Months ago I commented on the possible use of fMRI scanners as a possible first step – but only a step – towards the goal of creating artificial, machine-assisted telepathy. Now, it seems, in a somewhat ludicrous development, the civil liberties brigade are shoving their oar in.
Apparently, so claims an academic from Edinburgh, “if left unregulated, scanners could threaten people’s privacy. They could, for instance, be used by employers to test the honesty of an individual’s CV or by commercial companies to analyse the subconscious preferences of their consumers.”
One wonders why he should feel intimidated about an employer finding out whether an individual’s CV (resume) is honest or not. Obviously he must be concerned for other people apart from himself! More seriously though, as I have said before, fMRI scanners can just about distinguish between different types of brain activity but it is not possible to discern the contents of individual thoughts. So for example, an fMRI scanner could tell if a person is thinking about something that involves spatial awareness, but would not be able to say spatial awareness of what.
Most Civil Liberties issues arise when the potential for an infringement thereof actually exists. But the so-called Institute for Advanced Studies, which is organising the conference at which these claims will be made clearly thinks that shutting the stable door before the horse has bolted is obviously not good enough. It wants to shut it before the horse is in the stable for the first place! Really, this is the kind of news story that generally arises during the silly *ahem* I mean “conference” season.