The headline in the Madison County paper read: “Reading Minds May be Possible With New Brain Research Methods.” The article went on to say that Colgate University Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Bruce Hansen, is working towards developing ways of knowing what another person is thinking by collecting and reading their brainwave activity. Information that will become visible to others. The technology bypasses the filters that we currently use to decide what to say, when to say it and if we should say it. This tool would enable us to know the truth about what someone is thinking without having to listen to their words. Uncensored, raw data. A fail proof truth detector if you will.
That started me thinking. What if the developing technology eventually allows us to read, in real time, other people. Wouldn’t it be cool to know what the sellers of the house I wanted to buy would really take?
Wouldn’t it be a good thing to know what a politician really believes?
Wouldn’t it be good to know where my adolescent daughter is really going, who she will be with, and what she will be doing?
Wouldn’t it be helpful to know what my colleague or boss’s true agenda was?
If I could read other people’s minds, I wouldn’t make any mistakes in assuming I knew what they meant by certain behaviors, or words. That would be great, yes? No misunderstandings, no unnecessarily hurt feelings. Awesome.
What the doctor really thinks?
What exactly is on my partner’s mind. Do they genuinely love me, or are they just saying that?
Wouldn’t it be great to know the true lowest price the car salesperson would accept?
If I am an adolescent, wouldn’t it be helpful to know what my parent’s bottom line truly was?
Wouldn’t be great (though painful maybe) to know what my friends really think of me? That happens now, when I am told by Don, what Mike has told them about how they feel about me, and, of course when I ask Mike about it, he feigns ignorance and wonders why Don would say such a thing. By the way, I lived in a very small community for a dozen years, and that was the norm. As I learned, for very good and logical reasons. That is another story.
What would be wrong with knowing what my kids are actually thinking, doing, and planning?
Deception would be impossible. Haven’t we all wished at one time or another that other people would just tell the truth?
It would be similar to tracking devices we can now surreptitiously attach to someone’s car or person, only this would be attached to their brain. What could possibly go wrong with such abilities?
Even as I was coming up with the “wouldn’t this be great” list, other thoughts began rolling in. If I could read other people’s minds, could they read mine?
I am not so sure I would like that. I wondered about whether I could control who will be reading it? Could I choose who is on the list like I do when the doctor asks who is ok to share my medical stuff with?
Who would I want to be on the “no secret thoughts” list? Who wouldn’t? My friends? My kids? My partner?
If I could choose who could be on this list and you weren’t on it; if I declined access to you, would that not be a statement itself?
Could I decide which “truths” were open for public exposure? Would it show everything to everyone who might want to take a peek?
What about hackers? What kind of mischief could they create by changing what the receivers see, between the original “message” and the one they receive?
What about government access to my true thoughts?
What do I do if an observation by the “system” is made, and I honestly don’t believe that what they are saying is true?
What happens when those thoughts, or impulses I currently suppress or repress become visible?
What happens if the thought they “capture,” is just the beginning stages first draft of an idea, not the finished product?
Do I get intellectual property rights from the moment they “capture” an idea, or a vision, or an imagining?
Am I really ok with you seeing what I really think of the ideas or beliefs you are espousing?
Are you ok if I can see yours, as I talk to you?
What do we do with first, false impressions?
What happens to us culturally when we are walking around “naked”? Human beings, as is true for other species, down to even atoms (check out the double slit experiment in quantum physics) have found it helpful to survival to be able deceive others.
Lipstick, toupees, plastic surgery, clothes that emphasize some body parts and minimize others, apparel that hides some physical realities and creates an illusion for others, wearing clothes that have signs or pictures on them designed to make us look more like an advertisement than a person; teeth whiteners, mustaches and beards, the kind of phones we carry, books in our hand, lifts in our shoes and make-up, are just a few of the ways we protect and promote ourselves.
There is a biological species survival purpose in all this deception. What would it cost us to not be able to do that?
We also use words to hide. “Hello, how are you?” when sometimes, we don’t really care how they are, we are just being polite. Is it ok for them to know that? We respond “Great,” when we are not.
We deny death by doing a dozen things a day to keep the idea of it away. We create stories about it to help keep us from the only fact that no one can dispute at least for now; we all haven an appointment with death.
There are those who suggest that we, as a species, need delusions, and stories to stay sane.
There was a movie made about this. “Liar, Liar” though it was a comedy, it spoke to this idea of not being able to not tell the truth all the time about everything and everyone.
I have decided that I would like (I think) to have that ability in terms of relating to others, only at times. As Jack Nicholson screamed in the movie, “A Few Good Men,” “THE TRUTH, THE TRUTH, YOU WANT THE TRUTH? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!!!”
I think he was right about me, at least in the sense of my wanting ALL the truth about EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME, whether it comes to me by my being able to read your mind, or if it is the form of you knowing everything about me.
The biggest question, I think, isn’t one of the above that I have asked. It is deciding what we do with this. I really believe that what they are developing will become possible.
Your opinion, thoughts?