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Reading People’s Actual Thoughts With a Machine

60 Minutes just ran an excellent segment on how fMRI is being used by the Brain Image Analysis Research Group at Carnegie Mellon and elsewhere to literally read people’s minds. The video below is a must see:

For those without the time or interest in watching the entire video, a short summary:

1.  Put someone’s head in an fMRI machine and we can tell with increasing accuracy:

  • the object they are thinking of (hammer, window, etc.)
  • determine whether a person has seen a location before (such as a crime scene) by showing them a picture of the scene and monitoring them under fMRI
  • extract certain macro thoughts such as lying, love, etc

2.  Court cases seem soon to come in which the legality of mind reading for lie detection and other uses will be confronted

3.  They’re trying to develop now a beam of light that would be projected onto your forehead. It would go a couple of millimeters into your frontal cortex, and then receptors would get the reflection of that light. And there’s some studies that suggest that we could use that as a lie detection device, or perhaps even thought detection device without you even knowing it was happening.

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