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I Can Has Mind Control?
October 14, 2008 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Army Funds Synthetic Telepathy Research Inspired by video game research [previously] the army has issued funding to research the possibility of sending/receiving e-mail via brainwaves. Some progress has been made using EEGs already, although the army's motives don't seem so pure.
posted by jnaps (29 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great. Now we can be spammed via telepathy.
posted by coachfortner at 7:06 AM on October 14, 2008


I wonder if that's the super-secret project codenamed "Sookie" that I've been hearing about.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:16 AM on October 14, 2008


Damn telepaths and their twisted sense of humour.
posted by mandal at 7:17 AM on October 14, 2008


Will it finally end the reign of emoticons? Does this medium allow me to thread the discussion? Can I get me some searchable flamewar action? Will this mean the network will get bogged down with powerpoint slides necessitating the creation of yet another backbone network?

Do I really want to read other people's minds for the phrase, "so, what you doing or wearing"? Does this carry lying to a whole new level when I reply back, "spam"?
posted by jadepearl at 7:25 AM on October 14, 2008


You already has mind control.
posted by furtive at 7:31 AM on October 14, 2008


I knew someone was going to make a post about this.
posted by panboi at 7:38 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I, for one, welcome our new ahh, fuck it. you know the rest
posted by contessa at 7:43 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


For example, a soldier would "think" a message to be transmitted and a computer-based speech recognition system would decode the EEG signals. The decoded thoughts, in essence translated brain waves, are transmitted using a system that points in the direction of the intended target.

This short description seems simple, but it contains a lot of really hard technological leaps that won't be easy. For example:

- Having someone "think" a complex message that can be easily picked out in EEG readings is currently impossible. It may not be feasable at all to come up with a solution to decode brain messages that will work for one person, let alone every person using the system.

- Decoding speech is extremely difficult even using advanced AI logic, because speech is not very well-defined (unlike, say, typing discrete letters on a keyboard). Much of the work our brains do to understand what people say is based on context and knowing which words are more likely to be in a given sentence, which computers are terrible at. Throw in the fact that speech exists as brain waves that don't need to follow any sort of recognizable pattern instead of audio waves that are bound by the physical properties of the human body, and it just makes the problem worse.

- As far as I know, nobody has ever gotten anywhere in trying to induce thoughts. Basically we can read via EEG but there is no way to do an equivalent write using any current technology. Even if we could, for example, play back a person's own thoughts to them, it would even be more of a stretch to expect them to correctly interpret another person's brainwaves.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:04 AM on October 14, 2008


Has twitter taught us nothing?
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 AM on October 14, 2008


It would even be more of a stretch to expect them to correctly interpret another person's brainwaves.

I admittedly know next to nothing about this, but I would assume that if the military is playing with this then it means they can develop a shared syntax to communicate in. That is, by experimenting in collaboration, they will begin to standardize the sorts of thoughts that they use for "synthetic telepathy". Probably, a form of shorthand like ASL will begin to emerge, if there isn't already something like that in practice now in their labs.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:20 AM on October 14, 2008


sigh
posted by infini at 8:22 AM on October 14, 2008


My ESP is telling me that this will end well.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:27 AM on October 14, 2008


Excuse me, are these the droids I'm looking for?
posted by DreamerFi at 8:29 AM on October 14, 2008


Points for creativity. But I doubt that this will actually end in anything useable. Maybe they're just trying to top DARPA's recent dip into mad science.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:31 AM on October 14, 2008


Not even worth wishing for. Don't believe me? Try this mind reading experiment: I'm thinking of a number between 1 and fuck you! Because on the NeuralNet, everybody has Tourettes!

In tomorrow's edition of Why Tomorrow Never Comes, And You Should Be Damned Happy That It Doesn't, I'll tell you why you don't even want those Goddamn flying cars you're always on about (cause none of y'all can drive worth a shit on a simple two-dimensional grid)!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:35 AM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Decoding self-talk into useful speech would be a snap if those soldiers just thought in an unambiguous, machine-parsable language. Quick, let's get funding to start raising babies of Trekkies mated to soldiers, training the offspring them to have lightning reflexes, warlike tendencies and speak a subset of lojban restricted to conflict, military operations, and the ability to describe explosions through chemistry and physics.

The idea that they will be able to think about nothing but blowing things up will be called the Sapir-Worf hypothesis.
posted by adipocere at 8:46 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I admittedly know next to nothing about this, but I would assume that if the military is playing with this then it means they can develop a shared syntax to communicate in.

Well first of all the US government funds a lot of crazy experimental stuff that never really leads anywhere (such as remote viewing), so it would be foolish to assume that the fact that the military is working on something means that they have determined that it is feasable.

More to the point, it's difficult to develop a syntax for something that you have no direct control over. A good analogy: Your computer's processor does billions of calculations per second while you do normal tasks like write and send email. Those individual tasks are extremely simple, like adding two 32-bit numbers together. By monitoring the calculations, you might be able to tell obvious things like whether your computer is idle or doing something difficult like encoding video. Now imagine trying to figure out what someone is typing in their email by reverse engineering those billions of tiny operations. On top of that, imagine trying to insert just the operations for the email into the billions of operations for a totally different computer that is running different software. What you type in the email might help, but since you don't have control over the individual operations, it's still an extremely hard problem.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:02 AM on October 14, 2008


Probably, a form of shorthand like ASL will begin to emerge, if there isn't already something like that in practice now in their labs.

ASL is not a shorthand, nor is it really a derivative of English.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:25 AM on October 14, 2008


This is just more men staring at goats, isn't it?

Shame the BBC4 doc about it seems to no longer be online. Seems to be because it was picked up to be a Clooney feature. Oh well.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:34 AM on October 14, 2008


...although the army's motives don't seem so pure.

This is always going to be the case. So what? If someone does research and development without military funding, if that technology has military application, it will find its way there in some form anyway. If someone does research and development with military funding, that does not preclude its usefulness outside of the military.
posted by agent at 11:05 AM on October 14, 2008


Actually they're not far off.
posted by snookums at 11:09 AM on October 14, 2008


As far as spending goes, it's no $3M projector for a planetarium, that's for sure.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 11:43 AM on October 14, 2008


If we don't get our new projectors, the planeterrorists win!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:46 AM on October 14, 2008


Paging jscalzi. When/where can I pick up my BrainPal™?
posted by bashos_frog at 12:02 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, I already have a problem with sending embarrassing emails and posting embarrassing things in my blog when I'm drunk. Now there's even less standing between the thought and the action—I won't even have to find a computer.

This is dangerous.
posted by greenie2600 at 1:13 PM on October 14, 2008


Are there math problems that you have to do to prove you're not thinking drunk?
posted by brundlefly at 2:30 PM on October 14, 2008


Here we go again...
posted by simplesharps at 3:39 PM on October 14, 2008


Hey, I know that guy in the first link, he lives down the street.
posted by nickyskye at 7:40 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


The army already has its own weapons, and soldiers stationed near Denver, so when they get bored with this research maybe they can help out this guy.
posted by caddis at 1:02 PM on October 15, 2008


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