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.