Monday, October 12, 2009

Can neuroscience read your mind?

Paul Root Wolpe, director of Emory Center for Ethics, wrote about neuroimaging and personal freedom for

"Neuroscience has, for the first time, demonstrated that there may be ways to directly access human thought--even, perhaps, without the thinker's consent. While the research is still preliminary, the science is advancing at an astonishing rate. While many obstacles need to be overcome and the technology is not yet practicable, the implications for our current state of knowledge are profound. ...

Watch an earlier "60 Minutes" interview with Wolpe, on the science of mind-reading.

"Neurotechnology is making its way into business, politics and other civic realms as well. The booming field of neuromarketing has been peering into the brains of consumers as they think about products or look at advertising. Political scientists have used fMRI to try to determine voter preferences, and a book by Emory psychologist Drew Westen, titled "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation," drew on such research and played a prominent role in the Democratic strategy in the last presidential election. ...

"While our abilities in these areas are still quite limited, and while there is always the possibility that the technology will never progress to the point where it can extract truly useful information from anyone, the time to think about the implications of this endeavor is now, before the technology is upon us. The appeal of the technology to the state is obvious. So we need to ask ourselves: What are the limits of the use of this technology? Should we ever allow the courts, or the state, to demand access to the recesses of our minds?"

Read the full article.

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