In The Works - Machines That Read Our Thoughts
By James Donahue
Here is a scary scenario that may be reality for us all at some future date: machines that scan and
read our thoughts.
No matter where we live, and no matter how suppressive our governments become, we humans have always
had the comfort of our secret thoughts. We might become very good at controlling our body language so that people don't know
just what those thoughts are. Thus our last bastion of freedom has always been a retreat into the recesses of our minds.
But think of what might happen if your government could read what you are thinking. Imagine having
to guard and control even your thoughts, especially when you are out in public places where such machines might be scanning
It may be premature to consider such things at this time, but the military is busy even at this hour
working on just such machines.
What the military wants is to find ways to make pilots perform better in the cockpits of fighter jets,
and soldiers to perform better in the battlefield. Thus they are looking for electronic devices that sense distractions that
might take their mind of the job at critical moments.
Thus the technology the military is looking for is relatively simplified in terms of reading the human
mind. But in the course of achieving this kind of technology, researchers at companies like Boeing Phantom Works and Honeywell
are delving deep into something called Augmented Cognition. In short, they are very interested in just how the brain works,
and how to capture thought patterns.
As Navy Commander Dylan Schmorrow, former program manager for the Augmented Cognition project, explained
that "we want the computer to learn you, adapt to you."
Schmorrow says he can envision benefits for everybody if they can achieve their objective. He envisions
alarm clocks that sense when we are in our sleep cycles, and Blackberries that don't go off while we are in meetings.
Thoughts like that might be all well and good. But we use alarm clocks to wake us up at appropriate
times, and we can always turn off those Blackberries and cell phones before the meetings start. We once attended a county
board of commission meeting that was having so much trouble with interruptions by ringing cell phones, the commission ruled
that all phones had to be turned off before each meeting began. Anyone who forgot was fined.
The real concern about all of this research is that governments, and especially the military, have
a way of misusing new technology that is not for the general welfare of humanity. Einstein's wonderful formula E=MC squared
became a catalyst for development of the atomic bomb. China's development of colorful firework displays led to the use of
gunpowder to make bullets and shells for deadly warfare. The gasoline and diesel engine was put to use powering armored vehicles,
tanks and aircraft used to kill.
What, might we ask, would a paranoid government leader do if he could get his hands on a machine that
could read the minds of the people?
Dare to imagine the bloodshed that might result. The concept of thought crimes would be a real issue
for everybody, and there could be no defense..