There’s a story in the Chicago Tribune about scientists who have figured out how to get a computer to “read” brain scans to figure out which picture out of several choices a person has viewed. This is considered one of the first steps towards eventually figuring out how the brain works, which I suppose if good. However, it could also the be the first step towards creating machines able to mind read, which I think is creepy.
What I find both worrying and fascinating about these sort of things is how to handle the concern that we will use technology to create possibilities which are clearly immoral. The idea of creating genetically engineered people would be an example of this. Creating a mind reading machine would be another. Hopefully, we’re not so far gone that many people actually think it would be OK to genetically engineer people or to use mind reading machines on people. But how long will that be the case? If we keep pursuing the technology which will allow us to do these things, at some point the taboo will fail and what is today unthinkable will become normalized. So do we willingly restrict ourselves from going places scientifically and technologically to avoid falling into a moral morass? This seems to go against the nature of our culture and society which has thrived on technological advances.
What I am afraid of is that we will see where we are going, know that it will be a disaster and do nothing to avert it because prohibiting technological advances is just such a foreign idea that we won’t be able to accept it.