Sunday, April 25, 2004

The Thought Police are Coming

The Guardian has an article on Robin McKie on what is being called brain fingerprinting. This sounds like science fiction to me.

Selected quote:

Unlike discredited lie-detecting techniques, which measure changes in breathing, heart rate and other variables to determine if suspects are trying to deceive their interrogators, brain fingerprinting is designed to discover if specific information is stored in a person's brain. The technique exploits the fact that the brain emits an electrical signal known as a P300 exactly 300 milliseconds after it is confronted with a stimulus that has special significance to that individual - for example, a victim's face.

'The fundamental difference between the perpetrator of a crime and an innocent person is that the former has the details of it stored in his brain,' added Farwell. 'The innocent suspect does not.'

Thus a robber will inadvertently emit a P300 signal - which can be picked up using electrodes fitted to his skull - when shown an image of his victim or the gun he used to rob him. An innocent person who has never met the victim or used a gun will not emit such signal.

What a fascinating technology. It doesn't sound like a mature technique yet, but it certainly has a lot of promise. Of course, this means that Orwell's thought police will soon be a reality.

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