Bioethics Blogs

Changing the Way We Think

by David Michaels

The following post is part of a special series emerging from Contemporary Issues in Neuroethics, a graduate-level course out of Emory University’s Center for Ethics. David is a student at Emory University working on his Master’s degree in Bioethics. After completing his graduate studies he will be attending medical school in Texas.  

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have the ability to read minds? If you’re like me, you’ve daydreamed about possessing this superpower. It’s easy to imagine all of the fascinating ways you could exploit this gift to your liking. But after a while this myopic perspective is turned on its head when we imagine our own thoughts being read.  Quickly, almost instantaneously, we conclude with absolute certainty, “Nope, absolutely not – the power to read minds is a bad idea…” Some thoughts are probably best left alone in the mysterious impenetrable fortress of privacy–our mind.
However, recent breakthroughs in neuroscience may challenge the notion that our mind is impervious to infiltration. Did you know that we may have the ability in the near future to record our dreams so that we can watch them later? Scientists have been working on developing technology that translates brain activity (measured in an fMRI machine) to visible images, allowing us to “see” our thoughts. Although this technology currently only utilizes real-time brain activity and cannot produce images from stored thoughts (i.e. memories), it nevertheless introduces the possibility that people will be able to “see” our thoughts – and maybe “read” them too – in the future.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.