Robert Knight is a neuroscientist who leads a research team at the University of California at Berkeley.  His team and others at Berkeley have been doing a good bit of investigation into the ability to use fMRI to “read” people’s thoughts.  The science revolves around the concept of programming computers to translate brain waves into words.

Some have postulated a wide variety of amazing applications.  For example, you might be able to rewatch your dreams on a PC.  Medical caregivers and loved ones might be able to communicate with patients in a coma.  A person who has lost the ability to speak normally now could speak virtually.  Although we have a long way to go before these benefits materialize, we are headed in that direction.  And what about involuntary participation?

As with every technological breakthrough, we as a society owe it to ourselves and the generations that follow to understand the good and bad applications and implications.  To use what we have discovered in an ethically appropriate manner is an indispensable calling from which we must not shrink.  Those ethical dilemmas may be upon us sooner rather than later.

One of the neatest films that touches on the potential of this sort of situation is Minority Report (2002, Steven Spielberg).  In that film, law enforcement is able to monitor people’s thoughts, thereby anticipating criminal behavior before it occurs.  Armed with this information, law enforcement (the “Precrime” unit) intercepts would-be criminals before the crimes are committed.

I had a science teacher in seventh grade who frequently said, “Today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science.”  I think that concept was once somewhat difficult to grasp.  Today, it is becomingly increasingly obvious.  Hopefully, the cognizance of ethical dilemmas will be too.

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Tyco Integrated Security at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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