Scientists claim they have developed the means to transfer thoughts directly from the brain onto a computer screen. If this is true, soon we may be able to transpose images from our own memories (and even dreams) into videos. Thought testimony will soon be seen in courtrooms, as witnesses “recall” in full detail the incidents in question. But perhaps most importantly (and frighteningly) the rift between our minds and the eyes of others will be breached. Imagine the possibilities of looking into the mind of another and actually watching their thoughts unfold before your very eyes. This may soon be a reality.
Dr. Jack Gallant of the UCB psych department appears to have created a tool that will put the human race years in advance of where we currently are in the field of psychology. If doctors could actually physically see the thoughts of patients the barrier of communication, which many in psychosis lack the ability to perform effectively, becomes a thing of the past. In addition, the case of the man in a coma for 28 years who could not even communicate to his family may be able to communicate just as well as anyone else soon by thought alone. If the technology creates reliable images from the mind it can create language, art, and communication.
“A computer program was used to search for links between the configuration of shapes, colors, and movements in the videos, and patterns of activity in the patients’ visual cortex,” said Dr. Gallant, showing off his new device, “It was later fed more than 200 days’ worth of YouTube internet clips and asked to predict which areas of the brain the clips would stimulate if people were watching them”¦” Dr. Gallant said the experiment was fairly simple from there, “Finally the software was used to monitor the two patients’ brains as they watched a new film and to reproduce what they were seeing based on their neural activity alone.”
It would appear the device has made remarkable strides in a fairly short period of time, but still has its shortcomings. For example, test subjects who were hooked in displayed images of a person on the television screen, but the images of the finer features such as the face were blurred. Still, Dr. Gallant is hopeful that soon these shortcomings will be overcome, and is still impressed with what it is able to do at this point, “Remarkably, the computer program was able to display continuous footage of the films they were watching – albeit with blurred images.”
The technological applications of this technology are both thrilling to conceive and terrifying. If the optic nerve is tapped, it could be a stepping stone to other brainwaves which could ultimately lead to total mind reading. Of course this would give us an incredible amount of insight into our own lives, but at the same time the potential abuses could be devastating.
Film makers could potentially use the new technology to create entire sagas fed directly from their brains (or even dreams) and transmitted to the television screens of others. Musicians, particularly savants, could imagine entire orchestral pieces and imagine their ways into the hearts of entire audiences worldwide without moving a finger.
On the other hand, imagine the annoyance of the mental scanning equivalent of social networking. Imagine being privy to the intimate details of the minds of others as they went about their day. With no barrier between the mind and the prying eyes of others, our minds may be ripe for invasion of privacy as well, particularly when we sleep. criminals may be able to use the same technology to tap into the mind and extract information against our will. Of course things such as bank numbers may be so secret that we will be disallowed to know them ourselves. Imagine that!