It’s not quite reading your mind, but it’s not that far off either
In the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to meet and chat with some very clever entrepreneurs who are doing all sorts of very clever things with computers and sensors and things. Much of their work is aimed at making us safer (by stopping terrorists at airports, for instance), but you can’t help but acknowledge the creepiness factor of it either.
So what have I learnt? Firstly, that here is a lot of work underway that endeavours to link psychological states to physiology. This isn’t all that new – ask anyone who has every played poker. Secondly, that there is a lot of work underway that endeavours to take physiological measurements in entirely non-intrusive ways. Apparently, you can measure changes in a person’s blood pressure without touching them. You can create heat images of a person’s face without them knowing. You can analyse their voice. Changes in these measurements might indicate psychological states, such as unease and nervousness, but also happiness, love, and so on and so on.
There have always been people who are especially good at reading other people, but this combination of robust linkages between psychology and physiology and the ability to take physiological measurements without the subject’s knowledge opens up all sorts of possibilities.
Without wanting to oversimplify things, this might mean that terrorists will no longer be able to board aeroplanes. I’m sure you can think of a plethora of other applications as well, though, which don’t look so attractive.