It’s hard to believe, but it seems that the world will soon cease to be the same. Everything that we saw in science fiction films and thought that this was pure invention – begins to come into our lives.
For example, the other day, an amazing article was published in the scientific journal Nature, judging by which humanity has come close to reading each other’s thoughts. And although the device is not yet ready for everyday use, everything goes to the fact that soon it will cease to be fiction. And although it may seem that the introduction is greatly exaggerated, in fact this is not so. So what is this device, and how does it work? Let’s get it right.
So, for starters, we need an ECoG device. It is almost like an EEG (when a “cap” with electrodes is put on the head), with the only difference being that the electrodes are placed directly on the cerebral cortex. To do this, you need to drill holes in the skull or make a trepanation. It sounds creepy, but this way the accuracy of measurements increases significantly. Using this device, scientists read brain waves during an experiment.
What was the essence of the experiment: before the start, four subjects were asked to read aloud or to themselves about 50 sentences, which consisted of a certain number of words. This was necessary in order for the algorithm that read brain waves to clearly understand and catch repeating words. Similar brain activity was perceived by the algorithm as a specific word. At this stage of the experiments, such a restriction is necessary, but in the future it, of course, will not be.
Based on the data obtained, the algorithm compiled graphs and translated them into computer-friendly machine code. Then this code was passed on and the system converted the data stream into ordinary words. Thus, the system was trained and compared the signals of brain waves with the words familiar to us.
At the second stage of the experiment, when the algorithm was already trained in a certain set of words, the subject had to come up with a phrase using the same words and read them aloud or to himself.
Further, the system read and analyzed brain waves and produced the phrase that the subject was conceived. Agree, this is something fantastic!
True, it is worth noting that at first the error in the system was quite high, but over time it was able to significantly reduce. So, for example, in one of the 4 people who took part in the experiment, it was only 3%.
This is perhaps even higher than that of modern voice assistants. Another interesting observation was that the error depends on a particular person. Apparently, someone formulates their thoughts more clearly, while someone does not. How our brains and human thoughts work is still a mystery behind seven seals, but such experiments clearly push us closer to the answer.
In their report, scientists noted that similar systems existed before, but they were able to recognize only fragments of words, while their invention could cope with 50 sentences, albeit with a limited vocabulary. Since the system is based on artificial intelligence algorithms, over time, the vocabulary base will expand. Scientists also believe that they will be able to teach the system and words that were not previously learned by their algorithm. This will be possible by adding to the analysis of the laws of the English language.
Thus, today we already have a device that can read clearly formulated thoughts. But it is worth noting that for an accurate decoding, it is better for a person to pronounce words and sentences out loud. Apparently, in this way the brain is more focused on the phrase and delivers clearer signals that the ECoG device captures. Over time, the algorithms will probably learn the high efficiency of reading thoughts, even if they are not spoken aloud.
Today, the experiment has exclusively theoretical benefits, since its use involves connecting the electrodes directly to the brain, but over time, the sensitivity of devices and the development of algorithms based on artificial intelligence will overcome this obstacle. And the fact that today scientists have managed to read what we do not say out loud is truly fantastic!
PS Although you know what? If I were asked to come up with an incredible situation in which such a device could be used today, I would easily cope with such a task. Let’s imagine a person who was paralyzed as a result of a car accident or attack, but at the same time has important information that will help find the culprit or the culprit of the accident. He cannot move and speak, but his brain and hearing work fine. In this case, the use of such a device could well be useful, don’t you? However, there are other ways to learn something from a paralyzed person, but this will be a completely different story …