Tonight’s “60 Minutes” had a repeat piece titled “Mind Reading” on the development of a budding technology referred to as ‘Thought Identification’ or in laymen’s terms – ‘Mind Reading’ – and it’s a technology that seems to work with a fair degree of accuracy. As Lesley Stahl asks:
“How often have you wondered what your spouse is really thinking? Or your boss? Or the guy sitting across from you on the bus? We all take as a given that we’ll never really know for sure. The content of our thoughts is our own–private, secret, and unknowable by anyone else. Until now, that is.”
At this point, you might be thinking of science fiction movies like “1984” or “Minority Report”. And your concerns, although not the focus of this article, are well-founded.
But it’s what technology ethicist Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University says during the piece that, for me, delivers an equally big (if not bigger) impact:
“It’s what I always tell my students that there is no science fiction anymore. All the science fiction I read in high school, we’re doing.“
Given enough time, we’re taking the mainstays of the imaginations of our Social Fabric from Fantasy to Reality. Think I’m joking? Call me on your cellular phone and tell me that. And while you’re at it, be sure to thank Gene Roddenberry for me. True, he didn’t come up with the idea of the cellular phone. But what he did come up with, his concept of the Communicator from Star Trek, is what our cellular phones ultimately became, if not more.
Wolpe’s words are even more profound, if not prophetic, in the context of the “60 Minutes” because of a summary I’d read years before about a book called “The Truth Machine” by James Halperin: “Imagine a world in which no one can lie. Now try to imagine the consequences.”
We may have to do that a lot sooner than we originally thought.
So the questions I have for you are: What technology have you seen go from the work of science fiction to yesterday’s commonplace device? What technology do you predict will be the next fantasy to become reality?