“For many people the mind is the last refuge of mystery

against the encroaching spread of science…

the last bit of  terra incognita.”

-Herb Simon

Dozens of tornadoes started to touch down while storm clouds gathered overhead.  Frantically looking around, I saw no one.  The entire neighborhood had been abandoned.  One long stride and then another, I picked up speed, and my body left the ground.  I flew over the tops of houses, looking for- what- survivors?  In my gut, I knew it was futile.  The tempest was raging, the tornadoes gathering strength…

This is but one dream I’ve wished could be visually documented- taken from its ephemeral prison, from the confines of R.E.M. sleep.  A machine capable of recording dreams and playing them back, like a movie, would be optimal.  Amazingly, this machine’s predecessor has already been built and is currently being tested in Japan as a mind-reading device.  Using MRI machines, participant’s brains are scanned while staring at black and white images.  These images are then reconfigured on a computer, allowing researchers to observe shapes seen by those involved in the study.  Granted, the “Dream Machine” is still in its infancy, but future applications are far reaching.

Recording dreams is certainly a goal of the machine’s creators, but so is literal mind-reading.  Currently, only images physically shown to participants are able to be seen via software.  The next step is gaining access to images conjured only by the imagination.  Peering into someone’s mind is sure to bring with it issues of ethics and privacy.  Not only will the “Dream Machine” be used in the domestic sphere, but it also has implications for judiciary proceedings and military use.  If, in the future, the machine can discern between dreams and actual memories, devices currently in use (such as lie detectors) will no longer be needed, as a more effective means of gaining more accurate information will be available.  For the same reason, wartime handling of suspects may also change as the mind containing valuable information can be infiltrated.       

The mind’s unsolvable code, once thought to be an impenetrable landscape, is about to be cracked.   

See the start of the “Dream Machine”:


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  1. Bob Jeffers

    Very interesting project. There is a study within the US that is utilizing similar technology to determine whether or not a person is telling the truth. One of the “news” magazines on the TV had a segment about this in June.

    As one would imagine, the ethics questions abound; the military is very interested in the project as is industry. Ladies and gentlemen, meet 1984.

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