Computer may “see” what you are thinking of

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Development of Japanese scientists allows us to literally see the thoughts of a human. What is more, the image quality is getting better every day.

For quite some time now, scientists are trying to understand what a person thinks using the signals obtained with MRI or EEG. Early experiments were the total failure, but considering the increasing opportunities of computational tools, the quality of “guessing” is improving. Over the past ten years, some attempts involving computer were rather successful. But now researchers from Japan managed to achieve really impressive results – they read rather clear color pictures that may currently be imagined by the human.

The team of scientists at ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto (Japan) and Kyoto University that got some remarkable results informs as follows: the new solution is using a device for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to read off brain activity indicators. To analyze this data – deep neural networks are used.

Currently, deep learning technologies that are the part of deep neural networks are applied in many fields, but they are best known for pattern recognition in Google search engine, machine translation systems (in particular, Google and Facebook are using AI while making translations), and, for instance, AlphaGo Zero – “program” that has become world’s best Go player.

Thus, while testee was using the solution developed by Japanese scientists, attempts were made to read his thoughts using some kind of equipment. Testee was gazing upon some image and tried to shape static figure in his mind. fMRI device continuously read off brain activity indicators, which were then transmitted to AI system that, in its turn, tried to guess what person was thinking of. Results may be found on video (recognition video clips are created in real time). Resulting video is far from ideal one, but we may already guess what person is seeing. If it is a separate letter, then it seems that there will be no problems with its recognition.

The system was trained in a similar way: the person was focused on the image, however, while training computer “knew” which image the participant in the experiment was looking at. Training outcomes are obvious. As of today, system keeps on its training, and scientists are trying to speed up its work for the system to catch even the fleeting thoughts and patterns that appear in people’s minds.

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Conspiracy theory apologists believe that those, who exercise control over the humanity, stand behind the creation of such system. Indeed, the ability to read human thoughts has the ethical side and may constitute a threat. However, the alternative point of view says that this technology is the enormous step forward creation of the interface linking the brain and computer, with all the attendant consequences.

For more information about the development, please go to Biorxiv website.