Next generation brain scanning technology could make machines that can literally read minds and record thoughts. That’s according to Scientific American, which reported that scientists around the world are getting closer to making science fiction into reality through something called brain decoding.
The magazine explored the developing technology in a story, “Mind-reading Technology Speeds Ahead.” The technology also have been examined in the British journal Nature.
“By scanning blobs of brain activity, scientists may be able to decode people’s thoughts, their dreams and even their intentions,” Kerri Smith wrote in Nature.
Brain decoding involves the use of magnetic scans of the brain in an attempt to see if there is a connection between thoughts or behavior and patterns of brain activities.
In a German experiment, a brain scanner was able to identify which virtual reality images subjects had seen. Nature reported that the experiment had an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
Machines that can show scientists pictures of what you are thinking are not available yet, but researchers reportedly are getting closer. There have been some frightening advances in brain-scanning technology in recent years.
Scientists closer to developing mind-reading machine than you might think
Some of the recent scary advances in brain decoding technology include:
- Japanese scientist Yukiyasu Kamitani was able to recreate images from people’s dreams using brain decoding. Kamitani had his subjects sleep in a brain scanner and woke them up periodically.
- Scientists have been able to tell what people are looking at by using brain decoding since 2001. “We were quite surprised it worked as well as it did,” Jim Haxby, the Dartmouth University scientist who invented the process, told Nature.
- Scientists such as Jack Gallant of the University of California at Berkeley, and Nikolaus Kriegeskorte of Cambridge are trying to find out how the brain organizes and stores information. In other words, they are trying to figure out how to “hack” into the human brain. Could that make such stock science fiction nightmares as mind control and mind reading machines a reality?
- A San Diego company called No Lie MRI is trying to develop an improved lie detector or polygraph based on magnetic imaging technology. Current polygraph technology is notoriously unreliable and inadmissible in court. No Lie wants to develop a brain scanner that can detect lies by identifying brain patterns associated with them.
- A company called SBXL has hired scientists at Bangor University in the United Kingdom to use brain scanners in an attempt to understand supermarket shoppers’ behavior. “We are really excited about this new research opportunity,” Paul Mullins, a psychologist in the study, told The Telegraph newspaper. “Using advanced brain-imaging techniques we hope to get a better understanding of how shoppers respond to special offers.”
- Scientists at Ben-Gurion University in Israel were able to change human behavior by using high frequency magnetic impulses to stimulate the brain. The impulses targeted specific sections of smokers’ brains and caused them to cut down or quit their cigarette use. This research seems to involve the use of brain scanning to change human behavior. One has to wonder how long it will be before it is used to change other kinds of behavior.
At least one ethicist believes there would be nothing wrong with using brain decoding to collect evidence in court.
“I don’t see why we should privilege people’s thoughts over their words,” Julian Savulescu of Oxford University told Nature. Savulescu even thinks brain decoding would be “liberating” for individuals.
It looks like science is close to unlocking some of the secrets of the human brain using decoding. Unfortunately that decoding just may enable the hacker of the future to crack into the human brain in the way present-day cyber crooks hack computers.