapies by assisting in addressing personal issues. However, to ensure ethical and responsible AI implementation, regulations must be in place to mitigate risks and prioritise user well-being.

In conclusion, the development of neurotech is progressing at a faster pace than initially anticipated, with China leading substantial investments. However, this progress should not overshadow the need for stringent data security measures and effective international regulation. Furthermore, AI regulation should strike a balance between reaping the benefits it offers, particularly in mental health services, while safeguarding individual rights and ensuring responsible deployment.


Amandeep Singh Gill

Speech speed

163 words per minute

Speech length

950 words

Speech time

350 secs



Speech speed

256 words per minute

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522 words

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123 secs


Gary Marcus

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231 words per minute

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1329 words

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346 secs


Jeremy Jurgens

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174 words per minute

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1093 words

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377 secs


Nita Farahany

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186 words per minute

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1956 words

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632 secs