What if scientists can read your thoughts?

February 1st, 2012

What would it mean if we could use technology to scan your brain and figure out what you are thinking?

In a 2011 study, participants with electrodes in direct brain contact were able to move a cursor on a screen by simply thinking of vowel sounds.

A technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging to track blood flow in the brain has shown promise for identifying which words or ideas someone may be thinking about.

By studying patterns of blood flow related to particular images, Jack Gallant’s group at the University of California Berkeley showed in September that patterns can be used to guess images being thought of –recreating “movies in the mind”.

I guess one cool application was that we could use our brains to control everything around us without moving (this would work quite well for paralyzed people). That would make us quite lazy.

Everything else is insanely scary. Would scanning someone’s brain constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment? Well I guess under Justice Scala’s logic in Jones, placing a sensor on the cranium would be like a common-law battery or trespass, so boom, search. What if the brain could be scanned from a distance?