Thought Transparent World and Privacy

Facebook has created devices that read all the words of your inner voice and Elon Musk’s Neuralink is creating brain-computer interfaces (BCI) that will have thousands and later millions of nodes.

Temporarily mitigating remote mind-reading of your inner voice could involve headphones for music and distractions of your own thoughts to less sensitive topics. However, the world is clearly developing where your thoughts and brain activity will be readable by anyone with relatively inexpensive devices.

We have already lost privacy to our financial activity, internet activity, retail activity and smartphones.

China, India, Iran, Russia, Japan, USA and European nations are actively working to improve existing electroencephalography, magnetic resonance, functional infrared, and the magnetic encephalography spectrums to develop future military applications. The US Air Force believes BCI interfaces could provide faster reaction times for firing missiles, drones and guns.

There are many dramatic advances in mind-reading which uses BCI (Brain-Computer Interfaces) to decode brain states to reconstruct what a subject is experiencing. There is a growing market for computer game and devices that are controlled by brain states ( Wireless technology has made it possible to record from mobile humans.

BCI have been used to replace lost sensory interfaces. Cochlear implants were developed in the 1970s and over 219,000 people worldwide have received cochlear implants. Progress has been made on retinal and cortical implants to restore sight in blind patients. Blind patients have reported substantial “sight” using a camera to activate an array of electrodes on the tongue, one of the most sensitive sensory surfaces of the body.

The Tech giants and militaries around the world will be deploying this rapidly advancing versions of technology from now through 2035. Military think tanks are assuming this will be a dominant interface and highly impactful by 2030.

59 thoughts on “Thought Transparent World and Privacy”

  1. Government with the technology to read minds? Heh, I already know what you are thinking without using the technology.

    My own roadmap of this century includes an acceleration of the extra-Solar diaspora sometime around 2095 by people (man-machines, uploaded humans, whatever) who see the next phase coming . . . nearly everyone that remains becoming networked by around 2100.

    There will also probably be competing networks, and not belonging to one of them will be contra-survival. Try to pick one that allows and encourages at least a modicum of individuality among its units.

  2. Exactly. Negativity and pessimism are justified, based on the history of every powerful new technology ever invented, even including writing and the printing press.

    If people had been more wary and careful to think through possible negative consequences, some of the horrors of the past might have been avoided, while still reaping the benefits.

    OTOH, sometimes existing power structures would likely prefer to simply suppress new technologies, if they were fully aware of the long term consequences for their power. I don’t see that happening in this case – the temptation to gain more power will be too strong. So they will attempt to monopolize it, just as they are once more attempting to monopolize the benefits of secure encryption.

  3. Maybe. But even if they do, most normal citizens are free to carry on their lives as if they’re not being constantly monitored.

    If there’s no intervention with people’s lives, any monitoring doesn’t make any difference. If there is significant intervention, the intervention would be visible, so we’d know we’re being monitored. If the intervention is small enough to be hidden, then it doesn’t affect most people, so it’s back to the first case for the majority.

  4. Somehow, whenever this topic comes up, people automatically assume the worst possible outcome as a done fact (and same with some other topics).

    I agree that the worst case would be bad, and that even some less-than-worst cases can be bad. But I disagree that it has to or necessarily will happen.

    But it’s good to have the discussion. It will be up to the people to make sure that the right balance is reached, the right laws are made to protect people’s rights/freedoms/privacy/etc, and so on.

    As I wrote elsewhere, I believe in the long run we’ll reach a reasonable balance, but there could be a painful transition period.

    (edit: That big negativity and pessimism and fear that people have actually gives me hope that there’ll be enough public pressure to put the right laws in place.)

  5. What is the difference between replacing someone’s heart vs installing a pace maker?

    I, at least, was talking about fixing abnormal brain function to bring it into a healthy functional range. Sure, it would remove certain patterns, but the person is still there, and free to think like a healthy normal person.

    If you have a cancerous growth, you remove it. If you have depression, you treat it. No reason to treat other brain malfunctions differently.

  6. But the whole point of this discussion is consideration of what happens when that condition is able (technically and legally) to be violated!

  7. Like I said – as long as (i.e. if) he retains control. Having someone examine his mind breaks that condition.

  8. Tell me, what is the difference between killing a criminal and changing his brain so that his thought pattern never occurs again?

  9. Actually I’ve seen people non-ironically argue that Brave New World was mostly positive.
    To some people, a world of promiscuous sexual depravity, free drugs and a watchful all-seeing government are an ideal.

  10. Plus 2 points for a good comment, but minus 1 because you almost, but not quite, managed a great pun with the last line.

  11. A little research here is in order about empathy. It seems there is a specific chemical in the brain the regulates empathy. I have never understood why at a minimum violent offenders in our prison system are not forcefully given this empathy enhancing drug.

  12. Um – but that’s kind of the point – he will not be able to keep them secret, if ever any one in authority decides they have the right to examine his mind.

    It must be made an essential principle that invading one’s thoughts should be equivalent to forcing one to testify against oneself.

  13. Actions we currently consider criminal might mostly vanish, as you say. But society would quickly define “mental pedophilia”, “rape in thought” and similar thought crimes that rope in an equal or larger number of criminals.

    After all, we’ve already done that – it’s just that today we mostly use social opprobrium and economic shunning to punish those who verbally express bad thoughts, and use evidence of thought crimes to justify multiplying how strenuously we pursue and punish certain criminals.

  14. My 47 year old son was the only one to presented a reason not to have this technology, that I can’t argue with.

    He simply puts it like this. The secret place in a man where he keeps his deepest secrets, is pat of what makes a person human.

  15. I am impressed!
    The first and second one you mentioned will be eliminated in the near future. No more hunger or shortage of necessities.

    And the 3rd (Chemical imbalance in the brain) will be fixed.

  16. > If you want elimination of crime, you would need brain control as well.

    Brain regulation yes, but not to the level of thought control. I would classify crime into 3 main categories:

    1. Crimes that are only crimes because the law is wrong, such as women not being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. In these cases the law needs to be fixed.
    2. Crimes of necessity, such as stealing food to survive. In these cases the underlying root cause needs to fixed, to remove the necessity.
    3. Crimes due to brain malfunctions, such as excessive violence/greed/jealousy etc. In these cases there is a problem at least with the regulatory functions of the brain (self-control, emotional regulation, etc), and possibly other functions. These can be treated as diseases of the brain. BCIs can help diagnose and treat such conditions without resorting to thought control.
  17. Empathy would require reading – and playing back – the emotions, images, etc. I.e. a big part of the entire mental state. Just the inner voice won’t be enough for that. It can help with conflict resolution and cooperation, which can help with some problems. But I agree that there are plenty of other problems that would require other tools.

    One such tool that mature BCIs could enable is various forms of intelligence enhancement. Skill enhancement should also be possible. The main reason Elon Musk is making Neuralink is to compete with AI on the intelligence front. Again, I’m talking about much more advanced iterations than just the inner voice reading that’s discussed in this article.

    Another thing BCIs could do is regulate mental processes. Major bad potential here, but also good potential: helping with mental illness, sleep disorders, and so on. A big part of violent crime can likely be attributed to brain issues. A BCI could help diagnose and fix those.

    Intelligence and skill enhancement might help with your example of homlessness, but that’s really a systemic societal issue that has little to do with BCIs at all.

    Regarding memories as evidence, of course material evidence is best, but it’s not always available or sufficient. I agree that memory isn’t 100% reliable, but if the choice is between reading memory vs oral testimony, the latter is even less reliable (and based on the former anyway, with extra filters on top).

  18. Nobody’s forcing you, and most transhumanists are pro-liberty/sovereignty, including myself. There are some parallels between transhumanist and libertarian views.
    Hail Hydra.

  19. Crime is going down overall (long term) in western societies without a thought police. And even if all our thoughts and desires were monitored constantly, it would not eliminate all crime. It would only ensure that all crime was punished. There is a difference…

    If you want elimination of crime, you would need brain control as well. Say, delibitating pain when starting a violent act.

    Needless to say, any normal person would rather suffer our allready low crime rate and be free than to be constantly monotored and controlled…

  20. I did in some of the other comments I made.
    But let me compound on them.

    In the order of the people with the most to fear from this technology starting at 10.

    10 – Serial Killers
    9 – Serial Rapists
    8 – Violent Offenders
    7 – Con Artists
    6 – Thieves
    5 – Politicians ? 🙂
    4 – Paranoid Conspiracy theorists who have done nothing wrong.
    4 – The person trying to keep a secret that entails no law breaking. (examp. Man cheating on his wife)
    3 – People that can’t see the other side of the coin because of propaganda including fiction books.
    2 – The average citizen that perhaps rightfully fears the loss of privacy, even though he has done nothing wrong.

    Now this is just off the top of my head. I am sure it is not right but its a stab at it. The conspiracy people will always put themselves first, whether they are or not.

  21. Why soon all the walls of our houses will be unobstructed windows so we can all see what our neighbors are doing.

    (With apologies to Yvgeny Zamyatin)

  22. How will more empathy lead us to better solutions to the problems we face? Maybe an example would help here. Lets start with the problem of homelessness, how will increased empathy solve this problem?

    To me more empathy seems to forcibly create codependent relationships among people. Sure you would cut that person off for their and your own good if not for the feelz.

    And really how do you get from “reads inner voice” to “makes us empathize with each other?

    In terms of helping with memory in criminal justice we already know that memory is quite malleable and should not be solely relied on. There is no reason to think that this device would help clean up your bad memories as even today we can convince people that false memories are quite real. Stick to the material evidence.

  23. “and objectivity”

    His Beneficent Highness Lord Xi already has an AI powered police state coupled to a social credit score that prevents you from using air travel and rail lines and you say we don’t have objectivity because we point out that the guy with an AI powered police state coupled to a social credit score that limits your movement will soon be able to read you inner voice and act accordingly.

  24. The transhumanist agenda is satanic, as is your “vision.” I refuse to become the sort of being to which you aspire. I prefer to remain a human, with all my faults and shortcomings – and my sovereignty.

    Humans do not need any extra hardware installed to become more empathic or telepathic. We already have it. We have just forgotten. We can remember.

  25. We ALL lose a little more of our privacy everyday. Yes, one day the politician will be required to give at the minimum all of the personal information the rest of us give. Are you presently required to turn over your prescription list to employers? Are you presently required to make public your tax records?
    Don’t get me wrong that time will most assuredly come.

  26. You think that politicians will be required to submit their thoughts? Like the requirement to submit their prescription meds that they take?

    So no requirement for meds, taxes, psych, etc etc etc right now but suuuuper sooooon politicians will submit their thoughts?

    You simply cannot be this naive.

  27. The people you speak of have the authority to take everything you have this very moment, they don’t need this technology to take it all.
    Your argument makes no sense in light of this. However with this technology you could not only prove what they took from you but why they took it.

  28. The movie Minority Report featured at-a-distance retina recognition to achieve the targeted advertising; no need for brain interface.

  29. I am an INDIVIDUAL TARGET and I think that the problem of brain information is not that it is accessible to the authorities, to see how people think, if the person committed a crime or if he is part of a terrorist group.
    I believe, based on my experience, that the problem with this technology is that there are governments that, through intelligence groups, have access to this technology and use it to do social engineering Ex: So that some people kill others, looking for generate a political impact, manipulate people in strategic positions, limit the mental capacity and freedoms of people, violating the freedoms to which we are all entitled.
    All this under the anonymity that is done through a radio communication, of which there is no record and at present, the quality of neuro images, does not allow to see the devices in the brain.
    The most important thing about technology is that it is public, accessible to everyone and serves to improve our society, improve judicial systems, reduce corruption, see if people who have armed and judicial power have the mental balance to give proper use of the power they have, allowing, the diversity of thought and opinion.
    Darío Baquero

    Proyecto MK Ultra

    Presidentila bioethicsd comission 

    The neuro revolution(Church Committee 2.0)

    Brain Science from Bench to Battlefield: T

  30. Well once you ban the bad thoughts in their heads then everything else falls in to place.

    Pro tip for new tech: ask yourself the simple question of “Am I comfortable with every president that has ever existed and ever run for the nomination having this technology?”

  31. The people using this technology are the ones doing the prosecuting. So don’t expect them to be prosecuted.

    You basically describe a zero anonymity internet where by default everyone is doxxed. NO THANKS.

  32. Maybe you should pony up the bright side of such technology instead of downplaying the obvious dystopian uses?

    Or is that asking too much?

  33. Then why is it that you are the only one that could see another side? I just pointed out another side.

  34. OK, here’s a hint why this technology MIGHT be good.
    There is a famous saying that goes kind of like this “It’s not the severity of the punishment that deters crime the most, but the certainty of getting caught.”

    All the conspiracy theorists that replied to this article never took that into account. Anyone messing with this technology(because of lack of privacy) will most assuredly get caught and prosecuted. There will be no anonymity to hide behind. Now I am not saying this justifies the loss of privacy, this is just the other side of the coin. If you consider yourself intelligent you must look at both sides.

  35. I agree that there are (at least) two sides to any discussion. You’ve made that point twice, yet have not yourself advanced any points on any side of the discussion.

    Let me help you get started. Equipment that helps me understand another person’s mental and emotional state enables me to over come my (slight) autism spectrum personality that is inefficient at discerning social cues from body language and tone of voice.

    I find it’s better to contribute to a discussion that complain that the discussion is one-sided. You will run into the occasional troll, but you will run into a lot more rational, open minded people outside of your normal circles.

  36. Wow, I am 72 years plus and grew up reading the aforementioned books. You all lack any imagination and objectivity if you can’t see the advantages of this technology. I could give you a hint but it would be like giving the wall a hint.

  37. If governments wanted to, they could easily wire tap everyone’s phones even today, and require all smartphone manufacturers to include non-removable spyware that would keep the microphone and camera and GPS always on – “in the name of law and order”. To my knowledge, at least the western ones don’t do that to most citizens, and some even have laws against that.

    There are two opposing trends. On the one hand, we are indeed easily giving away much of our privacy. But on the other, people are getting more conscious of these problems. There have been several recent outcries about privacy breaches in facebook etc. The GDPR legislation is another example.

    I expect that people in the west will demand at least some minimal protection. If privacy is breached too indiscriminately or disproportionately, there will be protests. And if the protests don’t bring results, we may see a resistance movement, an underground one if necessary, maybe an armed one.

    In the long run, I think we’ll find a reasonable balance. But there will be a transition period, and it may not go quietly.

  38. Other than in the most dystopian of futures, you could always cut either the internet feed or the power to your BCI when you don’t need it. Or install an ad blocker (and a firewall while you’re at it, so your thoughts don’t leak where you don’t intend them to; and an anti-virus to remove that obvious AI spyware).

  39. No state will require it. They’ll simply make it fashionable, like the smartphone logging your every move.

  40. That’s the one it shows you on the billboard. The one that pops up on your phone is a massive rubber strap on.

  41. Really. An AI with “cutting edge deep learning algorithms” with access to all my thoughts, latent insecurities, hidden fears and painful memories… And what it got was Pepsi?

  42. This – including the video – ought to scare us to death, or at least to great caution. I didn’t think this technology would advance so quickly, simply because I assumed everyone’s brains were sufficiently different that no one interface could read them all. I had discounted the improvements in readability and in the use of A.I. to translate neural impulses.
    The number of facially paralyzed or otherwise disabled people who could benefit from this, or the trivial use for game-playing, pales in comparison to the number of suspected criminals, shirking workers (see the video for how in China BCI is ALREADY being used to weed out the thought-distracted from various jobs) whom the State would like to identify. This would leave a bland, conventional, unimaginative population who never thinks outside the box, comes up with an original idea, or, certainly, a subversive thought, even when oppressive regimes should be subverted.
    I see little in today’s culture of both State and Commercial Social Information gathering to prevent this. We regularly give up privacy in areas that would have been inconceivable (there’s that word again) just a generation ago. Will SCOTUS save us under the First Amendment freedom of speech or will it allow thought harvesting in the name of law and order? I wouldn’t put money on the former.

  43. Great point. For example, we could get better targeted advertisements. Imagine an ad that is tweaked in realtime by an AI system that reads your mind to gauge your reaction and identify your latent insecurities, hidden fears, painful memories etc. Trained on a massive set of data with cutting edge deep learning algorithms, it can understand what motivates you to better manipulate your behavior.

    And the advertisement is being beamed directly into your cortex via a neural lace so you can’t even close your eyes or cover your ears to avoid it. Just the lidless eye of inhuman, soulless global capitalism burning directly into your very soul… to sell you Pepsi.

  44. So far this is just reading inner speech. The bigger potential is reading concepts, feelings, memories. All scary to be sure, if appropriate controls would be lacking, but there are also positive aspects.

    Language is limited. Sometimes it’s hard to describe an idea in words. Even if you find the words, each listener can interpret them differently, and form a different mental image. Imagine if you could transfer the original between minds, without all of these (mis)translation layers in between.

    I’ve mentioned before the potential for empathy. Its definition: “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. That could be done much more directly and delibarately with BCIs. On future social media, people could share their inner experiences with feelings and everything. Then others can experience them first hand. Or people could share them more directly, like a phone call. How many misunderstandings and relationship problems can be avoided with this?

    Memory reading can also help the justice system. Especially cases where there’s little hard evidence, and it’s one testimony against another. Reading one’s memory is the most reliable testimony one can get (not 100%, but much more reliable than speech).

    That’s just the communication aspect of BCIs. I’ve said before that BCIs will be as transformative as the invention of print, if not writing. Reading thoughts is just a small, inevitable part of that. The tricky part is implementing the proper controls.

  45. I am NOT surprised that you conspiracy theorists can only see one side of a discussion that should have and does have 2 sides.

  46. You read to many fantasies. Lets see how objective you can be. All technology, advancements and progress has its pros and cons. The books you mentioned only told one side of it. Can you list some of the PROS to losing all privacy?

  47. Dear Mark Zuckerberg:

    Big Brother and a Brave New World were warnings about horrible futures to avoid, not instruction manuals.

  48. Iran doesn’t have the money to do that. China? Yeah basically guaranteed.

    Zuckbot v0.7 really is a clueless guy, probably doesn’t get why people increasingly loathe his company. Dude just rolled out a police state mind reading interrogation helmet under the auspices of helping you formulate a post.

    Obviously dystopian literature is a novel concept to him.

  49. China and Iran will be the first countries that will require the implant. Zuckerberg is naturally tuning to that.

Comments are closed.