Sunday, August 07, 2005

I know what you're thinking!

In the "just out of science fiction" department, scientists at University College London and UCLA report that they are able to read a person's thoughts by analyzing brain waves. Apparently, they are able to tell what pictures a person is looking at and what sounds that person is listening to. This is pretty solid confirmation that thoughts are linked to electrical energy in the brain.

The first thought that came to my mind, (well, okay, the second thought, but I won't print the first one here,) is that it will be a very short leap from being able to READ one's thoughts to being able to AFFECT one's thoughts. Now, sit down and stop shouting, I'm not suggesting we suppress this type of research. What I am suggesting is that there are all sorts of potential implications to our legal code, to our medical code of ethics, to our sense of morality as a society that we need to discuss while we head down this path. The practical applications of this type of breakthrough are staggering. They range from crime investigation to criminal rehabilitation, to enhanced movie, TV, and book entertainment, to virtual reality. The practical applications are staggering.

In our euphoria to press forward, let's not lose site of the Orwellian implications, however. In the hands of the unscrupulous, this type of technology will be extremely dangerous. Imagine what religious extremists could do with it. Imagine what totalitarian states could do with it. Heck, imagine what your average bank robber could do with it! This is quite a break-through in science. It also opens Pandora's Box just a little bit wider. If you thought the debate on stem cell research was entertaining, wait until you see the debate on this one, assuming the news coverage goes any further than a quick science blurb.

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1 comment :

Alan Fraser said...

Confirming that RSS works quite nicely on your site. I still recommend putting up an XML icon to make it easier for people to subscribe. Also, for the Technorati tags in which you want to specify two words, use "brain+waves" in the "REL" specification.

As to content: Since UCLA has got it then the government has already got it which means it's already in the hands of the unscrupulous. Recall the Vonnegut story in which the hero had an IQ of 200 and was blasted with noise at random intervals to make him equal to everyone else...