• Nadine Rinderknecht

Mind Reading (Sheet No. 3)

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

Mind reading has long been classified as science fiction. But advances in neuroscience and computer science are allowing this technology to gradually transition into reality. But what exactly is Mind Reading?


Figure 1

Current and "futuristic" mind reading

Always eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed - no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters in your skull. - George Orwell, 1984

Technology has long since invaded the mind of the human skull. On the one hand, by analyzing body language and facial expressions using artificial intelligence (AI), it is possible to draw conclusions about a person's thoughts. Furthermore, other processes such as the evaluation of digital traces of a person's (purchasing) behavior - in addition to drawing conclusions about their thoughts - even make it possible to predict their future behavior or even influence their behavior (so-called nudging).

Futuristic, on the other hand, are technologies that draw conclusions about thoughts not by evaluating externally perceptible behavior, but by measuring the brain activity of the person thinking. In fact, this kind of mind reading was assigned to science fiction for a long time. However, advances in neuroscience and computer science such as AI are allowing this technology to gradually transition into reality. The driving force, however, is not the isolated progress of the respective fields, but their unification into a technology based on mind reading computers and AI. To put this into perspective, however, the road to reality is still long and will probably take more than ten years.


Mind Reading Technology

Mind reading is defined as the ability to infer the state of mind of other people. The technology used for this purpose is the so-called Mind Reading Computer (MRC). Based on this broad definition, both the behavioral analysis mentioned above and the rather futuristic measurement of the neural activity of the brain are covered. In the following, however, the term "mind reading" will only be understood as the inference of thoughts by measuring brain activity, since in Sheet No. 3 the relationship between copyright law and the concrete idea in the mind of the thinker is central. But this can only be described sufficiently accurately by measuring brain activity.

A measurement of neural activity can be either invasive or non-invasive. In the first case, electrodes are used which are implanted under the scalp. In the second case, brain activity is measured by devices external to the skull (so-called neuroimaging).

Figure 2

After measuring brain activity, the data is often analyzed by an AI so that the result becomes even more accurate. In this way, the thoughts of probands could be "translated" into sentences or images (see Figure 2). However, they are - despite AI - still (very) inaccurate in many cases. However, these research projects give an idea of what the possibilities of mind reading could be in the future.






Key Take-Aways: Sheet No. 3 (Swiss Copyright Law)

  • As a result of mind reading, a split takes place between the everyday (thought) and the copyright (materialized work) concept of idea.

  • If a thought is analyzed in real time, the materialization of the idea already takes place at the time of its creation. Thus, the concept of idea loses importance.

  • The act of expression of the thought in a perceptible form of expression takes place in Mind Reading through the representation of the thought on the display of the MRC.

  • Creator is the producer of the form of expression - not of the idea. However, a distinction must be made between the human creator of the idea and a technical expressor of the idea. As a result, the human creator who uses an MRC as a mere means of creation should be recognized as the creator under copyright law.

  • If the creative influence of the artist is reflected in the form of the MRC or AI result, because he has used the technology merely as a tool, the artist and not the AI (de lege ferenda) is to be regarded as the creator (traditional problem of AI as "creator").

  • What matters is how accurately MRC and AI (will) represent the concrete thought. The more advanced technology becomes, the more it moves from being a "creative illiterate" to a "slavish reader" of human thought. In the first case, technology (de lege ferenda) could still be considered a creator, in the second case probably not, since the result tends towards human-autonomous creation with increasing technological progress.

  • Important types of works are: Literary works (translating into sentences) and pictorial works (translating into images). If further technical tools such as 3D/4D printers are used after the measurement of thoughts, works of applied art are also conceivable.

For more information go to Sheet No. 3!


Further reading

  • Arian Petoft, Neurolaw: A brief introduction, in: Iranian Journal of Neurology, 14(1) (2015), 53 ff.

  • Cheryl Ann, A Mind-Reading A.I., in: Medium vom 8. Dezember 2019

  • Elon Musk, Neuralink Launch Event, YouTube, 16. Juli 2019

  • Elon Musk/Neuralink, An Integrated Brain-Machine Interface Platform With Thousands of Channels, in: Journal of Medical Internet Research, 21(10) (2019), e16194

  • Guohua Shen et al., Deep image reconstruction from human brain activity, in: PLoS Computational Biology, 15(1) (2019), e1006633

  • Joseph G. Makin/David A. Moses/Edward F. Chang, Machine translation of cortical activity to text with an encoder–decoder framework, in: Nature Neuroscience, 23 (2020), 575 ff.

  • Marcello Ienca/Roberto Andorno, Towards new human rights in the age of neuroscience and neurotechnology, in: Life Sciences, Society and Policy, 13(5) (2017), 1 ff.

  • Michelle Ng Perez/Rachel Cohen, Uploading the Mind: The Basics and Ethics of Whole Brain Emulation, in: Amber Zhou et al. (Eds.), Science In Society Review, Frühling 2019, 30 ff.

  • Oscar Schwartz, Mind-reading tech? How private companies could gain access to our brains, in: The Guardian vom 24. Oktober 2019

  • Pieter R. Roelfsema/Damiaan Denys/P. Christiaan Klink, Mind Reading and Writing: The Future of Neurotechnology, in: Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 22(7) (2018), 598 ff.

  • Prince Ghuman, Neuromarketing and the Future of A.I. Driven Behavior Design, TEDx Talk, Februar 2020

  • Soumi Mitra/Asoke Nath, Mind-Reading Computers: Towards A New Horizon in Medical Science, in: International Journal of Computer Sciences and Engineering, 7(1) (2019), 915 ff.

  • Xiayin Zhang et al., The combination of brain-computer interfaces and artificial intelligence: applications and challenges, in: Review Article on Medical Artificial Intelligent Research, 8(11) (2020), 1 ff.


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