A provocative experiment in Germany raises questions about the future of keeping our thoughts private and even free will itself. Researchers have been able to predict, with modest accuracy, the *intention* of a person to complete a mental task. Predicting physical actions with brain activity has been done before but this appears to be the first example of predicting mental activity from brain activity as measured by MRI.
The implications are significant both philisophically and in practical terms. What exactly is “free will”? If our decisions are effectively made *before* we actively process the information then what exactly is in control of our thoughts and actions? If your future “decisions” are simply a product of a bunch of your past thoughts and behaviors then you may be a lot more predictable than you think.
From a practical side this could make for a marketing dream world (or nightmare world?), where persuaders in advertising or politics would tailor the message to your specific brain activity, or even try to “short circuit” activity in their favor.
Hmmm – I suddenly feel compelled to vote Ray Kurzweil for president …