Many rats seems to be smarter than one rat alone
Scientists have now demonstrated an “internet of brains” — in rats.
The scientist Miguel Nicolelis used electrodes to interconnect rat brains. Through trial-and-error, the rats in the experiment began to synchronise their electrical brain patterns as if they shared a single brain.
In tests to distinguish between various patterns, the networked rats were able to outperform non-networked, individual rats.
In experiments, this has shown to be performance-enhancing in simultaneous yes-or-no situations and it’s possible to think of human applications for this type of swarm intelligence.
Is the internet of brains a new form of communication?
The results suggests that science is relatively close to being able to allow biological brains to synchronise their electrical patterns.
It could potentially open the door to an enhanced form of human communication, where you’re able to temporary synchronise your brain patterns with whom you’re communicating with.
Swarm technologies could be used to enhance artistic performances where you’re able to synchronise some of your experience with both the artist and the audience.
I can also think of various religious or sexual applications for this technology.
In Nexus, science-fiction writer Ramez Naam suggests a drug allowing you to feel what others are feeling:
Chuan bought a round of drinks. A bleach blonde Thai girl in a low-cut blouse and unnaturally large breasts came up and snuggled into his arm. He started telling a story about a drug called Synchronicity. Sam’s ears perked up. “Synchronicity?” she innocently inquired. “What’s that?”
“It’s N and M together. The champagne of trips.” He kissed his fingers for emphasis.
“N as in Nexus?” She wanted him to spell it out for her.
“Yeah. And M as in Empathek. The M makes you want to connect, want to understand, want to love. And the N actually lets you feel what other people are feeling. It’s beautiful. Magical.”
The science-fiction idea of “plugging in” is now close
Since these types of synchronisations are transfered electronically, the internet could be used as a carrier for such connections.
The idea of literally “plugging in” to a chosen community to co-create and solve problems is simply staggering — and a theme recurrently investigated by numerous science fiction writers throughout history.
The technology doesn’t allow for any type of language, symbol, meaning, or visual transfer to another brain. But it does allow for sharing mental states as induced by various brainwave patterns.
While this is far from being able to mentally communicate efficiently from one brain to another, it’s still a potential paradigm shift.
Connecting to computers to enhance performance
It does potentially also allow us to connect with computer systems.
Not in a way that allows us to store or retrieve specific memories, but brainwave patterns could be used to enhance learning speed or put people in an optimal mental state for a specific task. There could also be medical brain-to-computer applications to treat anxiety and depression.
It’s also conceivable to expect certain effects related to neuroplasticity.
It might be possible for a human brain to develop neural circuitry to make better use of this form of communication.
If we can learn to detect and distinguish between a wide array of signals, two brains could potentially find a type of “morse code” to send detailed and specific messages between each other.
Implications for marketing and big data mining
For marketing, the technology suggests a quantum leap for the importance of brainwave data for target audiences.
If you know more about which mental states that makes people susceptible to suggestion, social networking sites with brainwave-sharing communities could offer advertisers a whole new frontier of programmatic advertising.
Needless to say, the development will likely also be met by a profound techlash challenges both in terms of legality and ethics.
On a more philosophical level, we might also be forced to ask ourselves what happens if our inner dialogues suddenly becomes more accessible for governments and private interests?