This morning’s column will take “some nerve” to read – because it is about precisely that – how our nerves operate.
The conventional wisdom is that all “thinking” happens in the head. Logically, this must be so because that’s where the nominal central processor for the body is located.
However, there are some simple sensory tricks that call this notion into question.
Think about your consciousness for a moment – that point of being within the body.
Now pick up any of our weapons of precision thinking. A hammer will do.
Give your thumb a fair – but not injuring whack!
As you do this, there are two ways of experiencing the event.
One is to remain brain-centered. In this case, your point of view is fixed (and quite painful, I would add) and your “out there in the body somewhere” pain is perceived.
The second and more problematic notion is that your consciousness is – for however brief a time – actually existing somewhere other than inside head, behind eyes.
This is the most important question in science right now: On the one hand, our “being-ness” is in a fixed location. Somewhere behind the eyes.
On the other hand, if our consciousness can flit around up and down nerves in the body – to extreme points of pain – such that we assemble reality there, instead of behind the eyes…well, that is a different kettle of fish completely.
The first instance argues that moving consciousness from its normal “seat” will be a brain-centered task. The second case, however, argues that it is merely an engineering problem to build the appropriate interface to the neural network.
And, if that trick can be done, then we are off to the stars because the main problem consciousness has is that as a semi-electrochemical function, which most seem to agree it is, the possibility of extending “its network” becomes a possibility.
Since I sacked out early Sunday night, and I’m going through a “brain on fire” moment, I thought I’d mention this as a fine thinking point to solve this week.
Obviously, if the second case is true (consciousness floats around inside of a traditional body) then it follows that at the moment of death we are able to “break-out” from the confines of the “container” (body) in which we live. This would put some hard science behind some reported human experiences; namely the soul being able to slip the confines of the body at the moment of death.
Whether the last-moment’s overdose of DMT is wholly a coping mechanism – and a drug-induced illusion of ego – is a matter being hotly debated.
On top of cabinets in operating rooms, there are cards and plaques with numbers, letters, and symbols that are not known to staff. Many of the people reporting near death experiences report seeing these scientific test markers accurately. And this, in turn, argues that there is something of a chemical jailer in place.
And it may be that our brains actual produce this “chemical jailer” stuff as a part of their regular function.
For a moment, think about those web-like Dream-Catchers that you can find at New Age and Indian curio shops, particularly in the West.
Odd as it may seem at first, is there a possibility that the role of humans is to act as a kind of “soul-catcher” whose function in the greater scheme of things is to act as a kind of incubator for the soul? Many religions would have it so. Many hand out concubines while others give away whole planets in the after-life.
While title to things non-owned is a questionable racket, it doesn’t move us from the central part of this morning’s ponder: Is there a non-drug way to build a physical extension of nerve tissue to get “out?”
I’m not sure how that would work…somehow in this life, I skipped the part where I study neurology and become an expert in this sort of thing.
However, it seems (intuitively) like there ought to be a way to “wire in” to neurons that are other than what we’re born with – and if that can be mastered, then we come up to exactly the point where immortality on this plane becomes possible.
Not that it would be easy. But huge progress looms in the Man-Machine-Interface area of research and development.
Let’s say that we could invent this new stuff that would “wire in” to a sufficiently large nerve in the body. And then, we would be able to break out, at least to some limited degree.
I’m sure you’re aware of all the work being done in “mental coupling” – which is exactly in this realm. On the input side, there are rudimentary “helmets” that use electrical impulses to couple to the brain.
One example of this was written up in 2013 when MIT’s work.
That was purely on the input side of the problem. Frankly, what amounts to perhaps a 60-pixel optical field may not seem like much, but it really is an incredible start.
On the output side of the problem, there is a ton of product on the verge of coming to market. Hongkiat has a list of “8 mind-blowing breakthroughs” over here.
The likely leader on the output side of things is a company called EMOTIV and their website is over here.
The key products to look at – in terms of where we go from simple Apps – will be thought-controlled computer commands. It looks like their Insight product is moving in that direction quickly.
Even more impressive is the fact that there are already
• Connect with an Insight headset via Bluetooth(r) SMART.
• Train 13 mental commands: Push, Pull, Move Left, Move Right, Lift, Drop, Rotate Left, Rotate Right, Rotate Clockwise, Rotate Counter Clockwise, Rotate Forward, Rotate Reverse and Disappear.
• Compatible with Android 4.4 and above.
It won’t be too long before the coping catches up and someone will come out with a thought-directed browsing system.
And after that?
Well, don’t look now, but if I was running DARPA, I would already be researching how to apply the Emotive Insight to flying of an aircraft. After all, coordinated light is not as difficult as the 13-commends which are already in the Android program. Flying an airplane by “thought control” comes purely a “mind-mapping” exercise.
To fly an airplane, you have three rudder inputs: left/right/none. Ailerons (roll) are the same thing – right, left, center. And then you’ve got three positions for elevator – up, down, and neutral.
Of course, each of these has to be proportional (and did I mention simultaneous?) but it’s not that hard.
Come to think of it, it has already been done in the Clint Eastwood move “Firefox” which came out back in 1982:
A joint Anglo-American plot is devised to steal a highly advanced Soviet fighter aircraft (MiG-31, NATO code name “Firefox”) which is capable of Mach 6, is invisible to radar, and carries weapons controlled by thought. Former United States Air Force Major Mitchell Gant (Eastwood), a Vietnam veteran and former POW, infiltrates the Soviet Union, aided by his ability to speak Russian (due to his having had a Russian mother) and a network of Jewish dissidents and sympathizers, three of whom are key scientists working on the fighter itself. His goal is to steal the Firefox and fly it back to friendly territory for analysis.
A number of products in this same arena are starting to pop onto Amazon. One such product is called Muse: The Brain Sensing Headband – Black and it will set you back $300 bucks. It promises some insight into the state of your brain (in terms of relaxed, level of cognitive function, whether you’re all worked up, hyper, brain-on-fire and that sort of thing. In which case, it will be very useful as a biofeedback machine.
At an even lower price-point is the NeuroSky MindWave Headset which runs $80 – but can be found with mobile options and software for (what else?) more money. This may be the first real “brain connector I buy because of its product description:
The MindWave headset takes decades of laboratory EEG technology research and puts it in your hands. It safely measures brainwave signals and monitors the attention and relaxation level of students as they interact with math, memory, and pattern recognition applications. Ten fun, interactive apps are included, with experiences ranging from entertainment to serious education. The headset also comes with developmental tools which allow you to write your own programs to interact with the MindWave. MindWave uses RF to transmit data, and includes a RF USB dongle compatible with both Mac and Windows.
Read the Amazon reviews first, on this one in particular. It may take some work to get working right. If I could actually get it to work, and that’s an $80 gamble, it would be fun to at least set up a browser (or Windows) so that I could page through a document without using my hands. I don’t know – until I play with their apps that come with this – just how far it can be pushed. Don’t know how much software customization is possible, though.
The bottom line, though, of this morning’s column is to remind you that Christmas is coming and because we all spend so (damn) much times on PCs, anything we can get to make the “neurologic converter protocols” do more of the work for us, the cooler things will be.
The input side of computers is already changing with programs like Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 13.0, English ($115) which I’ve been using with the Plantronics Audio 995 USB Multimedia Headset with Noise Canceling Microphone – Compatible with PC and Mac ($50) for a couple of years now.
[Meaningful Economic Sidebar: My last Plantronics 995 rig cost me $99. I go through a terrible amount of computer gear around here, as you might expect. But notice they are only $50 now, so please observe is what I’ve been talking about: deflation. Yo.]
The main thing is you need a decent computer to take care of the growing workload on the MMI (man-machine interface). I am a happy Dragon-Speaker because both the laptop and the Big Box are i7’s with plenty of RAM. , Big Box here also sports a 500 gb SSD which (with 12 GB and dual GTX-260s) is just blazing fast – even with a good-sized recognition operation going on. Or running Nostracodeus….(www.nostracodeus.com)
But think how cool it would be not to have to “flip modes” when using Dragon, for example, if you could do a little hacking of something like the NeuroSky product. You might be able to “think” your way into some of the commands to move around the screen, and so on.
And that’s when the computer/human relationship really starts to rock.
Whole point of this morning?
Mainly to keep an eye at the edges of the interface. the more we develop that, the more powerful computing can become.
The two fastest ways out of the computer are resending reading and time-compressed sound. The two fastest ways in are typing and voice/dictation.
Over time is is all set to change. As always, the early adopters of new technology will evolve a major efficiency edge over others. And sometimes, that can be turned into a bigger paycheck of business opportunity.
I can hardly wait till we get to where just “thinking about work” actually gets it done…While it’s not here yet, it’s the path we’re on. Might help to think about that next time you accidentally smash your thumb on a weekend project.
And yes, we still find our voice-controlled($179).a useful tool. Just having a voice-controlled timer in the kitchen is a pretty spiffy thing. And when if plays music, news, weather, and jots things down on the shopping list on command…well, that’s how the MMI is moving towards transparency.
Write when you break-even,