Monday, April 28, 2014

Mind Reading Technology

One of my assignments for an Ethics in Psychology class I am taking was to write a response to a news article. I found one that discusses  the future of mind reading technology. Below is the response I wrote for class, but I'm curious to know what other people think of this stuff too!

This article strongly follows up with many class discussions on brain scans used to read minds. This type of technology is in very early stages of development, and there is a long way to go until the technology exists to read minds with non-invasive methods. As this type of technology becomes more of a possibility, there are more and more fears instilled in the general public, mainly due to a lack of understanding about how difficult understanding the deeper operations of the human brain truly is. In spite of this, there is still great research being done to “read minds” and learn more about brain structure and function. An example of this, discussed in the author, is a study lead by Allan Cowen which uses fMRIs to reconstruct a face that an individual in the scan is viewing. These recreations aren’t perfect, but have been generally recognizable. Similar technology is also being used to reconstruct viewed videos. This information suggests then that it is possible to “decode dreams based on brain activity” though this is something that would still require a great deal more research before this happened. 

Researchers have also begun working on further ‘brain reading’ technology which could have great implications for our futures. Chun, a Yale Psychology professor, is studying attention, and specifically what happens with brain functions when people essentially zone out. This could have great implications for disorders such as ADHD where these types of experiences are far more common. Another researcher, Stanford neurologist Dr Parvizi, is studying memory retrieval. It is found that we can detect the retrieval of memories, but cannot yet dictate what those memories are. If this technology could be altered so that memories could be retrieved from an individual, on the basis of a brain scan, there could be great implications for individuals with memory impairment disorders such as Alzheimer’s. 

Through all of this, as technology continues to advance, there will be great concerns with privacy and autonomy. At some point, people will likely be asking “what if I don’t want my thoughts read, or my memories accessed?” This is going to be a concern pressing forward that will only be able to be addressed through adequate education. And even if it were possible to properly educate individuals about this technology, people would still have fears and concerns. This is something that will happen in time, and it is with that technology that, over time, will require a great deal of education.

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