Friday, March 13, 2009

techno-telepathy through better clothing

A recent article notes that science continues to inch ever closer to true "mind-reading."

A machine to read the mind came a step closer on Thursday, when scientists at University College London released the results of an experiment in which brain scans revealed the location of people moving around a virtual reality environment.

Demis Hassabis, co-author of the study, said it was “a small step towards the idea of mind reading, because just by looking at neural activity we were able to say what someone was thinking”.

I foresee a convergence of this tech with nanotech. Imagine wearing a tee shirt composed of a reactive nanoweave that, because it's in contact with your skin, is sensitive to your neural activity. Imagine that this same shirt incorporates an advanced nanotech version of a cephalopod's ability to change color, such that high-definition images of one's thoughts can be reproduced on the shirt's surface.

Now imagine thousands or millions of people wearing such tee shirts on a busy street during a gorgeous summer's day.

What would be flashing across people's chests and backs? Would we see words as well as images? How fleeting or lasting would any given image be? Would the images be layered, reflecting the simultaneous existence of both persistent, nagging thoughts and brief, random thoughts? Would we begin to see how those images varied according to people's personalities and levels of mental discipline? Would the thoughts of a soldier prove to have anything in common with those of a monk? Would there be commonalities and differences between the thoughts of the very intelligent and the very stupid? Between men and women? Young people and old people? Would cultural differences affect what images would appear, and how they appeared? Would people in a choir or on the same sports team project images that possessed some group-oriented theme?

And what if we found a feral child and made him wear such a tee shirt? How would the images be affected by such factors as religion, political leanings, sports preferences, hobbies, or sexuality? Would feelings be rendered in some way as images? What about smells and tastes and sounds that impinge on our consciousness? What about the memories of those sense impressions? What would the shirts show when a person was shopping or meditating or taking drugs or having sex (well, the shirt might be on the floor for that last activity)? How would the shirt depict metacognition? What would it show after the wearer had committed a crime like theft or murder? How different would the shirt's images be depending on whether one was talking or listening-- lying or telling the truth? What images would we see on someone who was being tortured, or mauled by a shark, or struck by a car?

And what might such a shirt show at the very moment of one's death?

Fascinating stuff. Feel free to speculate in the comments.


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