Imagine a future where everyday apparel like a hat or smartwatch can read their wearer’s brainwaves to report to an employer on whether a worker is slacking off, or concentrating on their task; that same technology allows law enforcement, searching for co-conspirators in a crime, to subpoena brainwave records to search for clues for potential suspects; and hackers, monitoring potential marks through brain-controlled video games, can divine bank card PIN codes from unsuspecting players. Although this seems like a nightmare out of a futuristic dystopia, a futurist with Duke University says that the technology to accomplish these seemingly distant scenarios is already here—and in some cases is already in use.

“You may be surprised to learn it is a future that has already arrived,” Duke University law professor and futurist Nita Farahany said in a presentation delivered at the 2023 World Economic Forum in Davos. “Artificial intelligence has enabled advances in decoding brain activity in ways we never before thought possible. What you think, what you feel—it’s all just data—data that in large patterns can be decoded using artificial intelligence.”

Farahany says that not everything about these brain-decoding technologies are doom-and-gloom: brain-machine interface devices can be used to monitor employee stress levels, ensuring that workers aren’t overwhelmed; cognitive monitoring, already in use in some workplaces requiring a high level of alertness for safety purposes, can warn the worker if their attention is drifting; and these devices, including implantable ones such as one being tested by Precision Neuroscience, are intended to enable paralyzed individuals to type text or control an on-screen cursor without the need for a keyboard or mouse.

But Farahany warns that, like all powerful technology, the ability to decode brainwaves is vulnerable to abuse from multiple sectors, from overreach and unwarranted surveillance by government or law enforcement; the same data that might be used by corporations to improve working conditions could also be used to find excuses to exploit workers or leverage the termination of their employment; and scammers are already capable of gleaning information such as bank card PIN numbers by monitoring data from brain-machine device-wearing video game players, using their pre-conscious responses to numbers being shown on the screen to gauge their importance.

“The coming future, and I mean near-term future, these devices become the common way to interact with all other devices,” Farahany says. “It is an exciting and promising future, but also a scary future. Surveillance of the human brain can be powerful, helpful, useful, transform the workplace, and make our lives better. It also has a dystopian possibility of being used to exploit and bring to the surface our most secret self.”

So far, this technology is only capable of decoding brainwaves to determine emotional states, visual stimulus such as faces or simple geometric shapes, and numbers that are on the mind of the person being recorded; it is currently incapable of decoding thought itself—that capability won’t be available until much later, according to Farahany.

The practice of electroencephalography, the recording of the electrical impulses generated by the brain and the basis of this technology, has been in use for nearly a century, but has only been useful in clinical settings where a patient’s mental state needs to be monitored.

It has only been in recent years that the application of machine learning algorithms to more detailed scans that comparatively more complex information can be decoded from the brain; and although Farahany points out that reading brain waves is currently not possible at a distance—the device requires contact with an individual’s skin to work—she does warn that it’s possible to remotely disrupt brainwaves; she uses the example of the ongoing problem of Havana syndrome as a possible example of such technology.

These devices are not cumbersome, and can be incorporated into a headband or hat, as it is in the case for train conductors on China’s busy Beijing-Shanghai train line to monitor for fatigue, or earbuds that can also function as ordinary audio devices. Simpler directional information can also be picked up through electromyography, the recording of electrical activity produced by one’s muscles, something that can be accomplished through a device worn elsewhere on the body, such as a smartwatch.

Farahany says that many of these abuses can be mitigated if cognitive rights can be codified as part of our human rights laws, and it is important for lawmakers to be proactive in this regard, to guard against potential transgressions before they become commonplace, rather than reacting to a nightmare scenario after the fact.

Doing so “would enable us to embrace and reap the benefits of the coming age of neural interface technology,” Farahany explained in an interview with Nautilus magazine. “That means recognizing the fundamental human right to cognitive liberty—our right to think freely, our self-determination over our brains and mental experiences. And then updating three existing rights: the right to privacy, freedom of thought, and self-determination.”

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  1. The idea of wearing a tin foil hat doesn’t seem quite so bizarre after looking at this technology.

    1. This is exactly true and the below links and Crest Archives just solidify a ton of this.

      The movie, “The Men who Stare at Goats” is based on some aspects of all of this for sure imho. I’d love to see Orgone energy explored and also why the man behind it “oopsie died”. It’s all very odd but does seem connected for those that connect the dots.

      1. I would highly recommend that folks here watch “The Men Who Stare at Goats.”

  2. US Air Force, New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century – Ancillary Volume, Scientific Advisory Board (USAF), Washington, DC, Document #19960618040, 1996, pp. 89-90. EPI402.

    Prior to the mid-21st century, there will be a virtual explosion of knowledge in the field of neuroscience. We will have achieved a clear understanding of how the human brain works, how it really controls the various functions of the body, and how it can be manipulated (both positively and negatively). One can envision the development of electromagnetic energy sources, the output of which can be,

    pulsed, shaped, and focused
    that can couple with the human body in a fashion that will allow one to prevent voluntary muscular movements
    control emotions (and thus actions)
    produce sleep
    transmit suggestions
    interfere with both short-term and long-term memory
    produce an experience set
    delete an experience set

  3. The N3 program aims to develop a safe, portable neural interface system capable of reading from and writing to multiple points in the brain at once. Whereas the most advanced existing neurotechnology requires surgical implantation of electrodes, N3 is pursuing high-resolution technology that works without the requirement for surgery so that it can be used by able-bodied people.

  4. You know what this reminds me of??? People who astral travel into places like area 51 & McMurdo and get physically blasted back into their body by the invisible protection they have over the bases… this is just another way for them to get in w what we are thinking because they know a lot of humans out there who are way more intelligent then them so why wouldn’t they want that for themselves!!

    Like that person said above we will need our foil tin hats!

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