Recent news – Scientists reading minds

I thought this video was just too cool not to share (the embed code doesn’t work, so you’ll have to follow the link – sorry, WordPress doesn’t allow Flash or Java code). I saw this on 60 Minutes last night. The short of it is that using brain imaging equipment and software, scientists are starting to be able to “read” minds. They have determined that certain neurons always fire in the same pattern when thinking about specific things, and so by looking at your brain scans, they can compare those to known patterns to determine what you are thinking about.

The project is still in its infant stages, where they know, for instance, the difference between “screwdriver” and “apartment”, but are limited to a small list of words they have mapped. Right now they can’t discern complex thoughts, but it seems it’s only a matter of time – a little like the human genome project, a map of human thought is a big, but not insurmountable task, given sufficient resources and time (one expert they interviewed suggested it might be completed within five years from now). It could become the ultimate lie detector test.

Of course, this raises all sorts of ethical issues. It would be invaluable in court, but as one expert points out, will it be considered physical evidence such as DNA or hair samples that police can get warrants to obtain from suspects, or will it fall under the 5th amendment, which provides that defendants in court cannot be forced to provide testimony against themselves.

Read the full-text at the 60 Minutes website.

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3 responses to “Recent news – Scientists reading minds

  1. WOW!

    What I find interesting is that they only focused on potential more questionable uses for the technology.

    My immediate thought was whether they can use this kind of technology to be able to help people with disabilities. If they can figure out what my brain looks like when I want to turn on the light, can I then turn on the light from across the room even if I’m paralyzed (and can’t clap, like for the clapper :P)? Or, even more excitingly, figure out what I’m saying if I can’t speak. I think I’ve read articles where they’re actually doing this (the light example, not the speaking one), but it involves implanting things in your brain, which is a lot scarier than just being scanned by a laser. Well, until we find out that lasers will kill you. ;)

  2. Emotiv has been working on brainwave technology. Below is a link to some product demos. The wheelchair video is amazing and it works off of recognizing facial expressions.

    http://emotiv.com/INDS_2/inds_2_3.html

  3. I thought you’d be intrigued, Tahlia! You know, it’s funny, the disabilities angle didn’t even occur to me. But it doesn’t surprise me that that’s the first thing you’d think of, given that’s your area of expertise.

    That’s pretty cool, Owlman! It’s amazing the things we’re able to do these days, and it seems like new developments every day.

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