Ah, telepathy. The human brain is a ridiculously powerful organ, and depending on who you ask, the scientific development of mind-to-mind communication could either be the wildest party trick ever, the future of humankind, or the most terrifying development in history. Just look at popular fiction. Sure, Charles Xavier of the X-Men is a cool dude, who (usually) uses his powers for the greater good, but it would be a lot less fun to have some Freddy Krueger-style creep swimming around in your head.
That said, like it or not, scientists have been working on “brain-to-brain” human communication for a long time … and in April of 2019, according to Nature, they achieved some astounding results. The product of their work is BrainNet, a group interface technology that connects the brains of multiple people for the purpose of solving problems together with, you know, thoughts. BrainNet’s first challenge? Tetris, of course.
Telepathic games, coming your way
BrainNet is described as the world’s first “multi-person non-invasive direct brain-to-brain interface for collaborative problem solving.” It records brain signals via electroencephalography (EEG), and then transmits them to the brain using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Okay, so Star Trek-style technobabble aside, here’s how it works in practice: once you’ve got three folks hooked up to the gear, everybody plays a generic Tetris clone. Two of the people work as “Senders,” who — while watching the game, but not directly interacting with it — make decisions about when to rotate the block. Meanwhile, the third person is the “Receiver,” and this dude can’t see the screen, but does interact with the game: in order for the Receiver to make decisions on how to rotate the block, the Senders have to transmit instructions using telepathy … er, brain-to-brain communication.
Believe it or not, this BrainNet craziness works. Among five groups of test subjects, the accuracy rate came in at 81.25 percent. However, what happens next? Cyborg super villains with psychic powers, trying to enslave the human race?
Well, while BrainNet is bleeding edge technology, Scientific American points out that the development of brain-to-brain interfaces has been going on for a long time. The quest of creating an organic brain internet, via the linking of every person’s mind, is viewed by some folks as the next level of humankind. Now, when it comes to collaborative achievements or connecting to other animal brains, this is great. Not so great? The dire consequences this could have in regard to privacy, autonomy, personal identity, and the notion of language itself. So, is this a utopian achievement or a dystopic horror? Decide for yourself, but a little wariness is probably recommended.
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