World News

Mind-reading tech has ethicists worried

Posted by: The Conversation

Date: Friday, 09 February 2024

Elon Musk’s announcement of the first human implant of a wireless brain chip by his neurotech company, Neuralink, has got people dreaming of a world they can control with their minds alone. But for lots of reasons, research carried out at the University of Texas’s HuthLab is potentially a bigger deal.

Combining the latest brain imaging technology with artificial intelligence, these brainy neuroscientists have translated the thoughts of people unable to communicate with the outside world into continuous natural language – without needing to implant anything. This is the closest we’ve yet come to reading someone’s mind.

Our latest Insights long read tells the story of how we got to this point, from the dodgy days of phrenology, via patients Tan and Walter K. And our authors explore what a brain-controlled future might really look like, not just for locked-in patients but for all of us (hint: it’s not all good news).

Senegal was once considered West Africa’s most stable democracy. Since independence from France, it has had three peaceful elections in which power went from the ruling party to the opposition. But all of that now appears to be threatened. President Macky Sall has postponed presidential elections that were due to take place later this month. Douglas Yates points out that none of Sall’s predecessors were able to stay in power beyond the constitutional limit – though they tried.

Mike Herd

Investigations Editor, Insights

The brain is the most complicated object in the universe. This is the story of scientists’ quest to decode it – and read people’s minds

Nicholas J. Kelley, University of Southampton; Stephanie Sheir, University of Bristol; Timo Istace, University of Antwerp

As Elon Musk’s Neuralink begins inserting chips into human brains, we trace the history of ‘mind reading’ technology and assess the potential risks and rewards

Macky Sall throws Senegal’s democratic credentials into doubt

Douglas Yates, American Graduate School in Paris (AGS)

Senegal is considered west Africa’s most stable democracy because it has never suffered a coup d'etat. But all its former presidents have attempted to extend their tenure of office.

The rise of African prophets: the unchecked power of the leaders of Pentecostal churches

Josiah Taru, Rice University

Pentecostalism is one of the fastest-growing strands of Christianity in Africa.


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