Mind Reading

If you think Facebook is bad for your privacy, think again.

The Economist reports this week on three scientific studies dealing with “mind reading”, or more accurately, the ability to find out what a person is thinking by scanning the activity of his or her brain.

In the first study, scientists in Germany managed to “read” the actions of people in their dreams. In the second study, scientists in the US managed to reconstruct movies watched by people based on activity recorded in their visual cortex. And a third group of scientists in the US managed, to a certain degree, to find out what objects people were were thinking about.

The bottom line from these studies, as The Economist puts it, is that mind reading has become a reality. Admittedly, it is still making its firsts steps and the results are somewhat crude, but it will undoubtedly improve over time, as scientists refine their methods and take advantage of advances in technology.

The implications of these studies raise deep ethical questions. Just like atomic energy, this technology can be harnessed to help humanity (severely disabled people will be able to perform tasks simply by thinking about them), but it can also be used for nefarious purposes. If authorities can find out what people are thinking about, there will be nowhere to hide. Lying will become impossible. That will bring an end to the world as we know it, because as we all know: lying makes the world go round.

You think I’m exaggerating? Just imagine a world where everybody tells the truth:

 

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