Electronic brain implants could allow lawyers to quickly scan years of background material and cut costs in the future, a new report claims.
The report from The Law Society sets out the way the profession could change for employees and clients as a result of advances in neurotechnology.
It suggests that a lawyer with the chip implanted in his or her brain could potentially scan documentation in a fraction of the time, reducing the need for large teams of legal researchers.
‘Some lawyers might try to gain an advantage over competitors and try to stay ahead of increasingly capable AI systems by using neurotechnology to improve their workplace performance,’ wrote Dr Allan McCay, the author of the report.
Neurotechnology could also allow firms to charge clients for legal services based on ‘billable units of attention’ rather than billable hours, as they would be able to monitor their employees’ concentration.
However, the report raises concerns that the data collected could put people at risk of surveillance or manipulation, and suggests that regulation of ‘neurorights’ should be considered.
Dr McCay wrote: ‘It is hard to know how widespread the uptake of neurotechnology might ultimately be but to neglect it might be regretted particularly if, as has been speculated, brain implants or wearable devices might become the iPhone of the future.’
Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce, said: ‘Neurotechnology could greatly improve the lives of many but also facilitate ethical failures and even human rights abuses.’
Neurotechnology could change the way clients pay for legal services, as billable hours could switch to ‘billable units of attention’, when firms are able to monitor their employees’ concentration through their chips (stock image)
ETHICAL ISSUES OF BRAIN IMPLANTS
The Law Society Report outlines ethical issues legal professionals may soon encounter as brain implants are rolled out in society.
- Mental privacy – the data the devices will collect may give technology companies access to the user’s ‘mental world’, including their predisposition to certain behaviours or mental health issues.
- Power for manipulation – brain implants that can send signals to the brain put the user’s autonomy at risk.
- Discrimination – a division could arise between brain implant users and those without them, as well as a social pressure to augment.
Neurotechnologies are brain implants or pieces of wearable tech that interact directly with the brain by monitoring and/or influencing neural activity.
The chips could reduce the number of solicitors needed to work on complex cases, and thus reduce the bill for the client.
Solicitors in London routinely charge over £1,000 an hour for their services, so corporate clients would probably welcome a technological way of lowering these costs.
Artificial intelligence (AI) systems are already being utilised by some firms, and some have been proven to work faster than top human lawyers at spotting legal issues.
While the chips would provide a way for professionals to outperform their human and technological competitors, this could increase the pressure on lawyers to have one installed – or lead to discrimination of those who choose not to.
‘Perhaps clients might provide pressure to do this, and one can imagine changes to billing that may be brought about by the attention-monitoring capacities of neurotechnologies,’ said Dr McCay, from the University of Sydney.
‘This might even prompt a move from billable hours to billable attention.’
Neurotechnologies are brain implants or pieces of wearable tech that interact directly with the brain by monitoring and/or influencing neural activity (stock image)
Dr McCay believes that the introduction of neurotechnology into society will also create new challenges within criminal law.
For example, defendants could claim that their criminal behaviour was the result of their device being hacked.
He said: ‘One might ask which bit of conduct constitutes the actus reus (criminal act) where a person injures another by controlling a drone by thought alone.
‘It seems easier to identify the relevant conduct where the defendant uses their system of musculature to control the drone by manually manipulating a controlling device such as a joystick.’
The ‘Neurotechnology, Law and the Legal Profession’ report also reviews whether it would be acceptable for criminal justice systems to monitor offenders’ brains while they are serving their sentences in the community.
Due to the advances of Elon Musk’s Neuralink and other manufacturers, it concludes that our neurorights should potentially be considered in the same way as human rights.
Dr McCay said: ‘We need law reform bodies, policy makers and academics to be scrutinising these technological advances rather than waiting for problems to emerge.’
The report suggests that individual lawyers and firms may wish to specialise in the field of neurological rights, as well as its inclusion in university curriculums.
Brain startup beats Elon Musk’s Neuralink – putting implant into brain of paralysed ALS patient
A patient who is unable to move or speak due to severe paralysis from ALS has become the first to receive a permanent brain implant that could allow him to communicate telepathically.
The 48-year-old man from New York, USA, had a 1.5-inch long implant surgically embedded into his brain on July 6 at Mount Sinai West medical centre.
This was a milestone for Synchron, the startup behind the technology, as it beat Elon Musk‘s Neuralink to the punch with its advance.
Dr. Tom Oxley, CEO & Founder of Synchron, said: ‘Our technology is for the millions of people who have lost the ability to use their hands to control digital devices.’