Is mind-reading technology another step closer? A study published today in Cerebral Cortex used MRI technology to scan the brains of 19 subjects while they were asked to think about four very different people. According to Cornell University’s R. Nathan Spreng and his colleagues, it turned out that the brains displayed different patterns depending on who the subjects were thinking about.
Therefore, the researchers could look at the brain activity revealed on the MRI and pinpoint which of four people the test subjects had in mind.
According to Medical Express, Spreng said: “When we looked at our data, we were shocked that we could successfully decode who our participants were thinking about based on their brain activity.”
If the thought of someone being able to turn on an MRI and figure out what’s in your head gives you the creeps, you’re probably not alone. The tech world exploded in outrage a few years back when Google CEO Eric Schmidt made the unfortunate comment, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Gawker even published a video of the notorious statement.
Kathleen Taylor, author of The Brain Supremacy: Notes from the Frontiers of Neuroscience, also quoted Schmidt when she published an extended excerpt from her book late last year on Salon. The terrifying title of that article? “Mind reading is possible!”
She said that the kinds of functional MRI scans used in Spreng’s new research were once scoffed at as “prettily descriptive but doing little for real understanding.” But now the technique has been tested often enough to be acknowledged as the best “hope that we could bypass the need to infer mental content from external cues. This is the superpower of practical telepathy: detecting and decoding minds at source.”
Why would anyone other than Eric Schmidt want such a privacy-invading technology? Presumably, most adults have a sex life that they don’t want to share with the world or even their doctors. However, Taylor believes that the technology will be pursued because of its value in crime prevention, espionage, psychiatry and medicine, and even entertainment.
I for one am taking another look at Mel Gibson’s tin foil hats. What about you? Will you welcome a new mind-reading technology?