Tech that aims to read your mind and probe your memories is already here


The US military has been working to develop mind-reading devices for years. The aim is to create technologies that allow us to help people with brain or nervous system damage, but also enable soldiers to direct drones and other devices by thought alone, as Paul Tullis reported in 2019.

Several multi-millionaires who made their fortune in tech have launched projects to link human brains to computers, whether to read our minds, communicate, or supercharge our brainpower. Antonio Regalado spoke to entrepreneur Bryan Johnson in 2017 about his plans to build a neural prosthetic for human intelligence enhancement. (Since then, Johnson has embarked on a quest to keep his body as young as possible.)

We can deliver jolts of electricity to the brain via headbands and caps—devices that are generally considered to be noninvasive. But given that they are probing our minds and potentially changing the way they work, perhaps we need to reconsider how invasive they really are, as I wrote in an earlier edition of The Checkup.

Elon Musk’s company Neuralink has stated it has an eventual goal of “creating a whole-brain interface capable of more closely connecting biological and artificial intelligence.” Antonio described how much progress the company and its competitors have made in a feature that ran in the Computing issues of the magazine.

When a person with an electrode implanted in their brain to treat epilepsy was accused of assaulting a police officer, law enforcement officials asked to see the brain data collected by the device. The data was exonerating; it turns out the person was having a seizure at the time. But brain data could just as easily be used to incriminate someone else, as I wrote in a recent edition of The Checkup.

From around the web

How would you feel about getting letters from your doctor that had been written by an AI? A pilot study showed that “it is possible to generate clinic letters with a high overall correctness and humanity score with ChatGPT.” (The Lancet Digital Health)

When Meredith Broussard found out that her hospital had used AI to help diagnose her breast cancer, she explored how the technology fares against human doctors. Not great, it turned out. (Wired)

A federal judge in Texas is being asked in a lawsuit to direct the US Food and Drug Administration to rescue its approval of mifepristone, one of two drugs used in medication abortions. A ruling against the FDA could diminish the authority of the organization and “be catastrophic for public health.” (The Washington Post)

The US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed regulation that would limit the levels of six “forever chemicals” in drinking water. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals that have been used to make products since the 1950s. They break down extremely slowly and have been found in the environment, and in the blood of people and animals, around the world. We still ‘t know how harmful they are. (EPA)

Would you pay thousands of dollars to have your jaw broken and remodeled to resemble that of Batman? The surgery represents yet another disturbing cosmetic trend. (GQ)


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