Initially this will be used for security as a kind of ‘pass thought’ – the user thinks of a specific song or thought which the device recognises and then unlocks itself.
But a panel at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, warned of the terrifying possibility of hackers reading people’s innermost thoughts.
“It turns out every person thinks quite differently about the same thing.Nita Farahany, professor of Law and philosophy at Duke University, said: “Beyond two-factor idenitification…is using neural signatures – ‘pass thoughts’.
“So you could think like a song or a little ditty in your head while you are wearing a consumer based EEG device and then that, which has a unique neural signature, can be used as your pass code.
“It turns out that’s an incredibly effective, incredibly safe and almost impossible to replicate pass code, so there is discussion about using pass thoughts.”
She added: “Then you’ve got to really think about privacy.”
Prof Farahany described a not-too-distant future where people constantly wear EEG devices and share their brain activity, thoughts, mental health – and even diagnoses for diseases like Alzheimer’s – with computers and tablets and online.
But she warned once out there, “not good Samaritans” could access the data.
She said: “The question is, what do we do in that world.
“The idea that law is going to help us is not likely.”
“There are no legal protections from having your mind involuntarily read,” she added.
Robot teaching assistants were also predicted at during the panel discussion.
Andrew Moore, Dean of Carnegie University’s School of Computer Science said: “By 2030 I expect that an elementary school teacher, it will be as though her or she when looking into the classroom, has a bunch of experts around them, reminding them: ‘You know what, Betty was looking miserable last lesson see if you can find out what’s going on’ or ‘watch out there’s a warning the weather’s going to get bad and the kids might be alarmed’.
“So I am imagining a world where we all have a bunch of cognitive assistants helping us.”