Nita Farahany headshot

Nita Farahany

Nita Farahany worries that in the not-too-distant future, our thoughts no longer will be our own.

In her book, “The Battle for Your Brain: Defending the Right to Think Freely in the Age of Neurotechnology,” the Robinson O. Everett Distinguished Professor of Law & Philosophy describes how neural interface technology capable of reading brains is already being built into everyday devices, and warns that without adequate safeguards humans could lose self-determination over their thoughts and mental experiences.

Her solution? A new human right to cognitive liberty.

“I propose that if you have a right to mental privacy, there has to be a bona fide legal exception to gain access to that brain data, and it has to be narrowly tailored for a specific use case and purpose,” Farahany says. “And it has to truly be justified based on the nature of the intrusion relative to the interest of the individual.”

A foremost expert on the ethical, legal, and social implications of emerging technologies, Farahany frequently speaks before leaders in business, science, law, and government, and was an Obama appointee to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. Last year she delivered her second TED Talk and spoke at the World Economic Forum.

Her study of bioethics is not limited to the theoretical. In 2020, as scientists rushed to find a COVID-19 treatment, Farahany volunteered for a Moderna vaccine clinical research study. Around the same time, she wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post cautioning against immunity requirements.

“Conditioning societal participation on taking a vaccine that’s not fully vetted won’t help rebuild trust in science and the public health system — at a time when skepticism of experts runs high,” she wrote.

Farahany says her mission is “to drive ethical progress and innovation in the age of rapid technological change.”