Mind Control – NLI for the future?

I bet we’ve all been in the situation where we’d like our computer to know what we’re thinking!! Wouldn’t it be great if it could do exactly what you wanted? It seems that I spend half my time looking for functions and files on my computer to allow me to actually do that I want.

So, with the amazing pace of development in technology, could it soon be possible to control our computer using just our mind?

Well, maybe so. With the constant development of technology it may be much more attainable than it first sounds; who knows, with mind-control we might even make Star Trek look old fashioned with primitive verbal control! Of course, if this is going to happen we are going to need some super technology to read and interpret our brain signals.

Neuroimaging is the general term for creating a picture of the brain. Currently in medicine we associate MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machines with such pictures. More recently however, MRI has been used to investigate the activation of the brain under certain conditions e.g. when happy, sad, smelling and talking. For the mind control we’re talking about in this article, the latter of these is probably the most interesting, but how is that going to help us develop mind control?

Let me paint a possible vision for the future.  Using the data collected from our MRI scan, in time we would be able to develop an immense log of word-activation patterns. In simple terms; for every word we say, the brain pattern we have used would be stored, associated with the specific word and recognised when used in the future. As each word has a slightly different activation pattern we would be able to create a picture of what was being said.

Of course, there’s a bit of a flaw in this scenario; with perhaps the main problem being that each individual would have to ‘teach’ the brain pattern for each word and to ultimately interpret each word they say. And when you think that in the English language we have over 230,000 words and that’s without considering the fact that some words have multiple meanings (figures collected from ‘The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary’). Then if we want to expand this across the world we are going to have to make it suitable for over 200 languages, expanding the words further to exceed a mere 46 million variations!!! Also because we want to make sure each word is correctly programmed we would want to repeat each word 5-6 times, that’s a grand total of 276 million words to program. So, anyone fancy the job?

And this is where Natural Language Interaction (NLI) technology could lend a hand because interpreting, analysing and reacting to thought waves picked up by our ‘micro MRI device’ would be very similar to interpreting, analysing and reacting to voice patterns generated from the words we use in everyday conversations. Other potential problems could also be helped by using NLI.  For example, many of the words we use have multiple meanings, e.g. weight and wait – but once again NLI can help to identify which meaning is most likely based on the context of the ‘mind’ conversation.  So potentially, by combining our ‘micro MRI device’ with NLI technology to interpret the patterns, plus a little time invested to train the technology, we have the perfect mind control system.

Let’s bring it back to my work scenario.  A few weeks later I am sat working on my next assignment. I think to myself that I should probably leave for lectures sometime soon, and without touching anything the next train is displayed in the corner of my screen while my work is simultaneously saved and uploaded to my online university cloud. All I need to do is grab my coat and leave. Should I wear my rain coat or will I be alright in my new summer jacket? A glance at my screen reveals the summer jacket will be fine; luckily the weather is getting better for a change!

Of course we are still waiting on the hardware to enable us to trace our word patterns, and although for most this may appear a student’s ultimate lazy tool, the use of natural language technology alongside new neuroimaging techniques could be the first massive leap into mind controlled devices! Further to making a student’s life easier, an advance such as this would open doors in a vast number of professions. Doctors would be able to mentally make small adjustments during surgery to the environment, police officers could make notes on crimes while pursuing the subject to prevent anything being missed or forgotten, as well as business people being able to increase productivity significantly by reducing the time needed to complete simple tasks such as setting reminders and responding to emails.

Indeed, there are literally thousands of application for a technology such as this and whilst there’s no doubt this article has been a bit of a step into the future world of sci-fi, what’s written as fiction today has a habit of turning into reality tomorrow!

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