BIG tech companies could end up meddling with our minds and manipulating our decisions and views within ten years, leading brain scientists have warned.
A group of top American neuroscientists are demanding regulation before technology takes the next step – with brain chips potentially replacing smart phones as our main access to the internet.
It is feared if unregulated this spectacular new technology – which could avaliable commercially within the next decade – could turn its into “puppets”.
The prediction that mirrors the plot of Hollywood films such as Inception, in which Leonardo DiCaprio plays a thief who steals information by infiltrating his targets’ subconscious.
But Rafael Yuste, a neuroscience professor at New York’s Columbia University and organiser of the Morningside Group of scientists and ethicists, said this dystopia is no longer science fiction and could soon become a sinister reality.
He told The Sun Online that tech giants are ploughing colossal sums of money in a race to develop the next generation of devices that will replace smartphones and wire up our brains to the net.
Facebook is busy working on fusing the brains with computers.
Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s firm Neuralink has been experimenting with interfacing technology with monkey’s minds.
Social media and search engines have already come under fire for allegedly using biased search engine systems that control the information we read and see.
They could violate the essence of what makes us human… the contents of our mind are our identity
The firms have also been slammed for harvested our data and then using it to sell things to us.
Now, it feared they could go one step further, with algorithms used by next-generation technology that might inadvertently hijack our brains.
Instead of humans controlling the amazing tech, could it end up controlling us?
Prof Yuste said in doing so an individual risks confusing their own thoughts and opinions with what is being fed into their brains.
Prof Yuste said: “We think this is a very serious concern. They could violate the essence of what makes us human. The contents of our mind are our identity.
“We are talking about building hybrid humans with brain technology interfaces to the net.”
The threat to humanity is so grave, claim the Morningside Group, they are calling for a set of “neuro-rights” to be added to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations.
The campaigners aim to guard the brain against abuse from new technologies which could harvest our thoughts and influence how we think.
“Would [attacks] come in the form of just new information put into the brain?” he added.
Inside one of Facebook’s top-secret labs the social media giant is reportedly working on a new type of interface.
In 2017, Mark Zuckerberg said: “That includes work around direct brain interfaces that are going to, eventually, one day, let you communicate using only your mind.”
Meanwhile, Elon Musk-backed firm Neuralink is created flexible “threads” that can be implanted into a brain and could one day allow you to control your smartphone or computer with just your thoughts.
Musk wants to start testing in humans by this year.
So far monkeys have been used the experiments, with footage emerging that shows one playing Pong with their mind.
It potentially marks a giant leap forward for the California company, which aims to have an implant ready for sale in the near future.
Founded in 2016, Neuralink is developing implantable brain chips that are inserted into regions of the mind that control movement.
The company says the technology will one day help people with paralysis to control smartphones and computers with their brain activity.
But others fear Big Tech could end up meddling with what is the essence of who were are.
So far Chile is the only country in the world to unveil a new “inception” law that will protect people from mind-controlling tech.
Prof Yuste said: “Our basic argument is that this is not just about data that you have in your phone, this is about the contents of your mind which could be accessible and manipulated.
“When you hear propaganda or read your news feed, or hear someone’s opinion, you always know that is external to you.
“It is coming to you through your senses, and you are digesting that information and you may accept it or not — but you always know it is external.”
But he fears in the coming years, the new tech will mean people will not be able to distinguish what is their thoughts.
“We think it is not just another technology on the block, it is much more serious because it goes to the heart of who we are,” he said.
Across the world, governments are racing to develop brain technology that could unlock ways of curing horrible diseases and conditions that blight many people or their loved ones.
But Prof Yuste says the main fear is without regulation brain control tech could be misused by companies that are not accountable.
He said: “In the US the tech industry invested six times more money than the US Federal government on brain research.”
Facebook and Neuralink have been approached for a comment.