Though Asimov’s mind-reading robot is fictional, mind-reading technology is not. In 2007, a team of neuroscientists performed an experiment using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. Volunteers were asked to decide whether to add or subtract two numbers which were to later appear on a screen. Before the numbers appeared, each volunteer had a brain scan. Using the data obtained from the scans, the scientists could be used a special computer program to predict what choice each volunteer would make. The predictions were correct 70 percent of the time.
Where technology progresses from here remains to be seen, but there are many possible outcomes for the future. One possible outcome might be a mind-reading computer interface for personal computers, phones, cars, and household appliances. Imagine waking up from sleep one morning and thinking, “Turn on the light”. Instantly, the bedroom light glows to life. Once you have finished breakfast, you hop into your car and drive all the way to work without using the steering wheel, gas pedal, or breaks. As you step inside your office, you think, “Computer, turn on.” Your desktop computer boots up and once it is ready, you mentally log on.
In summary, the concept of mind-reading technology has existed for a long time, but before the 2000s, mind-reading technology had been entirely fictional. Today, with modern computer software and brain scanners, scientists have developed mind-reading devices, or devices which read and interpret the activity of the brain. Such technology has much potential to enhance living standards, but also possesses the potential for causing harm. How scientists use their resources to effectively manage their creations will affect the future, positively or negatively. We can hope that they make wise decisions.
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“Telepathy.” skepdic.com. Robert T. Carroll. 12 Sep. 2010. Robert T. Carroll. 20 Oct. 2011 <http://skepdic.com/telepath.html>.
Clarke, Roger. "Asimov's Laws of Robotics: Implications for Information Technology." rogerclarke.com. 27 Jan. 1994. Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd. 20 Oct. 2011 <http://www.rogerclarke.com/SOS/Asimov.html>.