The transhumanist scrapbook seemed to have been on the minds of many of you this week, since many of you sent me various versions of this story, and one individual, Mr. M.L., rather wryly commented that "mineral man makes his public debut." What's all the fuss about? Well, it seems that various mad scientists have now managed to use the internet and direct brain-to-brain technologies to transmit a message without the clicking of keyboards, use of monitors, and the usual paraphernalia:
The actual accomplishment reads like a bad script for one of those awful SyFy channel movies (which I had the misfortune to see a few days ago, when I granted myself a rare slot of time to watch tv. Flipping through the channels I came upon something called "Sharknado". I'll leave it to the reader to imagine just how abysmally bad it was.):
"Previous studies on EEG-based brain-computer interaction (BCI) have typically made use of communication between a human brain and computer. In these studies, electrodes attached to a person’s scalp record electrical currents in the brain as a person realizes an action-thought, such as consciously thinking about moving the arm or leg. The computer then interprets that signal and translates it to a control output, such as a robot or wheelchair.
"But, in this new study, the research team added a second human brain on the other end of the system. Four healthy participants, aged 28 to 50, participated in the study. One of the four subjects was assigned to the brain-computer interface (BCI) branch and was the sender of the words; the other three were assigned to the computer-brain interface (CBI) branch of the experiments and received the messages and had to understand them.
"Using EEG, the research team first translated the greetings “hola” and “ciao” into binary code and then emailed the results from India to France. There a computer-brain interface transmitted the message to the receiver’s brain through noninvasive brain stimulation. The subjects experienced this as phosphenes, flashes of light in their peripheral vision. The light appeared in numerical sequences that enabled the receiver to decode the information in the message, and while the subjects did not report feeling anything, they did correctly receive the greetings.
"A second similar experiment was conducted between individuals in Spain and France, with the end result a total error rate of just 15 percent, 11 percent on the decoding end and five percent on the initial coding side."
While an error rate of 15 percent is not all that great, one may imagine that this will come down - probably considerably - as the technology is "perfected," and it's that prospect that may have the boys at Google and the NSA and DARPA (The Diabolically Apocalyptic Research Projects Agency, to give it the nickname a reader here, Mr. J.B., suggested we call it), rubbing their hands together and cackling with anticipation.
We've all seen the stories about the Ed Snowden affair and the NSA snooping on...well... everyone, and we've all seen the stories about the various "social media" platforms being clever plots by The Insanely Power-Hungry in such agencies and corporations being a convenient way for them to update their "control files." It was, you must admit, a masterstroke: for those platforms allow those files to be constantly updated, by the individuals themselves. Now, imagine for a moment, bringing down that error-transmission rate, wiring up your brain-to-computer interface, calibrating your home Walmart EEG machine, and sending your message to your friends on the other side of the world. It can even be marketed as a safe alternative to texting and such while driving: "stay in touch with your friends safely while driving....just THINK your message and they'll get it!"
But computers, like the internet, can be hacked, and spied on, by big multi-billion-dollar agencies and corporations... So before you buy into the latest gimmickry of alchemo-mineral-man that is barreling down the pike, just remember, those brain waves of yours could just as easily be read and the "data stored," and can just as easily be manipulated as well right down - possibly - to your memories and the emotions associated with them:
I don't know about you, but I'm beginning to think that the transhumanist light at the end of the tunnel is a train...
See you on the flip side...