Last November, Council member John Ellis, FIAP introduced us to his latest futurological thoughts and posed a few pertinent questions. Here he has a go at answering them.
Using The Technology – First Steps: Let’s imagine that we are at the point where we have the ability for a human being to interface with a room.
An immediate use of this technology is that the room might transmit Alpha wave patterns that could induce a state of calmness in its occupants, relaxing them and helping them sleep – very useful for insomniacs.
Any interface would allow more than one person to be interfaced to the room (or house or car) and potentially we now have the ability to communicate via a local network with each other. This may allow only for straight communication but could permit direct thought transference, creating a stronger understanding between users.
Using this technology in our cars would do away with the need for car keys – our own thoughts could act as the key. Perhaps cash points could do the same, providing an unrivalled level of security. And imagine houses that recognise their owners! Should someone unauthorised enter the house, the computer could contact the authorities.
A Small Leap: In my previous articles I linked the person to the Internet. Now we have the ability to take our local network via an access port and connect to the wider WWW network and all the devices or other access ports connected.
So, for instance, I’m on my way home and realise that I’ve forgotten that it’s my wife’s birthday (I wouldn’t really, of course). I do a direct search to find the nearest florist that is open and ask them to prepare the bunch of flowers before I arrive, all done while I’m driving.
We would need to take precautions adding local security software to keep out the unwanted attentions of viruses and those trying to steal our bank details and so on. It may be that the next generation of firewalls would be able to filter on certain types/locations of queries and allow the harmless queries to pass.
This technology would now allow the direct bidirectional communication at a thought level between two people over any distance. We might call this pseudo-telepathy.
A Slightly Bigger Leap: OK so we now have the ability to communicate with anyone in the world. What if the technology used at the access points could interface subconsciously with the person or people in a particular place or even places. This could allow us to ask a question and for the subconscious minds to reply. This could be quite spectacular. It brings to mind the novel ‘Destination Brain’ by Isaac Asimov, one of my favourite authors and a man ahead of his time.
There are security issues here too but I would expect the technology to limit access. After all, while it may be OK for me to think, ‘I want to make a Christmas cake’ and instantly Delia’s recipe is popped into my head, it is another thing altogether if I want to make nitroglycerine.
The local devices could now be used to rouse you by sending pleasant messages to wake up, instead of that annoying Beep, Beep, Beep of the alarm clock. They could even send you important information like appointments and birthdays while you are asleep, ready for you to act on in the morning. It could of course be used as a teaching tool, implanting the seeds of mathematics, science or even this new technology.
The Big Leap: Having gone this far, what if people could become ‘farms’? Groups of people, conscious or otherwise, might become part of a collective brain, perhaps assigned a particular problem. The idea of a group consciousness might be used to allow doctors to investigate people’s health, both physical and mental, and a diagnosis formed, possibly even thought-directed treatments where someone in a coma could be communicated with at some basic level.
What if we could induce the same results with our animal friends? Perhaps the Chimpanzee, Dolphin or Mouse? Could we find a way to communicate with the animals even at a basic level of awareness? Would our views on the natural world change? What if talking to the flowers became thinking with them?
Misuse: A concern, of course, is that someone could be dragged off the street and their thoughts, bank account details and passwords extracted forcibly. Hang on though! We don’t have any account numbers or passwords – the bank knows who we are because of how we think.
There are obviously police and military intelligence uses here and I worry that they would be prime abusers of the technology. Would we be willing to allow them to access a person’s thoughts? This is just a new instance of the conventional tension between personal freedom and public safety. We want the first until it allows a terrorist atrocity. Then we’re more interested in the second.
More Technology: With all this additional usage the speed and bandwidth of the Internet would need to be enhanced to cope. Personal IP addresses for everyone would be required and the underlying protocols used for the Internet will need to be redefined.
Ethical Issues: Personally I do not think that that the idea of this technology is actually repulsive and I think I would take to it. I might not like the idea of surgery but if a non-invasive interfacing method were available then I would welcome this level of access.
We could, of course, end up in a ‘have and have not’ class system, with poorer people missing out.
Who would control the access points and virtual meeting places? Such questions need to be considered. Cyber Terrorists could in theory hijack the system and do unspeakable things, so we need to look at the safety protocols and how we act on these threats.
Conclusion: The idea of us communicating electronically directly from the brain is not a fantasy but not quite yet a reality. Its possibilities could lead to a vast culture change with the human race; a collective consciousness may bring a level of mutual understanding that is unimagineable at the moment. What do you think?
You can contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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