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To Be Or Not To Be

William J. Lawson, Ph.D.

Technical PM/Advisory Board, ICDRI

AT&T Global Network Services


May 05, 2002



On November 26th, 2001 my wife and I had our paper “Let Me In!!!” published on the to ICDRI website. The paper drew much interest and is due to be republished at www.nextinterface.net. It also promoted many questions and inquires, about feasibility and mostly about the security of personal data.


Let us first address the issue of feasibility, which is the easiest to address. Refer to an article called “Monkey Thoughts Control Computer” published by the BBC News  (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1871000/1871803.stm ). This is not the first article of this type, but I believe it to be the most significant. Because, this prototype demonstrates the potential to be universal and useable by the majority of the disabled people. Why? Well it stands to reason that if a monkey can be trained to use the device, then training a human would imply orders of magnitude with respect to ease. Yes, we can use biology’s logic of self-preservation to merge the electronic and biological worlds. In the opinion of Dr. Lawson the neural-interface evolution of man and machine will come in a three-phases. The first will be oriented towards control of appliances (i.e. primarily the Internet), the second will be mobility (i.e. automobiles, exoskeleton, etc.), and the third will be bionic systems (i.e. cyborg).

However, we would like to point out that there are primarily two schools of thought about how to deploy a neural interface device. One is that it must be directly implanted in the brain and the other is that brain waves can be sensed via an external device worn on the head much like headset can be worn. There are real factors to consider and many thresholds to cross.


The questions and concerns on this issue were fierce. As with any new technology issue privacy or misuse of information comes to the forefront. Well the questions and concerns are justified; in fact the people of the world are vulnerable. Yes, vulnerable to many forms of misuse, such as the snooping eyes of Big Brother or identity theft. Which leads to a host of many of crimes; for example, financial fraud, passport theft, and more than we can conceive.

However, Biometrics itself was designed as a method to ensure that sensitive information is protected. It is my belief that only biometric is feasible for use with a neural control interface and that is a Neural (EEG) Fingerprint. But the question is does it exist? I believe it does.

Why a biometric? Keep in mind that a neural control interface is wireless and it allow an individual to control remote devices. So access is not an issue when that ability is limited to one are two individuals. But, keep in mind that technology transfer is real and this technology can also work for people whom are not disabled. Therefore, security is needed… How do you address such a security issue? I’ll say it again a Neural Fingerprint, before accessing a device remote or otherwise your Neural Fingerprint is compared those whom do have access.

Let’s use and everyday task as an example, you have and neural implant and you want to call for an elevator. You approach the elevator and user your neural implant to call for the elevator, the elevator comes down and you get on. O.K. you’re rich and so you live in the penthouse, once again you use your neural implant to select the penthouse, then you unlock your door. Great, home sweet home, where is that butler? Now a criminal with a neural implant calls for the elevator, goes to the penthouse, and unlocks your door. If we used a biometric his access would have been restricted, for example he could have never even called for the elevator, been restricted from the penthouse, and security could have been notified.

We are not saying that biometrics is the answer, just one tool. It is not the supreme Maginot Line.


We are Americans and in many cases we find ourselves forgetting that the issue of privacy is global, not just something in America. In many cases Americans refer to the Bill of Rights or the Constitution, well if you are not an American you may have no idea what they are. Therefore, I respectfully ask that members of the international community take a moment to complete a survey and please feel free to send additional comments to icdri@icdri.org  .

Link to Survey:

Ultimately whether technology is to be or not be, is up to the people of the world.

Back to the Biometrics Page

Copyright © William J. Lawson 2002



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