Can Machines Read our Minds?

Minds and Machines 29 (3):461-494 (2019)

Abstract

We explore the question of whether machines can infer information about our psychological traits or mental states by observing samples of our behaviour gathered from our online activities. Ongoing technical advances across a range of research communities indicate that machines are now able to access this information, but the extent to which this is possible and the consequent implications have not been well explored. We begin by highlighting the urgency of asking this question, and then explore its conceptual underpinnings, in order to help emphasise the relevant issues. To answer the question, we review a large number of empirical studies, in which samples of behaviour are used to automatically infer a range of psychological constructs, including affect and emotions, aptitudes and skills, attitudes and orientations (e.g. values and sexual orientation), personality, and disorders and conditions (e.g. depression and addiction). We also present a general perspective that can bring these disparate studies together and allow us to think clearly about their philosophical and ethical implications, such as issues related to consent, privacy, and the use of persuasive technologies for controlling human behaviour.

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Author Profiles

Christopher Burr
The Alan Turing Institute
Nello Cristianini
University of Bristol (PhD)

Citations of this work

Ethics of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.Vincent C. Müller - 2020 - In Edward Zalta (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Palo Alto, Cal.: CSLI, Stanford University. pp. 1-70.
The Ethics of Digital Well-Being: A Thematic Review.Christopher Burr, Mariarosaria Taddeo & Luciano Floridi - 2020 - Science and Engineering Ethics 26 (4):2313–⁠2343.
Empowerment or Engagement? Digital Health Technologies for Mental Healthcare.Christopher Burr & Jessica Morley - 2020 - In Christopher Burr & Silvia Milano (eds.), The 2019 Yearbook of the Digital Ethics Lab. pp. 67-88.
Manipulation, Injustice, and Technology.Michael Klenk - 2022 - In Fleur Jongepier & Michael Klenk (eds.), The Philosophy of Online Manipulation. New York: Routledge. pp. 108-131.

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