How Scientists Are Learning to Read Our Minds

An interesting, if at points disturbing, article which is an excerpt from Michio Kaku’s book, ‘The Future of the Mind‘.  Kaku never fails to deliver wonder.

Houdini believed that true telepathy was impossible. But science is proving Houdini wrong.

Telepathy is now the subject of intense research at universities around the world where scientists have already been able to read individual words, images, and thoughts of our brain by combining the latest scanning technology with pattern recognition software. This could revolutionize the way we communicate with stroke and accident victims who are “locked in” their bodies, unable to articulate their thoughts except through blinks of their eyes. But that’s just the start. It might also radically change the way we interact with computers and the outside world.

More at How Scientists Are Learning to Read Our Minds.

The article talks about the benefits of this technology for locked-in and other paralyzed patients, but I’m sure a lot of other people are going to be concerned about how this technology could be misused.  It’s not hard to imagine a future court order being issued to require someone to submit to mind reading.

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8 Responses to How Scientists Are Learning to Read Our Minds

  1. Steve Morris says:

    I really think this will happen and that we will adapt. Once we have it, it will seem strange that we had to guess what others were thinking.

    Imagine if all modern communications were taken from us now, and we had to go back to writing letters. How weird would that be?

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    • I definitely agree that we’d adapt. And the idea of voluntary mental communications seems pretty exciting.

      But our inner thoughts have always been our last private refuge. We’ve all had thoughts that we’ve never shared with anyone. Perhaps thoughts that we’re not proud of, that we wouldn’t want to be judged by, and that we don’t allow to influence our actions and demeanor, because they’re fundamentally not about who we choose to be. Just the idea of a technology that may be able to open and expose that private refuge will unsettle a lot of people.

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      • Steve Morris says:

        Sure, but wouldn’t it be liberating? No more secrets or guilt. Just get all the trash out there in the open for everyone to see. What a wonderful therapy. If we didn’t all kill each other as a result, it could be the best thing ever!

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        • I’m not so sure. As Benjamin Franklin noted, raw unfiltered undiplomatic honesty isn’t always the best policy. Part of who we are is what we choose to share with the world. I occasionally notice flaws in friends; often flaws they can’t really do anything about. I’m not sure what would be served by exposing my thoughts about those flaws, but I’m pretty sure what effect it would have on many of those friendships.

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  2. amanimal says:

    That is pretty amazing stuff. Ben Thomas(blogged at HP for a while) wrote on Gallant’s work:

    http://theconnecto.me/2011/09/brain-videos/

    … and if you haven’t, check out the ‘Brain Viewer’ at:

    http://gallantlab.org/

    I didn’t read enough and will have to return, but it’s pretty cool – shades of ‘Fantastic Voyage'(1966 movie) as I zoomed in between the hemispheres!

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  3. Larry says:

    It seems only a matter of time before the technology exists to “read” minds (although it could be quite a long time). It will be possible to tell whether someone is lying or telling the truth. It will probably also be possible to recover memories that we can’t recover ourselves. If the technological progress continues and there isn’t a political reaction against the technology. But it won’t really qualify as telepathy, right? Isn’t a telepath supposed to merely concentrate, and maybe squint a little, and know what someone else is thinking, without electronic assistance?

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