Freedom of Thought

Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom – Benjamin Franklin

The right to freedom of thought is fundamental to our humanity. Without it, there can be no innovation in the arts or in science and there can be no democracy. Technology touches every aspect of our lives and societies, from politics to love and everything in between. Increasingly it seeks to get inside our minds, drawing inferences about how we think and feel and trying to influence our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. But we need to think carefully about what those developments might mean for our right to freedom of thought.

Freedom of thought is protected absolutely in international human rights law. This means that, if an activity interferes with our right to think for ourselves inside our heads (the so-called “forum internum”) it can never be justified for any reason. The right includes three elements:

  • the right to keep our thoughts private
  • the right to keep our thoughts free from manipulation, and
  • the right not to be penalised for our thoughts.

All three are affected by developments in science, technology and artificial intelligence. Freedom of thought is the key to what it means to be human. It needs to be at the heart of business strategy as well as governmental and international policy and regulation around technology.

My work in this field brings together my philosophical and legal knowledge to plot a pathway that allows the right to freedom of thought and the future of technological development to be mutually supportive.

I provide thought leadership, strategic advice and analysis about the right to freedom of thought and technology in a wide range of contexts including business, artificial intelligence, politics, children’s rights, education, public sector, culture, media and more.

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