Monday, August 31, 2009

Mind Meld? Yeah, There's an App for That

I see it as a sort of swim cap - although, I'm sure a more dapper model could be produced.  Slip on the cap, think something and the words would appear on your computer screen - maybe with the soundtrack you imagine. You could "think" the cursor around the screen to revise and edit.  Then you think "save" and its done. You could have the computer play it back to you.

It is not nearly as sci-fi as it sounds.  Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist with ALS uses a "talking computer" to  articulate the words he creates with very slight muscle movements.  As early as 2000 scientists had figured  out how to let other "locked in" people manipulate computers directly from a "neural implant" (Kennedy et al).  Monkeys learned to "think" their way through a computer game even when the joystick was removed (Graham-Rowe).  So, we can do it.  The question is should we?

The benefits are myriad and obvious.  The physically disabled, but mentally robust, would have a wonderful new ally for enriching their lives.  Folks like my 97-year-old father could talk and think their way through memoirs.  The computer might even be able to track multiple tellings of the story about Ozzie and the runaway horses, and morph it into one composite version with all the details, while highlighting obvious discrepancies to be fact-checked at a later date.

I, too, would benefit.  I do some of my most insightful thinking in that wonderful place between waking and sleeping.  Sometimes I manage to remember, sometimes I even get to pen and paper.  Often I do neither.  The Vulcan MindMeld Dreamcatcher application would snare those butterfly thoughts.

The dark side is also obvious.  How do you turn it off?  Like OnStar which is only a good idea if you want people to know where you are, VMMD is only a good idea if you want to have your thoughts captured.  What if you don't?  Makes the prompt "What are you thinking now?" seem a little less cheerful, eh?  What is to keep someone from using VMMD to capture those thoughts I wish to keep safely enfolded in my skull?  Googlemind? Yeeech.  On the other hand, it might make torture unecessary - after all, you could just open the mind.

Graham-Rowe, D. (2003). Monkey's brain signals control 'third arm'. Retrieved Aug. 30, 2009, from

Kennedy, P. & Et Al., . (2000). Direct control of a computer from the human central nervous system. IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON REHABILITATION ENGINEERING,, 8(2), 198-202.


  1. That thought reminds me of one of my favorite books, "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card (a NC resident). In the book the implant children with a monitoring devices that captures sight and sound. While it doesn't capture thoughts, I feel it's along the same lines.

  2. I can't imagine this ever happening. I understand how it could help with the disabled but I want my thoughts to be kept inside of my head. I think people should really think about the privacy effects that could emerge from this.

  3. This would be an incredible advancement. Technology is forever changing and it really would be an incredible thing for the disabled. If this could be done, then it should be. As long as "today's model of computers" is not offered to consumers who prefer it anymore, this new option could only help.

  4. I keep thinking of the Mel Gibson movie "What Women Want." Do we really want to hear EVERYTHING people are thinking? Maybe a way to turn off the device would be helpful.

  5. I think the world is advancing to fast for its own good. It seems as if every month a new item is produced to hinder the way a person thinks for themself. I agree with Erica above, if it came down to being able to read people's minds, i would NEVER want to know what everyone is thinking, espcially about me.

  6. Going along with @ericab this does remind me a bit of the movie "Liar, Liar" where all of our most personal thoughts become impersonal, fluid, and alive in the outside world. Many people have become critical of Social Networking Applications as people have begun to constantly tell "everyone what they are doing at all times". The freedom to select when we disclose what our complicated minds are percolating about should certainly be our choice. -Sara Nussbacher

  7. That technology exists today and it is truly amazing. Here's a 60 Minutes piece that aired this past August.