A little over two years ago Facebook announced plans to fund AI mind-reading experiments to develop a headband that could read your thoughts. Now, the social-media giant has revealed that they’re testing it on humans.

Today, researchers at the University of California have been working on ‘speechdecoders’. Which are able to decode what areas of the brain are controlling which verbal responses.

The same ‘AI mind-reading’ principal is already in use with epilepsy patients. With the end goal of this new development being to help paralysed or speech impaired patients communicate more easily.

Researchers tested the equipment by asking volunteer patients to answer a list of simple questions, such as:

“From 0 to 10 how much pain are you in” and “what instrument do you prefer, piano or violin?”. The system was able to detect both the question and the answer, having a success rate of 75% and 61% respectively.

AI mind-reading experiements

Facebook hopes it will pave the way for a “fully non-invasive, wearable device” that can process 100 words per minute and have a vocabulary of 1,000 words.

Privacy Worries

Electrode brain implants could be the next big break in medicine, helping paralysed people regain some control of their lives. But there still remains questions surrounding the privacy of collected data.

Computer-brain interface research has been speeding up in recent years. With Elon Musk’s company, Neuralink, having applied to the US regulators for permission to start testing its own brain-implant electrodes.

Some within the field are now saying it’s the time to think about the ethics of such research. Nita Farahany, specialist neuro-ethics professor at Duke University, said:

“To me the brain is the one safe place for freedom of thought, of fantasies and for dissent… We’re getting close to crossing the final frontier of privacy in the absence of any protections whatsoever.”

Facebook representative Mark Chevillet, who’s leading the project, says: “we take privacy very seriously”, but not all researchers agree.

Marcello Ienca, a brain-interface researcher from Zurich, stated that: “privacy policies implemented at Facebook are clearly insufficient.” Going on to state that it’s perfectly reasonable for people to be concerned about letting companies into their heads – literally.

Combined with the influx of interest in emotions-based advertising this could open up a can of worms in terms of advertising protocol.

What do you think about mind-reading microchips? Are AI mind-reading experiments a step too far?

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