This is a weird train of thought. You have been warned.
What do Inception, Terminator, Minority Report and Total Recall have in common? They all involve different forms of awesome and futuristic technology that plays with the mind: shared dreaming / hypnosis, Artificial Intelligence, pre-cognition and memory implants respectively. I find that some of the most interesting sci-fi plots (outside of aliens, dinosaurs and fem-bots) are those involving the mind. And I just discovered a big, fat void in the sci-fi plot universe!
Mind-reading as a concept has been around for a really long time (think psychics). For some strange, unknown reason, it has been largely ignored by the elites of Hollywoodland. Granted when I give it a cheap, abused name like ‘mind reading’, grand plot devices and complex science are not really the first things that come to mind. However it’s the one concept that’s closer to reality than all the ideas mentioned above.
While you and I have been watching Gangnam Style parodies on YouTube, some brilliant geek gods were creating unbelievable things. Stuff that we only fantasized about while sitting on the toilet (before the Holy iPad arrived, obviously).
- A paralyzed woman ate chocolate using her mind to control a robot
- An EEG-powered device mimicked a soldier’s ‘sixth sense’
- Kids with ADHD are playing with mind-controlled helicopters and games designed specifically for them
- Telekinesis toys
- My favorite: video games!
These things are no longer the potential; they have already been realized, commercialized and now advertised. For instance, you can buy some of this stuff right now for less than $100 (that’s the closest I’ll ever get to sounding like an infomercial, I promise).
So what’s the new ‘potential’ now? What’s the stuff that the geek gods fantasize about today? You know, apart from schematics for several anatomically correct android girlfriends. A couple of years ago, I read a New York Times article about an ongoing attempt to ‘photograph’ a passing thought. (I know I’m breaking a cardinal rule of the Internet here: “Pic, or it didn’t happen”, but I really couldn’t find that article anymore. Thanks for nothing, Internet!)
Imagine the possibilities once you can actually start ‘reading’ minds – capturing the words, images and thoughts happening inside someone’s head. Here are some applications I could think of, ranging from the closest to the farthest from potentially seeing the light of day:
– Psychology: therapeutic peeping into someone’s mind, reading dreams (ok, I’m getting into psychic turf again), behavioral therapy, possibly crime-prevention too.
– Thought recording: the ultimate form of data storage, and maybe even transfer from one person to another!
– Individually customized entertainment with awesomely rich ‘brain media’ experiences: think video games, movies, new forms of art and music. And why not? My favorite video game maker Valve is already working on an Augmented Reality console, so I bet someone is already thinking of this (Hire me, whoever you are!)
And now we’re getting into the really crazy stuff. You were warned and you’re still here, so this one is totally on you.
– Haven’t you always wondered what your pet thinks? Does your dog see you as a giant body-pillow? Is your cat secretly plotting to kill you?
– Ooh, babies! I know I’m not alone when I say I’ve always wanted to know what a baby is thinking. No verbal skills, no understanding of the physical world – Dear God, what is happening inside that tiny, hairless head while she stares at you, simultaneously pooping her pants?
– One day someone figure out a way to read the mind of a ‘foetus’ or that of a dying person. Oh, the possibilities!
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic – Sir Arthur C. Clarke