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New Software May be Able to Read Your Mind

Your boss and/or spouse will no longer have to guess what you're thinking. All they will have to do in the future is fire up their computers and find out! Is this ominous? (It's an incredible world out there!)

By combining fMRI brain scans with pattern-detection software, neuroscientists think they will be able to find out what people are thinking. So far, using this software, they've successfully predicted what pictures people are looking at and what decisions they're getting ready to make.

Researchers Jack Gallant and Shinji Nishimoto recently demonstrated that they can create a crude film adaptation of a movie that someone was watching just by viewing their brain activity.

But their science is still at an elementary stage. In New Scientist, Ewen Callaway reports that "When one lab member was watching a clip of the actor Steve Martin in a white shirt, the computer program produced a clip that looked like a moving, human-shaped smudge, with a white 'torso,' but the blob bears little resemblance to Martin, with nothing corresponding to the moustache he was sporting."

Mind reading is getting closer to reality because scientists now say they can tell, with 50-70% accuracy, if you are imaging a word that has a vowel in it. In Technology Review, Emily Singer quotes researcher Gerwin Schalk as saying, "If we can boost accuracy to 90%, we'll have a genuine thought-translation device."

The most humane use for this would be to help patients who have lost the ability to speak to communicate. But if this technology is ever used by the government (in a program like Homeland Security) or the military, there is great potential for misuse.

The hundreds of thousands of people who have been in contact with aliens say that they "spoke inside their heads." New Scientist quotes neuroscientist Gallant as admitting that if this technology is ever perfected, the same machine that reads the thoughts of patients in order to diagnose their brain disease may well find more "nefarious applications."

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