Lie Detectors: How close are we to reading minds?

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Over the past decade scientists have gained a new understanding of brain function and structure through advances in medical imaging technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography or EEG. Through these amazing medical advances we can now reliably measure changes in brain activity that is directly associated with thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; in theory leading to the reality of the previously science fiction concept of reading someone's mind.

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With these new possibilities of using modern neuroscience techniques to gain direct access to a person's thoughts, feelings, or knowledge has come new ethical questions about the technology's applications. The most pressing of these questions revolves around the developing use of these technologies in lie-detection techniques. Lie-detection technology through these neuroscience techniques are currently being developed by United States defense agencies for the use in criminal and terrorist investigations. The new ethical questions that are raised with the use of these more reliable and precise methods are more complex and pressing than the questions normally raised with polygraph test. A study on these technologies done by the Center for Neuroscience and Society and the University of Pennsylvania presents the idea of "cognitive liberty," and stresses the importance of the debate over the limits that should be placed on the state's right to peer into an individual's thought processes with or without his or her consent, and the proper use of such information in civil, forensic, and security settings.

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What should be the limits when it comes to the government finding intelligence and information about crimes, both large and small? Some say that the nation's security is worth giving up some freedoms while others won't give up any of their "cognitive liberty." What side of the debate are you on?


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Even though we have technology to measure brain changes in electrical fields and blood flow, that is still quite a way off from actually reading someone's mind.

These devices such as fMRI are also prohibitively expensive to use and it is doubtful that they would be worth the cost in even the most important or critical cases.

Thoughts and feelings are dynamic systems that emerge from billions and trillions of neurons firing in patterns and my guess is that the closer we get to mapping these interactions with technology, the more we will realize how complex and illusive understanding another person's consciousness really is.

We probably don't need to worry about the ethical considerations of mind reading just yet.

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This page contains a single entry by quinc001 published on November 7, 2011 1:30 PM.

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