Neuroscientists are already able to read some basic thoughts, like whether an individual test subject is looking at a picture of a cat or an image with a specific left or right orientation. They can even read pictures that you're simply imagining in your mind's eye. Even leaders in the field are shocked by how far we've come in our ability to peer into people's minds. Will brain scans of the future be able to tell if a person is lying or telling the truth?
Suggest whether a consumer wants to buy a car? Reveal our secret likes and dislikes, or our hidden prejudices? While we aren't there yet, these possibilities have dramatic social, legal and ethical implications.
Last night at the World Science Festival in New York, leading neuroscientists took the stage to discuss current research into functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), a type of scan that indirectly measures neural activity by measuring the change in the blood oxygen level in the brain. Neurons require oxygen in order to fire, so if a person is thinking about or looking at a specific image, by looking at the oxygen levels the scientists can see the patterns that "light up" in the brain, and link them to a specific word or image. Study results in this field are astonishing. Work out of Frank Tong's lab at Vanderbilt University, one of the event's panelists, shows that the researchers can read the orientation of an object that a person is looking out -- say a striped pattern that goes off to the left or the right -- 95 percent of the time. His group also, with 83 percent accuracy, can predict which of two patterns an individual is holding in their memory.
But deciphering the patterns that result from one word or image is fairly simple. Unraveling the entirety of our thoughts is not. John-Dylan Haynes, a neuroscientist at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin and another panelist, says that the researchers are not truly reading minds: "We don't understand the language of the brain, the syntax and the semantics of neural language." At this point, he says, they are just using statistical analysis to analyze brain patterns during very specific object-oriented tasks.
Some of Haynes' own work, however, seems eerily akin to mind reading. In an experiment reminiscent of Benjamin Libet's 1985 Delay Test -- in which electroencephalogram (EEG) scans indicated neural activity before a test subject was conscious of making a decision to move their hand, encouraging many a debate about free will -- Haynes' team was able to predict whether or not a test subject would press a button with their left or right hand before the subject was aware which they would pick, simply by reading their brain scans.
The prospect of mind reading brings up privacy issues, raises deep ethical questions, and will doubtless eventually bring complicated legal dilemmas. Emory University bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe, a leading voice in the relatively new field of neuroethics, urges society to be "vigilant" as these technologies advance, and think about how to set the boundaries on who should be scanned and when. One potential grey area is the Fifth Amendment: Will brain scanning count as testimonial self-incrimination in a court case, or will it fall into the same category as submitting hair and blood samples? Other questions to consider: Can fMRIs act as trustworthy lie detectors or indicators of racial prejudice in a hate crime, and should the tests be admissible in court? Wolpe predicts that the Supreme Court will have to decide on questions like these within the next decade.
For now, however, all of the panelists agree: do not trust current fMRI products that are marketed as lie detectors. They say these may be over-glorified polygraph tests, and may simply measure emotional responses to stress, rather than "truth." More research needs to be done to confirm the validity of such machines. But it may happen sooner than you think.
I do not think so, please. To know private thoughts you would have to be able to read/scan words and images that a person has in their mind, not just levels of brain activity.
The research discussed in this article is only the beginning. Scientists have to start somewhere, and if detecting levels of brain activity is that somewhere, well who knows where the research will advance in say 50 years from now.
Have an open mind. Anything is possible, given enough time; human flight was once perceived impossible, but look at us now.
the perfect creator will not allow any one to violate any one privecy of what the person think or what the person store in his mind only God has that prevelege.
I'm sure there are a plethora of blogs and discussion boards open to the argument of the ethics of mind reading.
Believe what you will, it is only a matter of time, and as the author suggests, perhaps sooner than you think. The legal questions are probably more important than the ethical questions.
Consider that mind reading might end the need for torture.
It might help solve crimes, find bodies that serial killers have hidden or live people that they have not killed
It might lead to technology to erase painful traumatic memories.
btw.. last I remember, this is a science forum. God has no place on this forum as a reference. If you really feel like spouting yout mind-clone rhetoric go somewhere else.
the 'perfect creator' has and WILL allow all kinds of things on this realm.
- Meteorites.... ( I could go on)
This could be just the thing for those with the inability to express themselves. I look forward to the day when my son and I can have a conversation and I can truly know what he is thinking rather than me projecting my thoughts to his actions. Great inventions in unethical hands turn into bad inventions but in ethical caring hands they can fulfill someones greatest aspirations.
Wow, I think every marriage and friendship is in jeopardy if this happens. Not all thoughts are pure and clean. You don't always control your thoughts, your mind just wanders. Just because something may "pop" into your mind or thoughts, it doesn't mean you are evil and you will follow your thoughts with actions.
Remember the government stays approximately 10 years ahead of the private sector in research. Technology already exist that is used by the CIA and NSA to hear one's thoughts in real time. It involves a combination of EEG and ELF wave technology and is in use now! It comes hand in hand with x-ray surveillance and directed energy weaponry. I recently published one woman's account of being victimized by a former FBI agent using such technology. See www.satweapons.com for A New Breed: Satellite Terrorism in America.
Mind reading technology and all of a sudden we're all pedophiles. Come on, you know you looked at a teenage girl today.
Flying is great. Carpet bombing made possible by flying is not. As usual, we are at the mercy of the weakest links in society i.e., those that would use mind reading for the worse...
hmmmmmmm what are YOU thinking!?!?!?
What I'm I thinking now? Can anybody read my mind?
This post is very great, I like it very much.
Thought reading is already happening. Government technology is usually considerably more advanced than what the public knows. Articles like this are disinformation so the public thinks they know what the government is capable of. Do you really think the CIA or the Department of Defense would let anyone have an accurate portrait of their technology?
I cannot tell you my connection, but I have already personally experienced mind reading technology. My guess is they are able to use the movement of the vocal cords that happens when people think or read, but I don't actually know how exactly how it is done.