Overt or covert technology, offering immediate or delayed results and targeting individuals or groups: The possibilities are already remarkable. There is, however, a further question: What aspect of brain function will be measured?
One form of mind-reading could involve detecting the contents of a person’s consciousness. Here the potential beneﬁts for human creativity are immense. I personally long for a system which could translate my sometimes vivid dreams directly into pictures and videos, since my the brain supremacy drawing skills are abysmal. Skilled artists too would surely enjoy the ability to transfer their mental images directly to a screen; likewise for composers, ﬁlm directors, novelists, web designers, programmers and other creators.
These techniques could be used in many domains. Entertainment, education, medicine and psychiatry, and criminal justice are only the more obvious possibilities. We may be able, one day, to make our own DNE records, to share or program our dreams, to learn new skills direct from the minds of experts, or to communicate with loved ones purely by thinking. If the technology can be miniaturized and the computing power made available, real-time recording of brain function could become a routine aspect of everyday life, perhaps even continuously so. Thus applied, it could prove an unparalleled aid to diagnosis, or even prevention, of mental distress. It could change deﬁnitions of what counts as unacceptable mental activity, allowing individuals to be treated for thoughts, fantasies or memories they — or others — ﬁnd disturbing, even when a doctor would say that there was no clinical problem. And it could solve one of the biggest problems in medicine by establishing a baseline for normal function against which the clinical symptoms could be compared.
The concept of reading intentions is of very great interest in criminal justice and forensic psychiatry. Thoughts alone are...