This story has been making the rounds in the news lately,
Courtesy Wikimedia Commonsdescribing a study in which a computer reconstructed video clips that subjects viewed. Participants in the experiment watched video clips while their brain activity was monitored by fMRI. Then the computer selected from millions of YouTube clips it had "seen" to make a composite video clip, some of which look eerily similar to the original videos that the participants watched.
No need to break out the tin foil hat just yet. Volunteers for this study had to lie motionless for hours for their brain activity to be scanned. But this technology could easily lead to systems of communication that aid patients whose normal channels of communication have broken down because they are paralyzed or even comatose. If you're interested, you can see the original paper here (subscription required). Take a look at some sample video from the study:
Ever make a mistake while performing a simple task over and over? The scientific term for these is “brain farts,” and I’m surprised JGordon didn’t jump all over this story. Anyway, researchers have found that that up to 30 seconds before the far… er, lapse in concentration, the brain starts relaxing. This may be related to the phenomenon of sensory fatigue, when your brain stops registering a persistent input (such as a droning noise in the background, or the feel of clothes against your skin).
Anyway, the amazing mind-reading hat could, at some foreseeable point in the future, sound an alarm whenever it recognized brain gas building, and jolt you back to concentration. It would be a great benefit to me in meetings, except I’m afraid it would go off so often no one could get anything done.
Well, not exactly. Scientists in England have
used high-resolution brain scans to identify patterns of activity before translating them into meaningful thoughts, revealing what a person planned to do in the near future. It is the first time scientists have succeeded in reading intentions in this way.
The system works by looking for changes in the activity of a certain small part of the brain. Using high-resolution brain-imaging machinery, coupled with powerful new software, scientists were able to tell what a person intended to do before they actually did it.
Now, before we get all worked up about machines reading our minds, it's worth noting that:
Nevertheless, the scientists believe that research in this area will advance rapidly, to the point where a paraplegic could write an e-mail by simply thinking of the words. Or, in a darker scenario, where a government could arrest people simply for thinking of a crime, before they actually commit it.
The researchers argue that our society needs to start discussing the implications of this discovery and develop regulations now, rather than wait until after someone figures out how to abuse this power.
What do you think? Leave us a comment.