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Inverse interviewed Mara Mather of the USC Leonard Davis School on the plausibility of Westworld characters’ cowboy hats having cognitive scanning abilities. Mather states that the show creates a sci-fi scenario that’s “not implausible” and are “a natural extension of what we have today.”

“Currently, fMRI provides us with some crude mind-reading capabilities,” Mather explains. Using it researchers can guess pretty well about how people are thinking about certain things — Mather says that they even can use it to tell whether someone is thinking about playing tennis or about someone else’s face.

“As long as we have some training data to learn your individual brain patterns, we can extract a blurry rough image of what your visual cortex is seeing or imagining,” says Mather. “Eventually, the machinery is likely to get more powerful and smaller — perhaps even small enough to fit into a hat.”

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