While millions starve, suffer, and are actively killed by weaponized planes and germs, the greatest scientists are not only developing rocketships, but also mind-reading machines. All very cute and futuristic, but in the hollow, embarrassingly primitive Earth way, where we exalt the tiniest brushes-up against concepts that sound advanced while not actually being able to solve problems or accomplish anything. Ergo we kill a thousand children and cripple a thousand men in order to subsidize five hundred wheelchairs, then shake our heads in amazement at how incredible we are for developing wheelchairs to help those benighted five hundred wheelbound.
The mind-reading obsession, like the torture obsession or the meteorology obsession, seems scary at first glance. We all know that the motivation of military researchers at Berkeley is not to "help paralyzed people talk," but to create a veneer of respectability around computers that map neurological activity in order to selectively apply that technology to whoever needs to be proven bad.
All sorts of implications there: society will need to adapt security layers appropriate to keep things as they are, because if very powerful people were openly mind-read, the deep government would be outed, and that can't be allowed. So we can search the home of some guy accused of embezzling money from the Subway he runs with two partners, but we absolutely cannot search the CIA, because Security. Similarly, Dick Cheney's mind will be read, but by a special team of monitors who, like corporate journalists, will report that everything is A-OK. In the meantime, local police and DAs will use ridiculous interpretations of halfway-plausible neural activity to convict people of past crimes or future crimes, and only upper-middle-class defendants will have the money to pay for neuropsychologists who will argue that the defendant's brainwaves didn't show a "memory" of the murder occurring, but rather, an imagined scenario of the murder triggered by news reports and police questioning. A plea bargain will be cut where the defendant forfeits her house and car to the County, signs over her IRA to the Fraternal Order of Police, and serves three years on highway trash pickup, then wears a brain-helmet for ten.
In short, it won't really be all that different from now. Assholes with authority who want to come up with something will come up with something, apply their rubric selectively to get what they want, and all the hype about mind-reading is, deep down, no scarier or more "big brother" than it was in the Middle Ages. Face it: Lord Steyne can send his men into your house whenever he wants, for any reason, and afterward, he can make sure that everyone in the country knows that there is incontrovertible proof that you are a bastard. He can have you beaten, killed, isolated, raped, robbed, whatever, and whether he rationalizes it by the divine right of kings or the divine right of science, there's no difference. The only thing changing here is that, if you yourself believe in the divine right of science, you may feel 1% more guilty (as though the fact that a "mind-reading machine" convicted you, rather than an officer who planted cocaine and bomb diagrams, matters) than you would have otherwise. Throw that thing out the window. Nothing has changed, so there's no reason to be any more afraid now than you were in 1200. Elites gonna elite.
The deeper implications of mind-reading will become more popular after years of case history. Such as: we all know that, if we possessed the power to eliminate bad people, we'd be sorely tempted to use it. We'd fantasize about it; we'd hover our finger over the button; maybe we'd actually do it. And since that's in all of our heads (and since we can now "prove" it even more than we could before), everyone will be 100% guilty. There will be no way to actually-actually know who is desirous of, or who has contemplated the morality of, a plan to kill a murderer to prevent future murders. Yes, elite security will use blanket powers to punish anyone they need to in the pursuit of worldly power, but those who think about it will be forced to confront the fact that mind-reading doesn't actually tell you anything useful.
The distinction between thought and action comes into play here. Fearful minds are terrified of existence, because of the uncertainty inherent in existing. They don't know whether they will die tomorrow, and they don't know what thoughts they might think tomorrow. The only way to live this uncertainty is to embrace it, swim the spring, and find the joy that can only be found in existence. The only way to settle this uncertainty is to destroy everything, because to sick minds, the only certainty is nonexistence. By reading minds, elites are trying to do what they've always wanted to do: to chart, account for, categorize, and predict. Weather, lives, genus, species, purchasing patterns, thoughts--they hate the idea of things that they can't kill, impale, and affix to a display board inside a frame somewhere.
So we read minds. Put aside primitive human technology for a moment. The adjustments in our brains' electromagnetic fields can be tracked from any point in the verse. Even a low-moderate level of technology would provide a civilization with the ability to, from a single control center, monitor all thoughts occurring on any given planet. It's only a few degrees more advanced to do that than it is to monitor all physical movement occurring on said planet. Earth-humans will start out using their mind-readers in the darkest dungeons or the most sterile hospitals, but they'll eventually move on to full planetary awareness, where "warrantless" (sic, snicker) monitoring of every infant's first perceptions of mother is no longer an issue like it was last century.
It's not speculative. Remind yourself of that. All the dystopian tales are not just stories. There are rooms on this planet, right now, where otherwise-good, decent women and men have kidnapped small children from their parents, and, with the full financial and moral support of their democratic societies, thrown those children into rancid pits. They are beating them, injecting them with drugs, starving them, molesting them, terrifying them with dogs, sexually humiliating them, mutilating them, and planning to kill them as soon as funding is reduced, in order to leave behind no evidence. That is happening right now, in Earth 2014. They are using the finest technology and the most cunning finance to "hide" it, even though everyone already knows, and they believe that they are fully right and proper in acting this way. They will do anything and everything they can. Once they have mind-reading computers, or lightspeed travel, they will be the same people, only with more power.
The earnest technicians (the true believers who will actually run these machines before it's turned over to AI slaves, the tortured analyzers, upon whom we will inflict such suffering that it will make what we have done to ourselves pale in comparison) will then face the quandaries we're looking at today. If someone plans to do something, wants to do something, is certain they're going to do something, will they actually do it? How do you tell the difference between a person steeling themselves up for a wedding, and a person actually willing to say, "I do"? How do you tell who's saying it when they don't really mean it? Which interpretation is the final one?
The terrified, pants-wetting elite cowards hate the idea of free will, because it means that they're responsible for what they've done. But even when we're all buying Apple™ iBrains, reading our own minds in meditation sessions in efforts to better understand our self-esteem, we will still not understand ourselves. That final step--the action we take after contemplating a hundred different actions; the precise moment when we decide to have one more glass of beer instead of turning off the kitchen light and brushing our teeth--will forever elude the most powerful machines we can build here, because that is free will. The translation of thought to action; the final spark; the choice: none of this occurs until it occurs, and it will be the lasting vexation of people who are scared of newness, learning, infinity, and future. A trillion gruesome injustices will attach themselves to a century's use of thought-mapping, while remaining always unprovable to idiots who don't understand that you can't fully understand your action, and what caused it, until after it has happened. If it weren't that way, there would be no free will. Agency can only occur in environments where courses are impossible to plot perfectly beforehand. Really, think about it: if your intraperceptive self made every decision, there would be no interperceptive self, and you'd be no different from the computers they got here. That's why you can't really be making decisions unless the aspect of choice is not sited here; it's what makes actions fourth-degree conscious, rather than merely molecular. The intervention of ghost upon matter, the differentiation between chemical process and conscious manipulation, is what you're supposed to learn here, and trying to revert back to 100% matter is incredibly childish, not to mention wasteful. Go build a better computer and suck your thumb while you're at it.
Sigh. This is why, this is why, I told them it wasn't so great. I swore I wasn't going to come back here, you sick little fuckers. No, no, I'm sorry, I know I will, and I'll hate it, and so will you. You owe me. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I owe you.