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The Download: AI is making robots more helpful, and the problem with cleaning up pollution

Computer scienceThe Download: AI is making robots more helpful, and the problem with cleaning up pollution


November 2023

Technically speaking, neuroscientists have been able to read your mind for decades. It’s not easy, mind you. First, you must lie motionless within a hulking fMRI scanner, perhaps for hours, while you watch films or listen to audiobooks.

None of this, of course, can be done without your consent; for the foreseeable future, your thoughts will remain your own, if you so choose. But if you do elect to endure claustrophobic hours in the scanner, the software will learn to generate a bespoke reconstruction of what you were seeing or listening to, just by analyzing how blood moves through your brain.

More recently, researchers have deployed generative AI tools, like Stable Diffusion and GPT, to create far more realistic, if not entirely accurate, reconstructions of films and podcasts based on neural activity.

But as exciting as the idea of extracting a movie from someone’s brain activity may be, it is a highly limited form of “mind reading.” To really experience the world through your eyes, scientists would have to be able to infer not just what film you are watching but also what you think about it, and how it makes you feel. And these interior thoughts and feelings are far more difficult to access. Read the full story.

—Grace Huckins

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