Feb
12
2007

New machine can read minds!


If you could read my mind, love: New software reveals your intentions before you act. Photo NIH.

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:

  • They did a very simple test, only asking people whether they intended to add or subtract two numbers.
  • Because each brain is different, the scientists had to run many tests before they could figure out how each individual brain signalled intention.
  • The machines are very big and clunky, and require a person to sit still and strap them on.
  • Even after all that, they were only successful 70% of the time

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.

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