Popular Science recently ran an article about some scientists at Berkeley who have built a working mind reading machine. On hearing this most people think this is awesome news when in fact we should be trying to stop this at all costs.
It turns out the neuroscientists have come up with a way to measure blood oxygen levels to the brain. Then a machine interprets that blood flow to draw a rough picture of what the person is looking at based on patterns it has learned from the person in the past.
The technology is called functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or as I like to call it, the Screw Up Civilization machine. With very basic shapes the scientists claim that the machine has a success rate of 90%. While this may not sound like a big deal consider that the current success rate from various spoon bending scam artists is about 0%.
To be fair the machine is pretty simple at this point, well as simple as a machine can get that measures neuron activity in your brain. Even the scientists working on it admit that they can’t yet read actual words or thoughts. Plus the machine has to be calibrated first by learning how your brain reacts to images.
At the same time though the scientists believe they can refine the machine enough to read thoughts within the decade. This means we could have mind reading technology before we figure out a way stop emails from those Nigerian princes needing your help to obtain millions of dollars.
As usual though the Japanese claim they can get even better results with machines that will probably not only read your mind but also wash your cars while playing Japanese pop songs. The Japanese machines can not only work with still images but can actually recreate a rough video of what the person was watching.
What the scientists don’t discuss though is the absolute destruction of life as we know it if this technology were to ever become common place. Here are the reasons why mind reading technology would be the worst idea ever.
According what we have been told every study ever conducted by every scientist ever has shown that men think about sex every seven seconds. It turns out that thankfully this is actually B.S. In actuality studies show that most men, 54%, think about sex every day or several times a day. The other 46% of men in the survey lied their asses off.
This problem is compounded by the fact that men are visual creatures. We may be sitting at our desks thinking TPS report but if some woman comes by with a low cut top on many of us are going to find ourselves thinking slightly less pure thoughts, at least for a moment.
There is of course nothing wrong with this, these are private thoughts and they cause no harm. But imagine all of a sudden those thoughts are no longer private. What if when that hot new intern came by you suddenly blurt out “Nice rack!”? This is basically what will happen if people had the ability to read your every thought.
Actually what they would probably get is, “TPS report, TPS report, my butt itches, what did I just burp up, who has the record for most runs in September, Nice Rack!” But the end result will be the same. One minute you are a corporate slave, the next you are the defendant in a sexual harassment suit.
2. You are a dirty liar.
This is a straight up fact, but you are not alone. We all lie. When meeting someone new studies show that we lie an average of three times in a ten minute period, to a complete stranger. Lies are basically the grease to make social interactions work. Think about that person you know is who completely honest and blunt about everything and consider how popular that person is.
Even when confronted about their lying the people in the studies basically didn’t see anything wrong with it. It’s so ingrained that no one really sees it as being wrong.
Not all of our lies are benign though. While we sometimes lie to make people feel better there are many situations when we lie for personal gain. We tell our bosses we love the idea of more work. We call in sick to catch the big game. Every person ever pulled over for speeding had no idea how fast they were going. In fact for that last one that what lawyers tell people to say.
Mind reading technology? That would screw up everything. Your boss would know exactly what you think of his toupee. Your girlfriend will know exactly how fat those pants, and every other pair of pants she owns, make her look. Cops will know exactly how fast you thought you were going along with how much weed you have in your car.
You would be forced to think nothing but pure thoughts and be on your guard every second of every day but even that won’t work. Have you ever tried to not think of something?
3. We Need Lies.
Not only are small lies not seen as a bad thing, in certain circumstances they are actually helpful. Put yourself on the other side of the equation. How often have you ever sat around talking sh*t about co-workers or people you go to school with? Now imagine you are the person that people are talking sh*t about.
Do you really want to walk into a room full of people and know that everyone thinks you are a douchebag? Do you want to know your girlfriend’s real number of past partners? None of this is information is helpful.
It also turns out though that lies can actually help the person lying, not only to gain extrinsic rewards, but it actually can make them feel better. Students in a study who slightly inflated their grade point averages in an interview were actually found to be the most calm and confident in the ratings done by the researchers.
The researchers concluded that the small lies weren’t really lies for gain. Instead, the students exaggerated a little because they had a healthy dose of overconfidence and surprisingly later raised their grades to match what they had inflated them by.
And if you don’t want to lie to better yourself then think of the children. Research has shown that white lies you tell your kids benefit their development. About 90% of parents lie to their kids and it turns out these little lies help with the kids’ imaginations and protects their innocence.
If we develop mind reading technology we are basically killing our kids’ futures and imaginations and that is something I am not down for.