We often wish our partners and friends could read our minds. Or at least, we say we do. The truth is that we’re often not in control of our thoughts, and when we use the expression “I wish you could just read my mind,” what we actually mean is that we want them to read the information we’re choosing to give them.
We’re hard at work on brain-computer interfaces, and the question that arises is… what if those interactions don’t just read the thoughts we deliberately send?
What if we aren’t choosing?
A company called Red Meat Games has created a VR game that can read your heart rate. It then adjusts the experience to be more or less scary based on how you’re reacting to it. Big wimp? Don’t worry, you too can have the horror experience of your nightmares. Hardened fan? The AI will pump the spine-tingling juices to get you truly terrified.
This is, dare we say, an utterly brilliant idea. Imagine video games that can seamlessly change based on what kind of game you want to have. Love the soothing calm of grinding up levels? An RPG could sense that and provide you with hours of enjoyment. Has this puzzle killed you eighteen times and you’re at the point where you want to throw your controller across the room? The AI knows, and slips you some hints or greases the wheels to slide you right on through to the next challenge.
Sounds good so far, right? Because these are experiences you’re choosing to interact with, and experiences that can sculpt themselves to your every whim are basically the best part of the Holodeck. The problem comes when you aren’t choosing to interact. When computers can read your mind, what happens to privacy?
Let’s say a game is programmed to provide you with a love interest you find attractive. You’re playing with your buddies, and the computer provides you with a homosexual love interest. You just got outed by your video game. What if you see an ad for a wedding dress, and your heart rate spikes into anxiety? You’re served up relationship counselling sites and your partner finds out you’ve got cold feet. The permutations are pretty much endless. We worry about how much data advertisers can collect based on current VR setups — from something as simple as how often we go online to something as complex as where our eyes linger in an experience.
But when they can read our minds?
Privacy will be something we’ll truly have to fight for. And that’s a future that’s both exciting and terrifying. Can you tell? My heart rate just went up.
Written by Wren Handman for www.hammerandtusk.com.