Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Thought Exposed

To start off with a dystopian tone of voice, George Orwell might have had a true glimpse into the future writing 1984. I feel there is still a possibility that when machines go autonomous and can't be controlled any longer, they might start behaving with the egoic traits that also emerged in humans: territorialism, pride, honour, jealousy, shame, etc. This can be catastrophic if machines will have enormous power.

Here's a project that is both wonderful and concerning at the same time. Researchers at Harvard university are currently trying to map out, in high resolution, the physical structure of the human brain using a technique called diffusion spectrum imaging. It employs magnetic resonance to track the movement of individual water molecules inside the axons, the long rods extending out of neurons. Then, by using sophisticated algorithms, the highest probability of the arrangement of nerve fibers can lead to an estimation of their location inside the brain.

Hence, through technology we can learn everything about ourselves. It totally turns us inside out, making us see parts of ourself we never saw before. In the future, an important transcendence I hope we shall undergo is that of losing the illusion that we are in control, and that we understand ourselves better than anything or anyone else. We will see that we are much more than our consciousness can describe, and that moreover our mental concepts of the world and of our self are highly shallow and limited for use in a world that is increasingly becoming more complex and scattered. I think that these kind of findings from neuroscience are one of the most enlightening developments of today.

What if I had a transparent helmet that shows how my thoughts developed during the day, or even the year? Could there once be a direct interface to the brain, for example to trigger lost streams of thought, or stimulate new associations? I believe so. However it may sound paradoxical, our control over the brain makes us see that there is no such thing as control, but that humans can only try to control things, since that is the inherent goal of the brain. I hope that it will make us see how futile we actually are and truly put us in a state of mind that empowers us to transcend the separation of the 'I' and the rest of the world.

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