We’re still in the early stages of understanding just how the brain works. That being said, we know enough to start considering all the possibilities regarding merging it with technology—including that of mind control.
In The Brain Electric, Malcolm Gay talks about the current drive among many intelligent scientists and wealthy entrepreneurs towards merging mind and machine. He begins with a quick primer on the brain in regards to consciousness.
“Like an exponentially complicated form of Morse code, the cells of the brain exchange millions of action potentials at any moment, an electric language that physically underlies our every movement, thought, and sensation. These are not sentient thoughts, per se, but in sum this mysterious and crackling neural language is what makes consciousness possible— a sort of quantum programming code that remains all but unrecognizable to the consciousness it creates.”
Thanks to modern technology we can, with differing levels of accuracy, read brain activity. Meaning we can see what areas are responsible for what thoughts, and in this way, use those thoughts to control some external mechanism. As the technology improves and our knowledge of the brain grows, this connection could get unsettlingly complex.
“It’s a union whose potential beggars the imagination: an unprecedented evolutionary step— effectively digitizing the body’s nervous system— that conjures images of not only mental access to everyday objects like computer networks, appliances, or the so-called Internet of things but also telekinetic communication between people and cyborg networks connected by the fundamental language of neural code.”
This technological leap comes with many applications, concerns and expectations.
“Could they give people full control over a computer, enabling them to send e-mail or surf the Internet using only their thoughts? Could they re-create the elegant movements of the human arm? Harnessing thousands of neurons, could researchers craft a full-body exoskeleton for quadriplegics or soldiers? And how about abstract thoughts? Given ample neural access, could we bypass spoken language altogether, doing away with its ambiguities and miscommunications in favor of direct neural exchange? In the realm of memory, could brain-computer interfaces enable total recall? Could they deliver new sensory modes like infrared or X-ray vision? What was to stop these technologies from enhancing our own cognition? Could we selectively stimulate the brain to boost learning?”
For more on our potential for mind control, pick up Malcolm Gay’s The Brain Electric: The Dramatic High-Tech Race to Merge Minds and Machines.