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Surprising Science

Your Next Home Movie: Your Dreams

“The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind,” wrote Sigmund Freud. Dreams are often most profound, he also said, when they seem the most crazy. Now imagine if you could sit back on your couch and watch your dreams in HD. Therapy as entertainment. Analyze yourself all while enjoying a tub of popcorn. The technology to record dreams is being developed, and it’s just one of the mind-reading achievements we will see in the future.

“We can actually begin the process of photographing dreams.  This was considered pure science fiction.  Look at the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio called Inception,” says Michio Kaku, Big Think’s resident astrophysicist and the author of The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind. It turns out that the first steps in this direction have been taken already in Kyoto and at Berkeley.” Sleeping under an MRI scanner, the patient’s brain is scanned, creating 30,000 dots. A computer analyzes the dots and reconstructs images of what the person is dreaming about. In the future, our dreams can be recorded like movies that we can play back and study for greater self-knowledge.

Remember the telepathy scenes in The Shining? It turns out that telepathy too is inching closer to becoming a part of our lives. We can see the thinking living brain as it thinks, and we can create computer simulations of this to understand what people are thinking.  So at the present time telepathy exists,” says Kaku.

Science fiction wonders coming to life are of course exciting, but also dangerous. Technology is only as good or as evil as those using it. Mind-reading tech gives new meaning to “Thought Police.” As Orwell warned, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” Now imagine the wearer of that boot knowing your every thought.

But of course, these types of advancements also provide a great deal of good. As an example, Kaku points to his friend, Stephen Hawking. “[Hawking] lost control of his fingers now so he cannot communicate even with a laptop computer.  But look at his right frame of his glasses. There’s an EEG sensor that picks up radio waves from his brain, decodes that, and he’s allowed to manipulate to some degree a laptop computer,” explains Kaku. And that’s only the beginning, he says: Science can now put chips directly on top of the brain, giving people who are completely paralyzed greater control.

“In fact, one of the people that pioneers this technology, for the next soccer World Cup [this scientist] wants to have a paralyzed person put on an exoskeleton and initiate the soccer games,” says Kaku.

For more on the latest in mind-reading technology, watch this clip of Kaku’s discussion of the future of the mind:


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