A computer can, in a very real sense, read human minds. Although the dot's gyrations are directed by a computer, the machine was only carrying out the orders of the test subject.
The computer mind-reading technique is far more than a laboratory stunt. Though computers can solve extraordinarily complex problems with incredible speed, the information they digest is fed to them by such slow, cumbersome tools as typewriter keyboards or punched tapes.
The key to his scheme: the electroencephalograph, a device used by medical researchers to pick up electrical currents from various parts of the brain. If we could learn to identify brain waves generated by specific thoughts or commands, we might be able to teach the same skill to a computer. The machine might even be able to react to those
commands by, say, moving a dot across a TV screen
. So far the S.R.I, computer has been taught to recognize seven different commands?up, down, left, right, slow, fast and stop.
People express their mental states, including emotions, thoughts, and desires, all the time through facial expressions, vocal nuances and gestures. This is true even when they are interacting with machines. Our mental states shape the decisions that we make, govern how we communicate with others, and affect our performance. The ability to attribute mental states to others from their behavior and to use that knowledge to guide our own actions and predict those of others is known as theory of mind or mind-reading.
Existing human-computer interfaces are mind-blind ? oblivious to the user?s mental states and intentions. A computer may wait indefinitely for input from a user who is no longer there, or decide to do irrelevant tasks while a user is frantically working towards an imminent deadline. As a result, existing computer technologies often frustrate the user, have little persuasive power and cannot initiate interactions with the user. Even if they do take the initiative, like the now retired Microsoft Paperclip, they are often misguided and irrelevant, and simply frustrate the user. With the increasing complexity of computer technologies and the ubiquity of mobile and wearable devices, there is a need for machines that are aware of the user?s mental state and that adaptively respond to these mental states.
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