Sunday, February 11, 2007

New Technology for Mind Reading Raises Ethical Debates

The London Guardian reports that scientists have now learned to use high resolution brain scans to translate brain activity patterns into meaningful thoughts about a person's intention.

"Using the scanner, we could look around the brain for this information and read out something that from the outside there's no way you could possibly tell is in there. It's like shining a torch around, looking for writing on a wall," said John-Dylan Haynes at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany, who led the study with colleagues at University College London and Oxford University.

There is talk of refining this method in the hopes that judgment will be passed before any laws have been broken. Currently, the software used to spot the subtle differences in brain activity, is only about 70% accurate with predicting a person's intentions.

Barbara Sahakian, a professor of neuro-psychology at Cambridge University, said "A lot of neuroscientists in the field are very cautious and say we can't talk about reading individuals' minds, and right now that is very true, but we're moving ahead so rapidly, it's not going to be that long before we will be able to tell whether someone's making up a story, or whether someone intended to do a crime with a certain degree of certainty."

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