Japanese scientists just created an AI that can “read” human minds

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As computer scientists attempt to make machines think and learn like humans, the middle ground is being taken up by researchers attempting to use AI to read our minds.

In the latest breakthrough, scientists at Kyoto University, Japan, have studied deep neural networks (AI) and discovered that computers wield the capacity to at least visualise what humans are thinking.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s worth noting that the technology is nascent, and applies in only optimal conditions. If you recoil at someone’s dubious new choice of profile picture on Facebook, your laptop isn’t going to start registering your distaste and broadcasting it to the world. That being said, the new technology certainly has seemingly impressive – if ominous – potential applications.

The researchers released their findings – that AI could be used to decode thoughts – on BioRxiv (“bio-archive”), an archive and distribution service for unpublished pre-prints in the life sciences industry. This concept is not unprecedented; machine learning has been successfully used in conjunction with MRI scans (magnetic resonance imaging) to produce visual representations of what a person is thinking, albeit only when simple, binary images are involved.

Participants in the study were shown natural images (of, for example, wildlife), geometric shapes and alphabetical letters for varying lengths of time. Brain activity was logged, with a computer “decoding” the information to produce visualisations of the image it was previously shown, and how this image manifested in the brain’s thoughts.

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