Believe it or not, it looks like the ability to read minds is becoming a reality – for machines at least. Jeremey Manier reports in the Chicago Tribune that a research team has managed to decipher the brain’s code, deducing what an individual is looking at based solely on brain activity. The astonishing study was published on Wednesday in the journal Nature by neuroscientists at the University of California at Berkeley. They scientists used a brain scan to find patterns of activity when people looked at black and white images or ordinary items; a software program then drew on activity in the brain’s vision center to guess which images they saw. While the technology is currently very limited, deciphering only set pictures, and at an accuracy of 92 percent, the ethical debate is already rearing its head.
The ability to “mind read” has numerous potential advantages: such as aiding communication for people who are paralyzed, locked-in-syndrome, or otherwise disabled. However, with such ability comes responsibility as well, if this technology is developed it could be used to extract information from unwilling subjects.