BY: KATY WILLIS
For thousands of years, people have claimed to be able to read others’ minds. And for just as long, skeptics and scientific communities have widely disparaged these claims of “telepathy” as untruths, superstitions, and primitive ideas.
It’s ironic, then, that it is now that scientists —in purely unscientific terms—have found a way to read minds, though they’ve avoided the term “telepathy” in favour of the “brain-to-brain interface.” But before you start hyperventilating at the prospect of sending messages directly to other peoples’ brains, it’s not that easy. Here’s how they did it.
In a research experiment involving Harvard Medical School Professor of Neurology, Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, the scientists in question performed a computer-assisted brain-to-brain interface, in which the single sender and three receivers were an incredible 5,000 miles apart.
The sender, in India, wore a brain-to-computer interface headset that could detect his thoughts. The computer then translated those thoughts into binary source code before sending the information to the computer-to-brain interfaces of the receivers, in France, in the form of a transcranial magnetic stimulation rig. Because the rig stimulates the brain using magnetism, it’s non-invasive.
In this case, the sender thought about moving his arms to represent the binary digit one and moving his feet for binary zero. When the rig received the signal for binary one from the sender, it stimulated the brains of the receivers to create a phosphene, which appeared as a light at the bottom of their fields of vision. Therefore, the recipients could decode the message of lights and spaces into an actual message.
Using the same system, you could ostensibly convert any word to binary and transfer it to someone else’s brain.
What does this mean for the future?
While an awesome achievement, the brain-to-brain interface is not quite as sci-fi as it sounds. Unlike the telepathic capabilities of Spock, it still requires technology to work properly. It’s not exactly a direct brain-to-brain interface, but it’s still a giant leap forward.
To put its potential in perspective, think about a cellphone ten years ago. In theory, once the technique is refined and the technology is more widely available, the brain-to-brain interface would negate the need for telephone calls, VOIP, and verbal communication. Verbal language is a method of communication that not only governs how you transfer ideas, but it also affects the vocabulary by which you create ideas. Some words are untranslatable. Being liberated from language could be a huge step forward in the evolution of humanity.
At the same time, it could usher in an unprecedented level of privacy invasion. If further developments let individuals have true brain-to-brain interface capabilities, without intermediary technology, you’d never be able to hide your feelings, thoughts, or emotions from a loved one. They’ll simply be able to rummage around in your head and pick out the truth.
Please take a moment to acknowledge the intense amount of hidden thoughts that move through your mind daily that might change how others receive you.
Everyone is an undercover psychotic.
Although, that’s a scary thought, it’s hardly the worst implication. Internet surveillance would be an antique practice. Governments would no longer need to tap your phone line, surround you with informants or search your Internet history; they’ll be able to read your mind and know exactly your intentions.
Whether the technology is used to liberate us or to control us will be determined by which intention we develop it with. Either way, the potential of the technology will attract investment and when developed it will dawn a new era. This is the future of communication.