Companies Now Want To Scan Employees’ Brains


A number of corporations such as InnerEye and Emotiv are looking into the possibilities of using brain scanning technology on employees.

By Jonathan Klotz
| Published

Each day, bookstores across the country get a little closer to shelving dystopian sci-fi novels as current events, and now with companies actively researching brain scanning technology, corporate dystopia is one step closer. The surprisingly burgeoning marketplace already has a few prominent companies with promising technology. According to reporting done by Futurism, big-budget corporations are already funding research that will let them know exactly what their employees are thinking while on the clock.

Some of the most promising brain scanning companies include InnerEye out of Israel and Emotiv, a San Francisco start-up. InnerEye is developing a headset that will combine human thought processes with machine learning, ideally to combat employee indecisiveness. Emotiv’s work focuses on using a wireless EEG headset to track employees’ well-being.

Of the two, InnerEye’s research is the most likely to result in a machine-led apocalypse. The company’s own website states that they are “connecting humans and machines” with the goal of achieving the “best of both worlds.” Brain scanning can be fairly innocuous, but with studies already being run to ensure that humans are not already living in a machine-run simulation, this sounds like the plot of a sci-fi novel.

In fact, it is, with multiple authors and futurists having written about the singularity as a point of no return when artificial intelligence surpasses human beings. Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant humans to ever live, feared that the singularity would result in the end of humanity. Now corporations, actively funding brain scanning, may be bringing the inevitable into reality.

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The two companies are not unaware of the potential for misuse of their brain scanning technology. Emotiv says they are linking only with partners that want to use the technology in a responsible manner. Unfortunately, techies will recall another company that once had as their motto “Don’t be evil”, and what happens once enormous profits start rolling in.

Beyond the potential for bringing about the apocalypse in Terminator fashion, brain scanning technology has very real privacy concerns. An employees’ thoughts are, ideally, kept private. If wearing a headset that monitors brain activity and transmits that data to their employer, what privacy does the employee still have, and who owns their actual, biological thought process?

Emotiv’s CEO, Tan Le, claims that their technology requires the employee to explicitly allow a copy of their brain data to be sent to their supervisors. While that can be described as marketing speak, brain scanning is a murky ethical area in the field of neuroscience. Famous author Isaac Asimov wrote extensively about the dangers of technological capabilities surpassing human ethics, which is the threshold modern humans find themselves standing on today.

The Institute of Neruethics is a global think tank devoted to solving those tricky questions where technological capability and ethics meet. The researchers and neurologists that make up the think tank are working to ensure that SkyNet does not become real. Brain scanning technology, which corporations that want to become a real-life Weylund-Yutani are extensively funding, has the potential to be the first step towards a dark fate.