05 May 2009

Wiretapping The Memory Palace

Japanese scientists have developed a technique that reconstructs images directly from the brain. The test images retrieved thus far are simple, monochrome characters but even at this early stage of development, the results are easily recognizable. The scientists assume that they will be able to reconstruct more detailed and complex images in time, including images retrieved from dreams. The applications of this sort of technology have been explored in fiction ad nauseam (see Wim Wender's film Until The End of The World, 1991), and the implications for art and privacy alone run the gamut from exciting to deeply creepy. Articles here and here.

Some aspects of art in general, and maybe photography in particular, are about externalizing the internal. In that sense, this new technology can be seen as a logical extension of the paint brush, or more closely, the camera. Apart from providing a grand new thoroughfare between the internal, physiological event of perception and shared, external reality, it also offers the very scary possibility of technologically updating Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon beyond his wildest dreams.

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