AI and MRI Scans – Reading Our Thoughts with Scary Implications


Scientists have made recent strides in brain-machine interface technology which allow them to read someone’s thoughts by decoding brain activity from MRI scans. This breakthrough could pose serious threats to privacy, freedom of thought and free will. University of Texas professor Joshua Krook is a Research Fellow in Responsible Artificial Intelligence and worries that current laws do not have the power to protect our thoughts against the use of mind-reading tech.

Krook is involved in a study that asked participants to listen to audiobooks while in an MRI scanner. The goal was to teach a machine to associate the brain activity with what it heard, so that it could learn to generate text from a person’s thoughts. After 16 hours of training, the computer was able to ‘read’ thoughts, though its comprehension was limited.

Such developments also necessitate the creation of laws that protect our mental integrity. The University of Oxford is beginning to advocate a human right to freedom of thought which extends beyond the current understanding of free speech. Furthermore, the possibility of a dystopian world where thoughtcrime becomes a reality could become a reality if these technologies go unregulated.

Despite its ability to record thoughts without invasive medical implants, the process remains labour intensive. Researchers are also now working to reduce the training time and improve the accuracy of the computer. Neuralink, the neurotechnology firm founded by Elon Musk, is planning to develop a medical implant that can control a device from anywhere. This device, however, still must be implanted in a person’s brain with the help of a surgeon. The expensive price of MRI scanners is also a large barrier to the use of new mind-reading technology.

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Elon Musk’s Neuralink is a neurotechnology company that seeks to connect the human brain to computers through advanced technology. The company researches, designs and develops implantable electrodes to interface with both the human brain and external elements. Their primary goal is to create a neural computer interface that enables seamless communication between the brain and computer program. This could potentially allow a human to control a computer remotely, bypassing the need for bulky machines or steering wheels. Additionally, Neuralink claims this technology could be used to create “symbiosis with artificial intelligence”, where a user and computer are working together in complete harmony. Musk and his team ultimately hope these implantable devices could eventually be used to treat neurological diseases and conditions such as depression and migraines.

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