I saw this news story
a few weeks ago, but never wrote anything about it. SFAM over at Cyberpunk Review
was more responsive and did write a timely post
about this new technology and it is worth a read.
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have developed a brain scanner that can predict human actions before they take place.
The 'multivariate pattern recognition' technique uses a computer trained to recognise certain changes in brain activity associated with actions. It can predict intended actions before they occur with 70 per cent accuracy.
"In future it will be possible to read even abstract thoughts and intentions out of patients' brains," said the scanner's inventor Professor Dr John-Dylan Haynes.
The benefits of this technology include machines that can be directed by the human mind. I, being a paranoid threat-assessing sort, tend to be more aware of the detriments (not mentioned in the article).
For example, many people may have already noticed the growing prevalence of personality tests issued to job applicants
by corporations. They want to know whether the person applying suited for the job. Unfortunately, people who don't like working for a boss, or don't like people will get screened out before the interview process. It seems to be getting harder to get a job unless one truly thinks a certain way, regardless of actual qualifications.
With technology like this, companies could actually see how their employees think and discriminate against them on that basis. It sounds harmless, but companies would be discriminating against people based on what they might
do; not what they will do.
This was the sort of discrimination that was fought against during the Civil Rights movement. At that time, skin color was used as a grouping that could be used to predict behavior. This time it will be more insidious. There is no law keeping companies from discriminating on the basis of what a person thinks.
Typically, companies have only been able to let a non-conformist go if they were airing their opinions on company time and causing a disruption; so job-loss could be avoided by keeping one's mouth shut. Now, with new technology, it might not be enough to simply keep one's thoughts to one's self, because companies can screen out thoughts they don't like before the first interview.
Beyond that, imagine the applications for use by governments. If a domestic terrorist were defined as someone who opposed government policy, a lot of people could be detained on the grounds that their thought patterns fit the domestic terrorism profile (that is, if there weren't a successful Constitutional challenge to such a practice).
Welcome to the future.________________________________________________
Keywords: News Science Technology Cyberpunk Brain Scanner Mind Reader Mind Scanner Personality Test Personality Screening Corporations Hiring Practices Big Brother Police State Discrimination Civil Rights