I was listening to a podcast a few weeks back, Ira Flatow’s SciFri, in which a security researcher was describing experiments in which consumer-grade EEGs could be used to guess your birthday, or your PIN, just by showing you an image which would prompt you to think of that information. A quick scan of the ‘net shows the Japanese had people driving wheelchairs with brainwaves way back in 2009, and in 2013, we had a guy walking with a prosthetic leg using brainwaves.
That, I would say, is mind reading.
Compared to what everyone else is all a-Twitter about, wearable technology, mind-reading is big, really big, and I don’t see anyone getting too worked up about it. Sure, you may think, they had to strap a helmet to your head for the mind-reading experiment, same for the wheelchair project. Yeah, they did, but that’s because it’s early days in brainwave detection. You don’t think they’ll develop remote brainwave detection? Let’s look at some advances in wave detection over the years.
Early radar sets, used in WWII, were 50 feet tall and had power requirements of 15 to 20 kilowatts. As they advanced the detection technology, by the middle of the war radar was mounted on aircraft, which obviously had lower power resources, and sets using several hundred watts were in use. The radar sets used for keeping your blind grandma’s Volvo from sideswiping innocent drivers run on 12 volts and use at most 75 watts. The ability to detect long-wave light has improved a bunch. But that’s nothing compared to the delicacy of bluetooth, or GPS.
GPS signals have about 50 watts of power and travel over 11,000 miles, penetrate the atmosphere, clouds, dust, all the crap we throw into the sky, and then some light tree cover (or your car windshield), and are read by a mobile device using ridiculously low power — your phone. That’s where we are with wave detection today. It’s amazing.
Various web sites estimate your brain uses about 20 watts of energy, but the amount of that generated as signal is far lower. Maybe your brain has 1/1000 the strength of GPS…but the mind-readers don’t need to detect it from 11,000 miles, maybe just a few feet, as you stumble into Safeway after a long night partying. Within seconds, the store’s computers are displaying the location of coffee, Pepto-Bismol and Tylenol in an overlay map of the store in your Microsoft HoloLens shades. You don’t think so? The tin hatters like to quote Patent 3,951,134, which describes a way to remotely detect your thoughts. And that was using old tech, the seventies. Hell, they still had dial phones back then. Ethernet was only two years old and still in the lab. We can do a lot better now. We can scribble 3-d emojis and send them to our loved ones from a little slab running a tiny CPU using maybe .33 watts. Kind of useless, but impressive.
Mind-reading. It’s not so far away. I can just imagine, after a dash of road-rage flaring up after a hot day in heavy traffic, you park and step inside to cool off with a cold beer and an episode of Game Of Icy Fire, but you’ve forgotten about your hi-tech apartment’s entry scanner…your crime, of homicidal thoughts, flashes onto your GlasLinqs, and you sigh, remembering the repeal of the Fifth Amendment back in 2017, when America was running scared of DISIS (domestic ISIS). So you slink back outside and wait for the men in white coats to drive up and take you away, for just thinking of what you’d like to do to that rat-bastard…