General Question

SmashTheState's avatar

Would you agree to have your thoughts examined?

Asked by SmashTheState (14033points) May 29th, 2010

A team of scientists in the United States say they have been able to read people’s thoughts on a limited basis:

Would you agree to allow your thoughts to be scanned the way people’s bodies are now scanned at airports, assuming that everyone else—including politicians—was subjected to the same scanning? What about thought-scanning in court? Would you agree to have thoughts scanned in the case of criminal activity?

If it became possible to distribute mind-reading machines to the general population, would you want the ability to read everyone else’s thoughts in exchange for them being able to read all of yours?

Does the prospect of a society without secrets scare you or excite you?

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34 Answers

chels's avatar

I would never want to be able to read others thoughts nor would I want others to be able to read mine. The world would be way less interesting and intriguing.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I wouldn’t want to read other people’s thoughts nor have my own read but if it was specifically a case of criminal conviction then yes, it would be okay with me for prisoners to have their thoughts read/studied.

josie's avatar

The prospect neither exites no scares me. But, the one thing that you indisputably own is your own life. It is not somebody else’s to live or experience. It is bad enough when the State designs to control your actions, as they always eventually do, and as they are now doing in the freedom loving West. Should the State ever attempt to invade my thoughts, I will be an active part of the resistance whether peaceful or violent. Not because it scares me, but because my mind is mine, not theirs and they are not entitled to it.

zenele's avatar

I don’t even want to fill out my profile here.

partyparty's avatar

Oh I think that would be very exciting. I would love to have my thoughts read, if only to judge just how accurate the machine was.
As for the machine being used in courts etc. then I think it would be absolutely marvellous.

janbb's avatar

Are we ehadingfor Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Scary!

Silhouette's avatar

Sure they can examine them if they want. Would I want to know other peoples secrets? Hells to the no. I already wish people would keep their secrets to themselves. Shaddup! I don’t want to know.

ragingloli's avatar

Unless it was in a situation where I was accused of a crime, no. If I am a suspect, go right ahead. I assume it would be more accurate than that pesky lie detector.
But I would totally welcome it as an interface for computer games and applications, or cybernetic enhancements.

Your_Majesty's avatar

I think we would become a more honest society if that happens. Sometime not all honesty/transparency can solve every issues in this world. I won’t allow myself to be scanned like that since I prefer to keep my privacy from other people. I don’t think such prediction can 100% accurately test one’s thoughts. But it would be great if people like politician can be scanned like this. Who’s going to believe their vow and intention anyway? I like the way it is now,although I appreciate some innovation in our ever changing society.

ragingloli's avatar

Yeah, I would totally make it mandatory for politicians, with live TV, Internet TV and radio broadcast of the test and the result.

Blackberry's avatar

I would do it for experiment purposes. But not in court or so some jealous ex can grill me.

nicobanks's avatar

Like Blackberry, I’d do it for experiment purposes, but that’s it.

I mistrust the possibility of technology to accurately represent and interpret people’s thoughts.

Thoughts aren’t straightforward things. Sometimes they are, maybe, like if someone asks me if I murdered John and I say “no” although I’m actually thinking “yes, I did murder him.” But how often does that really happen, even in legal-type situations? Thoughts aren’t even always put into sentences, into words – they can be sensations, images, memories, associations, sounds, vague things requiring an understanding of the thinker’s psyche in order to possibly begin interpreting them. They can be jokes only the thinker gets, or a reaction to stress, or anything at all!

For example, if a vivid image of a cat being tortured comes into my mind, maybe technology could pick up on that image (a stretch, even by the article you linked to), but it couldn’t say what that image meant – it couldn’t explain the thought. For instance, is it a memory? If so, is it one I was personally involved in, witnessed first-hand, witnessed on TV, saw in a fictional movie? Or is it fantastical, something I came up with? If so, is it a positive fantasy for me, or nightmarish? Does it have any relation at all with what I might actually do in the world? Not necessarily.

Anyway, the article wasn’t even about reading thoughts, although one of the quotations did say something about that. But the only thing those tests proved was that we could have some insight into what people were seeing or hearing at that particular time. That’s a far cry from reading thoughts – that’s just measuring internal responses to external stimuli, and we’ve been doing that kind of thing for ages. How different is it, really, from putting sensors on a guy’s penis and showing him porn? The only difference is we measure the brain response, not the penile response. Big deal.

MissA's avatar

Reminds me of the movie, “What Women Want”.

No…I don’t think I’d do that…if I had the choice.

HungryGuy's avatar

At first, I was tempted to say yes, but only in court to prove without any doubt of someone’s guilt or innocence of breaking the law. But then, what about a court in Iran or Iraq or Saudi Arabia where someone is charged with the crime of sitting at the same table with someone of the opposite sex while having lunch in a cafe? So I would say, “no” under all circumstances.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

When intrusion into our thoughts becomes commonplace, the entirety of interpersonal relations will be undermined and devalued.

What value will communication be when being scanned like a bar code will suffice?

Even as a psychologist, I see no real value to such technology!

DocteurAville's avatar

I don’t think such a capacity exists. This is baloney. Who/what possibly can define what is to imply from ones thoughts, this is absurd.
Who checks the checker?

Berserker's avatar

I know it will sound like I’m ass backwards and in opposition to progress, but there are only two free things in this world; masturbation, and my own fucking mind.
Let’s keep it that way.

lillycoyote's avatar

Though the technology isn’t very advanced, still, absolutely not. As @Symbeline touched on, one’s mind is just about the only private place we have left in the modern world. Every other part of our lives and our bodies can be subject to some kind of scrutiny.

MissA's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence You hit all the valid points…YES.

@Symbeline You don’t sound backwards and anti-progress…you simply enjoy thinking…and, personal pleasure.

@lillycoyote Yes, our mind is our last refuge in life.

@partyparty I hope that you always feel that way.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Yeah, I would, but really, I haven’t anything to hide. My feeling is you can read them if you really want to. I’d probably blow the machine out, though, cause my brain don’t stop.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Bravo @Symbeline . My skull is my last bastion of privacy, I’ll keep it that way.

How would something like that be implemented? Even if you weren’t physically forced to submit to it, refusal would be interpreted as evidence of guilt. I have to draw the line somewhere, I’d not submit to this under any circumstances, regardless of consequences.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Oh, hell, I’ll go further than that: I’m willing (to a certain extent) to have my thoughts
Removed by Fluther moderators

Kraigmo's avatar

There will come a day when all thoughts, in accurate detail, are instantly scannable by anyone who purchases a cheap device.

During this period, at first there will be great embarrassment, violence, and suicides. Then a settling. And then, group-understanding, world calm and world peace. And then, celebration that we did it.

bea2345's avatar

Considering the horrific and appalling thoughts that infest the average mind – some passages from the Old Testament come to mind – no, I don’t want my thoughts examined and I don’t want to know anybody else’s either.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Kraigmo Good assessment of the first part, but I think the opposition would be so intense that it would never settle. I’d be one of those suicides, before anyone could scan me. For me, the important issue is more that of freedom and integrity of my person, rather than privacy as a narrow issue.

Perhaps there might be an acceptance of this from a younger generation that grew up with lowered expectations of privacy. I hope that it would not be in my lifetime. Unless these scanners could be used at a distance without the knowledge of the subject, there would probably be many more cases of people violently resisting arrest or suiciding to prevent arrest (even if innocent).

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

No, I do not want anyone to ever know my thoughts in detail. I limit my speech for the same reasons.

I think if people’s deepest thoughts could be easily read it would lead to pre-emptive murder, and potentially eugenics.

perspicacious's avatar

No. No. No. No. No. No. I think I answered all of your questions.

zophu's avatar

Not to get all scifi, but this would pretty much lead to a hive-mind sort of deal. It would require a completely new way of life for our species in order to maintain a balance of unity and diversity when everyone’s very thoughts are public information. Maybe if there were some levels of privacy efficiently guarded for the average individual, but then it would basically just be a more elaborate way of texting. No, things wouldn’t work out if there weren’t some very strong forces keeping the majority of people’s thoughts private, at least to the point where only small amounts of people could have access to them. We’d loose too much diversity overtime with the integration and eventually fall to some challenge none of us could face.

. . . I think to much. Be glad this technology doesn’t exist, for the sake of the people who’d look into my scattered mind.

anartist's avatar

No I would not consent. Yes it would scare me.
Many people have thoughts that they never act upon, due to self restraint and social courtesy. It would be absurd to allow one’s thoughts to bias a decision that should be based upon one’s actions.
It would also eliminate lawyers from society as nothing could be held close to the chest to and played in court.
A world with mind-reading machines might well develop a sci-fi type underworld who fled society to live in whatever wilderness they could find in a simpler more primitive state.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

The technology described in the article is at a very primitive level, requiring electrodes implanted in the skull and has to be carefully calibrated to the individual, indicating only responses to auditory and visual stimuli. Hopefully this won’t advance to the point of non-invasive remote scanning in my lifetime.

I would think that any remote-scanning technology would be matched by equal progress in “jamming” technology. Hopefully, the only allowed use on someone against her/his will would be by warrant/ court order. The scanning equipment should be unlawful to possess by non- law enforcement, but individuals and companies would certainly evade or ignore such laws.

The real beneficiary of this technology will be the corporations making the equipment and countermeasures, as anyone not wanting to be scanned without permission would have to have a jammer on their person. Every time the technology is upgraded, everybody would have to buy new equipment or software, similar to computer viruses today.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land “The technology described in the article is at a very primitive level”.
That is certainly true. If anyone managed to create a 3T magnetic field around someone’s brain from a distance, we would have far greater issues with the technology being used to create weapons than for reading minds. If reading minds from a distance is ever possible, it will not involve fMRI.
“requiring electrodes implanted in the skull”
I don’t think so. Where in the article does it say this?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Paragraph 11, two paras below the boldface “thought provoking”. The experiment involving watching a film.

I doubt if this technology will get enough funding to move anytime soon into a portable device. The civil rights issues involved are likely to block it’s distribution, so who would risk investing in it? Large units might be useful for police interrogation or maybe in court, but they don’t have to be portable for that use.

LostInParadise's avatar

It is a brave new world that we are entering, where humans are reduced to machines and machines act more and more human. I find it all a bit unnerving.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Thank you. I did not read that far before I noted similarities to other studies I have read about.

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