What limits should be applied to mind reading technology?

“By scanning blogs of brain activity, scientists may be able to decode people’s thoughts, dreams and intentions,” writes Kerri Smith in Nature Magazine.

Image via Nature

Although companies are starting to pursue brain decoding for a few applications, such as market research and lie detection, scientists are far more interested in using this process to learn about the brain itself. (Scientific American)

Today’s Question: What limits should be applied to mind reading technology?

  • Winston Smith

    I can see the Inner Party using this to weed out undesirables in the Outer Party. Just think of the freedom loving thoughts(thought crimes) of the reluctant masses that could be detected.

    Our current administration is targeting political enemies with the IRS and NSA, just think what they would do with this new technology.

    • So what limits would you like to see put on the technology?

      • Winston Smith

        What good would limits do? More gun laws don’t make us safer. Just because something is illegal is doesn’t mean people or governments wont do it.

        • PaulJ

          They say “collecting your thoughts?”, but they mean collecting YOUR thoughts.

      • Fred Garvin

        Whatever limits are enacted, meglomaniacs like Obama will just ignore them.

      • Fred Garvin

        My god Mr.Olson, nearly all of Europe is in an anti-American uproar because Obama ignored our laws, ignored international laws, and basic decency by listening in on the conversations of heads of foreign states.
        So let’s enact some more?

        • Quite a leap off topic, Fred.

          • Fred Garvin

            When a leader ignores ethical, regulatory, administrative, statutory, constitutional, and international guidelines, laws, and treaties, what would ANYONE think more of any of the above will make a difference?
            I don’t see my comments as off topic since ANY regulation or limits in this area are only as good as the people enforcing them. Without ethical leadership from the top down, such regs or limits are without teeth.
            While I do appreciate your summary of my views on the president, it’s odd, but not surprising, that you have not offered such a summary for other commenters from the “other side.”
            Such is life.

        • Oh Please

          FYI the wikileak documents all the foreign politician phone tapping hullabaloo came from was from 2006. Mr. Bush was president then.

          • Jamie

            I know we’re off topic, but I’m so sick of people saying that Bush did THIS, so it’s okay that Obama does THAT. It’s NOT OK now. It WASN’t OK then. Nixon had an enemies list…. yeah, well Nixon resigned in disgrace. Let’s shut down the government over repeal of the Patriot Act…

          • Oh Please

            You seem to be taking what I said and adding your own spin to it. I was simply pointing out to Mr. Garvin that his alleging that president Obama is to blame for breaking ours and international law is at best purely speculative. Mr Garvin as well as many in the Republican institution does seem to disregard facts when it is convenient to further their agenda. I said nothing of the legality of the NSA’s tactics, or the moral compass of either administration. If you see such meaning in my words might you reexamine the filter you view the world through before passing such judgement.

          • Fred Garvin

            ” I said nothing of the legality of the NSA’s tactics, or the moral compass of either administration”
            But you see, Obama was elected largely on the basis of the slogan of “hope & change”–the latter being relevent to this discussion.
            If you wish to concede that when it comes to the NSA, not only did we get change, we got CHANGE FOR THE WORSE under Obama, then we can probably move on.
            But I wager you won’t do that.

          • Fred Garvin

            This is so easy.
            The revelations of rampant and illegal eavesdropping on foreign leaders has NOTHING to do with the wikileaks leaks.
            Gawd, I don’t know why I try.

          • Oh Please

            Will you please back that statement up with some proof? It is contradictory to all reports I have heard.

            And as a personal request, can you not reply like a 15 year old girl? It makes it real difficult to take you seriously.

          • Fred Garvin

            1. The revelations regarding the eveasdropping on the phone of foreign leaders came from Edward Snowden, NOT wikileaks.

            2. “It is contradictory to all reports I have heard.”
            Therein lies the problem.

            3. Can you not reply like an Obama groupie?

            I await your apology.

          • Fred Garvin

            and still waiting…

    • reggie

      Winston, do really think the current administration is behaving any differently than past administrations? Don’t know how old you are, but I recall an “enemies list” from the Nixon administration… It is the nature of politicians to want to remain in office. That’s why term limits and exclusively public funding of elections would be good ideas.

      • Winston Smith

        Just siting a current example with today’s high tech world.
        We all know that Bush was Hitler, right?

        • Fred Garvin

          See, this is what I’m talking about regarding the atitudes of MPR employees.

          6-10 years ago, there were plenty of Bush=Hitler comments and Bush=Hitler-like comments on the various MPR boards on just about every topic…except maybe the deer season opener. Oh wait, even then there were conspiratorial comments about how Bush covered up Cheney’s murder attempt on his TX hunting partner.

          Now, I do not recall ANY MPR editor/newsman/employee spending any time posting a comment remotely similar to this:

          “Quite a leap off topic, Fred. Limits could be ethical or regulatory. I think you’ve clearly established your view of the president in these discussions.”

          Granted, I often use the absurd to illustrate the absurdity of many liberal comments posted around here–one should be able to discern them by the liberal use ol liberal cliches.

          When the prevailing attitudes around the newsroom are that Bush=Hitler, then most of what is read on the MPR blogs seems reasonable and topical.

          When the prevailing attitudes around the newsroom are that Obama is a secular christ, then I’m off topic.

      • Winston Smith

        Nixon ever pull a stunt like Obama did to Gibson guitars?

      • Fred Garvin

        Obama’s enemies list is a kill list.
        Nixon’s enemies list was of his politcal opponents.
        So, you’re right, there’s no difference.

    • Sue de Nim

      Writing under the name of the lead character in George Orwell’s 1984 and alluding to themes in that novel is not the same as making a rational argument.

  • PaulJ

    The same limits that are applied to lie detectors (what ever those are) are probably the best we’ll be able to do. Unfortunately the research will probably be less limited and lead to all sorts of new ways to sell laundry soap and place students on the ‘right’ track.

  • JQP

    1) It should exist in the manner that the colloquial English phrase implies

    2) it should require both notification and permission of the individual

  • Sue de Nim

    It’s way too soon to call this a “technology.” It’s still basic research, and it requires very expensive and bulky fMRI scanners. If it can be developed into a more accurate lie detector than the polygraph, then it should have the same limits as that device.

    • JQP

      pay no attention to this mountain of equipment I have with me… you are completely safe.

  • david

    It would be nice to keep everyone honest. I think its biggest critics will be those with things to hide, conspiracy theorist, and those afraid of killing the idea of the ghost in the machine. As far as limits those are already imposed by the physical reality of the technology.

  • Jim G

    Shouldn’t they have to test this type of technology on animals before they use it on humans? I want to know what rats, monkeys, and dogs are thinking before mind reading technologies are allowed to read human minds.

    • JQP

      Old Gary Larsen cartoon …

      What the owner says … ” Down Ginger, Down. Bad, Bad, Bad girl Ginger”

      What Ginger hears .. ” mmbblph Ginger, mmbblph. mmbblph, mmbblph, mmbblph mmbblph Ginger”

      • Jim G

        My lab hears “mmbblph ball, mmbblph ball”

  • Jeff

    It’s a bit too soon to worry about mind reading technology…we’ll see self driving cars decades before we see a hand held brain reading device.

    • JQP

      Imagine mind reading cars…. with four passengers ..

  • kennedy

    Since the technology would provide access to information that an individual can reasonably expect to be private, it is similar to wire tapping. It should require consent of the individual, or a court order. As the technology matures, the law will need to adapt to protect individual rights to privacy. Or we could see people wearing tinfoil hats.

  • Bill

    I think it would be great to have when trying to select political representatives. Everyone would then see that they represent money and not people.

  • tiyc

    im pretty sure the technology to read minds is already here. my neighbors are cops and they let a little secret slip