Nasa plans to read the minds of terrorists...
August 20, 2002 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Nasa plans to read the minds of terrorists... NASA wants to use "noninvasive neuro-electric sensors," imbedded in gates, to collect tiny electric signals that all brains and hearts transmit. Computers would apply statistical algorithms to correlate physiologic patterns with computerized data on travel routines, criminal background and credit information from "hundreds to thousands of data sources," NASA documents say
posted by Espoo2 (12 comments total)
Won't happen. Too expensive, too difficult to implement, too many potential false alarms, way too many legal hurdles -- and it's a bad idea to begin with. Releasing the idea at all is just a case of some planner somewhere showboating.
posted by argybarg at 11:34 AM on August 20, 2002

credit information? CREDIT INFORMATION????
mumble mumble mumble
it's a good thing i have an irrepressable faith in the abilty of science to reveal the unknown...
posted by quonsar at 11:35 AM on August 20, 2002

NASA guy: Wow, dude. Everyone thinks about sex. Like ALL the time!
posted by stifford at 11:41 AM on August 20, 2002

Something tells me the "computerized data on travel routines, criminal background and credit information" are going to weigh a lot more heavily in the algorithm than the, er, mind reading.
posted by ook at 11:56 AM on August 20, 2002

This is a high tech version of what us primates have been good at for a long time... Mind reading...
posted by ALvard at 12:01 PM on August 20, 2002

Developed under a grant to Madame Cleo and brought to you by the Johnathan Edwards Foundation.
posted by nofundy at 12:04 PM on August 20, 2002

Time to get me a tin foil hat. Seriously, I doubt that they can measure more than some basic emotional states. "Could you please wait boarding the plane, because our Cray-XX may needs a few more hours to analyze your thoughts. Do you care for some complimentary psycho-analysis while you're waiting ?"
posted by swordfishtrombones at 12:09 PM on August 20, 2002

While I hardly think that reports from the Moonies (who own the Wash. Times and UPI) are hardly reason enough to go get tin foil beanies (heh), there does seem to be some science behind the story. (Albeit, the story itself seems more worthy of the National Enquirer than a "real" newspaper.)

Here's some interesting info from NASA Watch about the requisitions and companies involved in the project.

And this seems to be the NASA Ames group working on the project : Extension of the Human Senses Group. The website says that the goal of the project is: to advance man machine interfaces by directly connecting a person to a computer via the human electrical nervous system. This involves measuring Electromyogram (EMG) and Electroencephalogram (EEG) signals and applying intelligent pattern recognition software to interpret these signals as computer control commands.

(But, it says nothing about reading minds at airports.)

more info on this group

So, I don't know what to think. I've been reading about this on all kinds of other sites and thus far, my opinion is that the story is primarily bunk. Of course, I could be wrong...or those could be the thoughts they WANT me to think. :)
posted by dejah420 at 1:32 PM on August 20, 2002


This drives me crazy. What kind of mind reading would they plan to do with EEG's on the fly anyway? My understanding is that even with an electrode skullcap it's hard to interpret the signals picked up, the signal to noise sucks, and there's often a baseline/training phase required to get accurate information from any particular subject.

Plus, if it's sensitive enough to get my brain electrical activity, what happens if a terrorist has a pacemaker? And how would they shield it from all the crazy signals flying around from all the other screening equipment?

end rant

um, on a more peaceful note, I really like the science being done towards this application, but I think there are more useful screening techniques that are more practical as well.
posted by synapse at 1:43 PM on August 20, 2002

nasa backs away.
posted by quonsar at 6:47 PM on August 20, 2002

More details about NASA's standpoint on all this:

Cosmic Log

NASA mind-reading


Neuroprosthesis News about recent related - real progress and results - in neuroscience.
posted by neu at 9:31 PM on August 20, 2002

OK, as it may not be practical to invite/send people away from this discussion, let me add only a few words:

At the moment you need sensors with microamplifiers and telemetry enabled microchips to be able to record EEG from a distance with matching detectors. Or you need implanted sensors.

But even then, you would record mainly movement related activity from a person walking through the detector devices. Who would attach such sensors, where and why? Then you could just ask the person to sit down and record his brain activity noninvasively - a rather unreliable method for mass screening.

But interestingly enough, they could detect certain features quite reliably. For example: you deny that you speak French. They would then run a test using a mixture of English, French, nonsense, etc. words while recording your EEG using multiple sensors attached to your head in a net-like arrangement. They could tell quite reliably from evoked brain potentials whether you lied about understanding French or not.

Then again, if you knew about such testing way in advance, it's possible that you would be able to learn to control your brain activity to some extent using various biofeedback methods.
posted by neu at 9:40 PM on August 20, 2002

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