"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

Memory Implants, Mind Reading & Facial Recognition Technology

I doubt Edward Bernays could of imagined a world where you can whisper into a customer’s ear, or be capable of mining and processing data to find incredibly obscure patterns and correlating them with buying behaviors. My greatest fear is not that these technologies will be used against us, we have already started the arms race against the unprotected mind. It’s difficult to tell if the defenses when developed will be one of hardening targets or simply creating a pact of mutually assured destruction.

Previous posts have shown how easy it is, using open source data, to predict the outcomes of politically unstable events or to determine the likelihood of riots. My fear is that my failure’s of imagination will keep me from understanding the full and varied potentials of it’s use.

Tests in 2010 showed that the best algorithms can pick someone out in a pool of 1.6 million mugshots 92 per cent of the time. It’s possible to match a mugshot to a photo of a person who isn’t looking at the camera too. Algorithms such as one developed by Marios Savvides’s lab at Carnegie Mellon can analyse features of a front and side view set of mugshots, create a 3D model of the face, rotate it as much as 70 degrees to match the angle of the face in the photo, and then match the new 2D image with a fairly high degree of accuracy. The most difficult faces to match are those in low light. Merging photos from visible and infrared spectra can sharpen these images, but infrared cameras are still very expensive.

Of course, it is easier to match up posed images and the FBI has already partnered with issuers of state drivers’ licences for photo comparison. Link

The space between eyes has always been one of the key factors behind facial recognition because it can’t be altered. Right now bionic eyes can only produce crude grayscale images, but eventually they may be used to fool biometric ID systems.

Memories are often grouped into two categories: declarative memory, the short and long-term storage of facts like names, places and events; and implicit memory, the type of memory used to learn a skill like playing the piano.

In their study, the researchers sought to better understand the mechanisms underlying short-term declarative memories such as remembering a phone number or email address someone has just shared.

Using isolated pieces of rodent brain tissue, the researchers demonstrated that they could form a memory of which one of four input pathways was activated. The neural circuits contained within small isolated sections of the brain region called the hippocampus maintained the memory of stimulated input for more than 10 seconds. The information about which pathway was stimulated was evident by the changes in the ongoing activity of brain cells. Link

There is a large gap from insect brain’s to a rat’s, then from rat to chimp, and finally to human. This gap will take a long time to close. But when we do simulate the human brain and it’s processes implantation of memories will likely become much easier as well. In this case we don’t even need to simulate the human brain itself, just one of it’s functions.

A team of security researchers from Oxford, UC Berkeley, and the University of Geneva say that they were able to deduce digits of PIN numbers, birth months, areas of residence and other personal information by presenting 30 headset-wearing subjects with images of ATM machines, debit cards, maps, people, and random numbers in a series of experiments. The paper, titled “On the Feasibility of Side-Channel Attacks with Brain Computer Interfaces,” represents the first major attempt to uncover potential security risks in the use of the headsets.

“The correct answer was found by the first guess in 20% of the cases for the experiment with the PIN, the debit cards, people, and the ATM machine,” write the researchers. “The location was exactly guessed for 30% of users, month of birth for almost 60% and the bank based on the ATM machines for almost 30%.” Link

The lowest hanging fruit for hackers has always been humans. Kevin Mitnick almost exclusively used social engineering, because manipulating the social networks was much more effective than directly attacking hardened security protocols put in places by security professionals. Expect entirely new hardened systems to be creating around protecting and filter thoughts.

I fear a failure of imagination more than the atrocities that can come from this technology.

2 responses to “Memory Implants, Mind Reading & Facial Recognition Technology

  1. William Gould September 12, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    What do you mean by your last line?

    • Eric Patton September 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      Mainly that people will use it not so much for malevolent ends, just for stupid and shortsighted ones.

      I don’t think the development of technologies like this can be halted. Not even by a deep global depression.

      People have been working for several years to see that biotech and nanotech can be controlled so that it doesn’t become destructive, as much as that control is possible. The particular field of “mind defense” hasn’t created any defensive measures that I know of yet.

      But failures of imagination are much more common than malevolent desires, people care about themselves more than hurting people for it’s own sake. Being able to reframe problems to create a better solution is rare, particularly among people who can actually create solutions. It requires a combination of big picture thinking and an obsession with details merged with action.

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