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Department of cutting edge technologies

The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest To Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind

Department of the technological frontier: This highly praised New York Times bestseller, which actually came out in 2014, could turn out to be the finance book of the year some year. What will happen in the financial markets if telepathy is achievable using the same type of technology now being developed to help people share experiences, etc., turn on their appliances without moving a muscle, etc? Chapter 3, entitled “Telepathy: A Penny for Your Thoughts,” tells how scientists are working on connecting brains to brains and brains via machines, so that a phone is hardly necessary. Of course, this, the author reports, is not “true telepathy,” which would not require electronic equipment.

These developments (“it seems that everyone…is converging on this technology”) will surely pose a challenge to regulators who worry about corporate inside information (planned earnings announcements, etc.) slipped to another person via a chatroom or some other social medium. Insider trading remains illegal in the U.S. and many other countries. I would be surprised if regulators and law enforcement agencies were not already rather concerned. Be vigilant for the implications, which are scary.

Some efforts to achieve telepathy involve technologies such as “telepathy helmets,” which offer hands-free communication. It might be hard to slip unnoticed into a corporate board meeting or the like wearing such attire. Some methods being developed here in New York State are touted as noninvasive. How much data can be gleaned from a brain not in a large machine of some kind? Tiny (nano)probes—invisible to the naked eye— might hold an inconspicuous answer, at least at some point in the future. Also, handheld MRI might glean information valuable to stock traders from an unwitting insider, although MRI images would offer only relatively limited data about an unwitting subject’s thoughts—perhaps far too little to hear an executive’s internal dialogue, for example.

The book deals with ethical and legal implications broadly speaking and notes that it takes some time for these to be worked out for new technologies.

Bonus: For students of the Fed wondering about the mechanics of monetary policy, one should keep in mind that another form of highly guarded information that affects markets is the content of the deliberations of the Open Market Committee over possible changes in the federal funds rate and other policy instruments, which are still temporarily kept secret.

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