Remember when 'thoughtcrimes' were just little spoonfuls of spooky fiction George Owell whipped up? Well, my friends, get ready to dust off your dystopia because 'thoughtcrimes' are about to leap off the pages of "1984" and into your head.
There to dragnet all your evil thoughts will be Veritas Scientific, a new website-less company that's creating a mind-reading helmet. If that's not enough to frighten you into thinking of nothing but rainbows, waterfalls and red magic satin until the end of days, then maybe this not-at-all demented quote by Veritas CEO Eric Elbot will.
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"The last realm of privacy is your mind," Elbot told IEEE Spectrum. “This will invade that.”
The helmet would be similar to a motorcycle helmet, though I'm envisioning more of a Daft Punk-style head piece. However, there will be no Digital Love pumping through the helmet, only metal brush sensors that will read brain activity as it responds to images flashed across the visor.
Under the guise that recognition indicates memory and memory implies knowledge, Veritas' aim is to develop an electroencephalogram (EEG) helmet that registers spikes in brain activity triggered by familiar images.
Who does Veritas want to go after? The enemy, of course. And who better to pitch a mind-reading helmet to than an organization rife with enemies: the U.S. military. Elbot imagines scenarios like this: Metallica-blasting U.S. troops roll into a remote village in Afghanistan and round up all the men and put helmets on them. By showing them images of bombs or Taliban fighters, U.S. troops would be able to find out who are enemy combatants or sympathizers by any spikes in brain activity. Surely, nothing could go wrong with such an air-tight plan as that, right?
Elbot said he envisions the technology will be beneficial with law enforcement agencies, in criminal trials and corporate takeovers. Eventually, he says the technology will be available as smartphone apps for civilians. Though forgive me for being a little of suspicious of that happening anytime soon and for what purpose would it serve, besides creating interrogators out of us all? Still, at least Elbot recognizes the dangers of totalitarianism.
"Certainly it’s a potential tool for evil," Elbot said. "If only the government has this device, it would be extremely dangerous."
via IEEE Spectrum