Technologies like biometrics, cognitive enhancement, and surveillance are advancing like never before. When the World Economic Forum, the United States Court of Appeals, and the United States Congress want to know the benefits—and the risks—they ask Nita Farahany: a leading scholar on the ethical, legal, and social implications of emerging tech. Farahany’s talks help companies get ahead of these issues, maximizing social benefits—while minimizing social harm.
You’re driving home after a long day, desperate to stay awake. Suddenly, a mild zap from your headrest bolts you upright, alert. You’re safe—no caffeine required. This kind of revolutionary device is already in action, says Nita Farahany, and they’re only getting more sophisticated. The Founding Director of Duke Science & Society, Chair of the Duke MA in Bioethics & Science Policy, and principal investigator of SLAPLAB, Farahany is at the forefront of the technology and ethics of wearable devices that, like a Fitbit for your brain, are using our biological and neurological data to enhance minds and bodies. Like devices that inform people with epilepsy when they’re about to have a seizure, these “mind-reading” technologies will change everything from medicine, to marketing, to the processes of justice, to entertainment. The same zap that can save a drowsy driver can also be used in the workplace to increase safety measures; an EEG headset can tell businesses whether their customers really love what they’re looking at—as IKEA did recently. With the possibility of us all becoming almost supernaturally legible, Farahany leads audiences on an optimistic, but cautionary, tour through the future of the technologies that can read our brain data as they would a Google Map, including how employers must build employee trust when adopting new technologies in the workplace. If we want to make the most of it, says Farahany, transparency is vital.
Farahany is a frequent commentator for national media and radio shows and has presented her work to audiences like the World Economic Forum, Aspen Ideas Festival, TED, the US Congress, and more. She is frequently cited by publications and programs like The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, BBC, CBS News, and more. Farahany also appears in the documentary I Am Human, which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. In 2010, she was appointed by President Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, where she served until 2017. She is the President-Elect and a Board member of the International Neuroethics Society and co-editor-in-chief and co-founder of the Journal of Law and the Biosciences. Farahany received her AB in genetics, cell, and developmental biology at Dartmouth College, a JD and MA from Duke University, as well as a PhD in philosophy. She also holds an ALM in biology from Harvard University. Previously, Farahany was the Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor of Human Rights at Stanford Law School.