IBM has released their annual “Next 5 in 5” list. That’s technological advances the company thinks we’ll have made within five years. On the list this time around? Mind reading. What’s that Future Boy?
IBM says they think about what is science fiction and what is science fact on a daily basis. “A lot of people wait for things to happen. It’s rare than an organization says: this is a big change, and it’s coming,” says IBM Fellow Bernard Meyerson.
They’ve been producing this list for the last six years and are proud to say some of them have come true.
We will be able to access healthcare remotely from just about anywhere in the world. Today, through telemedicine, patients can connect with physicians or specialists from just about anywhere via inexpensive computers and broadband networks. Doctors can view x-rays and other diagnostic imagery from thousands of miles away.
Technologies the size of a few atoms will address areas of environmental importance. Nanotechnology is now used in countless fields and industries, including agriculture, biotechnology and sensor networks, enabling us to understand and interact with the natural environment like never before.
You will talk to the Web…and the Web will talk back. Today, speech recognition and mobile communications technologies make it possible for people to talk to the Internet using their computers or mobile phones, be understood, and listen to automated voices that are responsive to their needs.
Ok, fair enough but here’s this year’s complete list:
- People power will come to life
- You will never need a password again
- Mind reading is no longer science fiction
- The digital divide will cease to exist
- Junk mail will become priority mail
The first two seem like sensible guesses as we’ve already seen moves in that direction but what about this whole mind reading thing? They say it’s been wishful thinking for sci-fans for years but that it’s soon to become a reality.
If you just need to think about calling someone, it happens. Or you can control the cursor on a computer screen just by thinking about where you want to move it.
Scientists in the field of bioinformatics have designed headsets with advanced sensors to read electrical brain activity that can recognize facial expressions, excitement and concentration levels, and thoughts of a person without them physically taking any actions.
Within five years, we will begin to see early applications of this technology in the gaming and entertainment industry. Furthermore, doctors could use the technology to test brain patterns, possibly even assist in rehabilitation from strokes and to help in understanding brain disorders, such as autism.
So it’s not so much reading each others’ minds but the ability for our technology to know what we’re thinking and perform accordingly. Meyererson says it’s all about pushing people toward innovation, I say it’s pushing people toward Judgment Day. And that “junk mail will become priority mail thing?” They mean your email will become so customized to your particular interests that it won’t seem like junk. And again, referring back to sci-fi, this reminds me of Minority Report.
Seriously though, if/when the mind reading thing does happen (even if it’s not within five years) it could be huge. Particularly for those whose disabilities may limit their speech or mobility. Although they admit their list has big PR value, IBM is thinking big for real. “If you give people a grand challenge you push them to really innovate,” said Meyerson, “That’s when extraordinary things can happen.”
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