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Get Out of My Head

March 12, 2010

Rheanna Sand

Science in Seconds Blog by Rheanna Sand

I know what you're thinking. "Stop reading my thoughts."

Well, that's fair. Mind reading is invasive, and should only be performed by the most skilled of gypsies. And by gypsies, I mean Wellcome Trust researchers at University College London. They've created an algorithm that can read memories.

In their experiment, Demis Hassabis and Professor Eleanor Maguire had subjects watch short movie clips, and then mentally recall the movies while being scanned by a functional magnetic resonance imager, or fMRI. The algorithm then analyzed the data from different brains, and, eerily, was able to determine which movie each person saw.

For this to have been successful, episodic memories must be stored in very similar patterns in different people. So much so that a computer could distinguish between memories of a woman drinking a cup of coffee and one mailing a letter.

And of course DARPA, the coven of U.S. military witchcraft, isn't letting this potential slip by. In 2008, the Army Research Office threw $4 million at research in "synthetic telepathy," and outlined a specific goal: to create a sophisticated brain-computer interface that would digitally render thoughts and transmit them to other soldiers.

In this vein, DARPA awarded Northrop Grumman the first phase of an advanced research contract to supply soldiers with mind reading binoculars. They combine optics with EEG signals from electrodes on your own scalp to alert you of subconscious threats before the conscious mind is aware of them.

Yes, because that's exactly what we need - people strapped with weapons and trained to kill, reacting to only their first instincts. Makes the mind-reading algorithm sound a lot less Orwellian, doesn't it?

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