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Surprising Science

Empathy Machine: Scientists Train People to Sympathize

Similar to how affection-detecting machines were used in the film Blade Runner, the Brazilian researchers' methods could possibly be used to anticipate crime.

What’s the Latest?


It’s possible to create brain patterns associated with affection and tenderness, using neurofeedback while someone is scanned in a functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) machine. The latest research has taken place in Brazil. “While lying in an fMRI machine, subjects were asked to think of memories of affection and pride while viewing a screen with a circle. The researchers used pattern-detection algorithms called ‘support vector machines’ to classify patterns in the participants’ brains. When these patterns were detected, the circle would ripple and change shape. (It didn’t change for the control group.)”

What’s the Big Idea?

Similar to how affection-detecting machines were used in the film Blade Runner, the Brazilian researchers’ methods could possibly be used to anticipate crime. By detecting and retaining murderous psychopaths, such as the Santa Barbara shooter Elliot Rodger, it could be possible to address the threat of crime before it occurs. Lead author of the study, Jorge Moll argues that while clinical techniques of neurofeedback are well established, applying the research in the real world will require more years of testing. Still, Moll estimates that five more years of research could yield positive results.

Read more at Kurzweil AI


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