Scary Books

I'm not a fan of the undead or vampires or cars with minds of their own. The "scary" books I like to read concern cutting edge science: where we're heading, what we will soon be able to do. Here are some examples from a scary book I'm currently reading.

We'll soon have lie detectors that can't be fooled. Brain activity shows up in different places when we lie than it does when we tell the truth. I'm not much of a liar (my face turns red and my eyes water, so my lies are easy to spot) but the idea that lies can be seen on MRIs or whatever is scary.

Scientists can also "watch" the movies in your head now and recreate what you were thinking about. It's pretty crude at present, but the computer reads brain activity, runs it through millions of possibilities, and figures out that that's a car, that's a person, etc. Once it has enough examples stored in its memory banks, it will be able to figure out what we're thinking from our brains' electrical activity.

Computers interface with brains more easily than brains interface with brains. The recently-publicized Google glasses are quickly becoming devices that read your mind. On the news last week a reporter took a photograph with the glasses, just by thinking about doing it.

Now why is this scary? Maybe it's not. Much of it is good, like using the brain-computer interface to help people who've lost limbs control artificial replacements. It's just that I come from a time when all this was science fiction: Luke Skywalker's replacement hand, Captain Kirk's communicator, and George Jetson's automatic house all become more real every day.

The creepy feeling I get might be fear of being unable to absorb all this and cope with it. I still make phone calls before leaving home, forgetting I can call from wherever I am. I hesitate to buy a new computer because of the learning curve it will require. And I don't do half the things my iPad is capable of, simply because I'm too lazy to figure them out.

It isn't necessarily fear of what's in those scary books. It's fear that I'm becoming a dinosaur.


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