Below is a story from New Scientist about a machine that can read your brainwaves and listen to your thoughts. I find it VERY interesting that of all publications – New Scientist runs the piece – PLUS an editorial that says fear not, the devices are crude.
These people are all too aware that while something is crude now, it is going to be refined and in time vastly improved. Scientists can peer into the future further than most people can.
Scientists/Inventors/Mathematicians/Engineers etc… are able to see in their mind the vast improvements and the many possible uses for the machines – BEFORE they are even built and working in most cases.
Before father of the computer Charles Babbage had even built the difference engine, he realized he could build a better “computer” that could be programmed with punch cards.
I have read this is common among inventors, they get halfway and suddenly envision a better device with more uses – but they are stuck in most cases because they accepted money to develop the first device. I bet the picture of his mechanical computer below looks “crude” by our standards wouldn’t you say?
Before ‘electronic’ computers were even built, their makers envisioned the computerized world we live in today and they predicted the many uses of computers.
Alan Turing in 1950 predicted that computers would one day hold a conversation with humans and the human would not be able to tell that they were speaking with a computer – that day is about 75% here…and arriving fast, you now speak with the computers, but you can tell they are machnes – crude now, refined tomorrow.
Fear not because the devices are crude? I couldn’t think of a worse reason to tell people to fear not. This is such a nonsensical statement that it amazes me the author has employment.
This guy either wants a scientific dictatorship like in Brave New World, or he has zero foresight and should not be working for New Scientist. I think it’s the former.
When you read this sentence to yourself, it’s likely that you hear the words in your head. Now, in what amounts to technological telepathy, others are on the verge of being able to hear your inner dialogue too. By peering inside the brain, it is possible to reconstruct speech from the activity that takes place when we hear someone talking.
Because this brain activity is thought to be similar whether we hear a sentence or think the same sentence, the discovery brings us a step closer to broadcasting our inner thoughts to the world without speaking. The implications are enormous – people made mute through paralysis or locked-in syndrome could regain their voice. It might even be possible to read someone’s mind.
Imagine a musician watching a piano being played with no sound, says Brian Pasley at the University of California, Berkeley. “If a pianist were watching a piano being played on TV with the sound off, they would still be able to work out what the music sounded like because they know what key plays what note,” Pasley says. His team has done something analogous with brain waves, matching neural areas to their corresponding noises.
How the brain converts speech into meaningful information is a bit of a puzzle. The basic idea is that sound activates sensory neurons, which then pass this information to different areas of the brain where various aspects of the sound are extracted and eventually perceived as language. Pasley and colleagues wondered whether they could identify where some of the most vital aspects of speech are extracted by the brain.
The team presented spoken words and sentences to 15 people having surgery for epilepsy or a brain tumour. Electrodes recorded neural activity from the surface of the superior and middle temporal gyri – an area of the brain near the ear that is involved in processing sound. From these recordings, Pasley’s team set about decoding which aspects of speech were related to what kind of brain activity.
Here is their editorial.
MIND-READING technology continues to give us hope. It already allows people in a locked-in state to communicate, and has given a paralysed man the ability to produce simple vowel sounds. Now neuroscientists have gone one better, eavesdropping on brain activity and converting it into speech (see “Telepathy machine reconstructs speech from brainwaves“).
Great news for people who are trapped inside their own bodies, but what about the rest of us? Is there any danger of misuse?
Fear not. Devices that can read minds with any accuracy must be implanted into the brain. Non-invasive techniques such as EEG are crude and only work in carefully controlled conditions.
Astonishing breakthroughs notwithstanding, there is absolutely no prospect of anyone looking inside your skull without your consent. The final frontier of privacy remains intact.