Thinking Tech

Computers reading your mind

Posting in Technology

Dr. Farwell calls it BrainFingerprinting, and his rather inelegant Web site is filled with plans to use it against terrorists and then general criminal defendants, even visa applicants. The Iowa courts have already bought-in, using it to overturn a 24-year old murder conviction.

Computers, for good or ill, are developing the ability to read your mind.

Few would argue with the value of a robotic armchair that gives a full quadriplegic real mobility, thanks to a skullcap that analyzes the user's brain wave and can respond in one-eighth of a second. Or a toy that lets players move objects about with their brains.

But how about making criminal trials obsolete with a device that can read the mind of the accused and tell you, definitively, whether they are familiar with the crime's details.

That's what Dr. Lawrence Farwell insists he can do, and he was recently interviewed on ABC about it.

Dr. Farwell calls it BrainFingerprinting, and his rather inelegant Web site is filled with plans to use it against terrorists and then general criminal defendants, even visa applicants. The Iowa courts have already bought-in, using it to overturn a 24-year old murder conviction.

For technology letting people out of jail is the easy part. There's other low-hanging fruit, like using it to definitively test the impact of advertising.

But what happens when Dr. Farwell's little gadget puts someone in jail? Who needs Law & Order when machines can do it better?

And if your brain waves can prove you committed a crime, should they not also prove that you're planning one? Direct from the screen and into your life. Faster than even the late Philip K. Dick could have imagined.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure