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Always something on my mind

It’s lunch time and I like to skip around the internet to see what’s happening in the world. One of my ports of call is New Scientist, a wealth of topical, usually easy to follow scientific stories of discovery, invention and creation. The article that caught my eye today was that of a device capable of reading peoples’ thoughts.

Nothing really all that new, there. I’ve been following this subject for quite some time.

But then one paragraph stood out. Something that while seemingly facile and incidental could be one of the most sinister inventions for quite some time:

“In a separate study, also published in Nature Neuroscience, John-Dylan Haynes and Geraint Rees at University College London, UK, showed two patterns in quick succession to 6 volunteers. The first appeared for just 15 milliseconds – too quick to be consciously perceived by the viewer.

But by viewing fMRI images of the brain, the researchers were able to say which image had been flashed in front of the subjects. The information was perceived in the brain even if the volunteers were not consciously aware of it.”

Imagine you’re walking through an airport terminal. Someone steps in front of you and takes a photograph. A light flashes; you squint your eyes.

The photographer smiles broadly, walking by you, and greets a loved one with a warm embrace. You carry on towards your departure flight.

You arrive at your destination, someone comes along masquerading as airport security and escorts you to a phone booth.

You take a bogus call, meanwhile, someone operates a device built into the booth and scans your brain for a specific sequence of images and patterns that you’re not even aware of.

But how did this happen?

When that someone took a photograph and the flash dazzled you…

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

2 replies on “Always something on my mind”

That’s fantastic! I’ve been following the story since sray blogged it, but never thought of that use!

Remember Johnny Mnemonic! (not exactly the same but close enough).

Have you thought about writing a story about it? (as if you had the time!)

It’s probably because I’m a science fiction writer that I thought of that sort of nefarious application.

I’m not sure there’s a book in just this one thing, but I’m sure it’d be an interesting plot device…

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