These scientists have succeeded in decoding electrical activity in the brain’s temporal lobe – the seat of the auditory system – as a person listens to normal conversation. Based on this correlation between sound and brain activity, they then were able to predict the words the person had heard solely from the temporal lobe activity.
Scientists decode brain waves to eavesdrop on what we hear
Hat Tip: Slashdot
This development is intriguing in several ways. In addition to helping people with a wide range of problems (stroke, Parkinson’s, ALS) communicate I see this as one of the first steps necessary to saving memories. If these thoughts can be expressed in 0s and 1s; if you can “read” words via recording synaptic transmissions can we “see,” and “hear” thoughts and memories? Will we be able to store “consciousness,” the “brain-in-a-jar” meme from B sci-fi movies? Will learning, whether facts, applications or physical activities be accelerated as depicted in The Matrix?
The answer, of course, is yes. We need to come to grips with what is coming down the pike. Even before “immortality” becomes an issue (the merging of the brain-in-a-jar meme with robotics) we will have to grasp more mundane issues such as police interrogations, legal proceedings, contracts, advertising, privacy from “hackers” and other issues we can’t conceive of at the moment.
As scary as this may be if we live in a police state – how exciting it is in other endeavors, such as medicine (from diagnosis to helping people who are disabled) and in the spread of knowledge. “Video” memories will be added to biographies, to scientific papers, and in personal records analogous to adding YouTube videos to a blog post or as the Pensieve from the Harry Potter stories.