The Daily Mail is the United Kingdom’s second largest circulation daily. A headline from the webpage screams:
No more secrets! New mind-reading machine can translate your thoughts and display them as text INSTANTLY!
Not a lot of nuance there. The story continues on a tidal wave of hyperbole,
• Researchers say they have developed a machine that can translate our thoughts
• The astonishing machine will analyse what you are thinking and display it as text
ending with a charitable hope:
• Scientists hope that the machine can be used by people who are unable to speak
The reality is that AI can read your mind for a few words repeated often if you have a flap cut out of your skull and electrodes are placed directly on your brain. As the abstract of the science paper puts it, the subjects were “implanted with electrode arrays over the lateral brain surface.” And after a neural network is trained to read the circuitry conveying your thoughts, it is no good on any other human being even if that other human being has a flap cut out of the skull. It learned to detect patterns in your wiring, not someone else’s.
The Daily Mail article failed to mention this fact. So we hardly need to wear tin foil hats as yet to escape our minds being read. Perhaps the knowledge gained will help some people who have severe speech problems.
Here’s the Abstract of the paper:
Objective. Recent research has characterized the anatomical and functional basis of speech perception in the human auditory cortex. These advances have made it possible to decode speech information from activity in brain regions like the superior temporal gyrus, but no published work has demonstrated this ability in real-time, which is necessary for neuroprosthetic brain-computer interfaces. Approach. Here, we introduce a real-time neural speech recognition (rtNSR) software package, which was used to classify spoken input from high-resolution electrocorticography signals in real-time. We tested the system with two human subjects implanted with electrode arrays over the lateral brain surface. Subjects listened to multiple repetitions of ten sentences, and rtNSR classified what was heard in real-time from neural activity patterns using direct sentence-level and HMM-based phoneme-level classification schemes. Main results. We observed single-trial sentence classification accuracies of 90% or higher for each subject with less than 7 minutes of training data, demonstrating the ability of rtNSR to use cortical recordings to perform accurate real-time speech decoding in a limited vocabulary setting. Significance. Further development and testing of the package with different speech paradigms could influence the design of future speech neuroprosthetic applications. (paywall) – David A Moses, Matthew K Leonard and Edward F Chang, 27 February 2018 • © 2018 IOP Publishing Ltd Journal of Neural Engineering, Volume 15, Number 3
See also: Robert J. Marks, “AI That Can Read Minds?” Mind Matters, August 4, 2018.
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Robert J. Marks II, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor of Engineering in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Baylor University. Marks is the founding Director of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence and hosts the podcast Mind Matters. He is the Editor-in-Chief of BIO-Complexity and the former Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks. He served as the first President of the IEEE Neural Networks Council, now the IEEE Computational Intelligence Society. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and a Fellow of the Optical Society of America. His latest book is Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics coauthored with William Dembski and Winston Ewert. A Christian, Marks served for 17 years as the faculty advisor for CRU at the University of Washington and currently is a faculty advisor at Baylor University for the student groups the American Scientific Affiliation and Oso Logos, a Christian apologetics group.