Friday, January 4, 2013

Mind What We Are Doing

One way to discover more about our minds, is to change one's chemistry and observe the effects.  Here is a video from 1956 where a "normal" housewife is given LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) and her behavior is observed.  

This woman had no expectations of the journey she went on ahead of time, so her responses are genuine.  While her experience is fantastic and the response of the "expert" seems dated; it is clear she is living a different kind of reality after her brain chemistry was altered.

Changing the physical brain changes our means of thinking.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a tool which utilizes pulses of radio energy to take a picture of what is happening inside something.  MRI operates similar to Sonar for submarines, but the radio waves, unlike Sonar's sound waves, can penetrate the skin and enable us to see inside a thing.

We can use these radio waves on the soft tissue of our bodies to see pictures of our insides in three dimensions.  Like with a movie, these pictures can be taken quickly over time to result in a record of what happened.  When applied to our brains, this tool can record a movie of our thoughts as they happen.

It has even become possible to see what happens in the brain when we think certain thoughts.  What we see can cause patterns of thought.  Here are six perspectives of a brain while watching a movie trailer. 

The technique permits us to see the web of brain cells as they store and recall memories   Amazingly, the patterns we see are the same for most normal, healthy brains.  We humans, at a biological level, demonstrably think alike.

Some scientists have begun to try to reconstruct what is going on in our brains using the output of the MRI machines.  The research has led to the capability to display an image of what a person is seeing as they see it.  This video shows how the technology can scan the brain and reproduce the images the cells are processing.  These infant abilities of the MRI tool and the viewer attached to it should quickly be expanded as more precise tools are built and better practice comes from using them.

Where will this technology take us?  Noted futurist and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku has given this some thought and in this last video discusses the applications that most probably will come.  

One of his ideas is that we may actually be able to build a "dictionary of thought", models of the organization operation of our brain that we all share in common.  

Like after the initial atom bomb was dropped or when the Wright brothers first flew, at the start of a new technology is when we humans struggle to determine where the new tool will take us.  Here is short list of some of the questions that we, our children, and our grand-children will be trying to wrestle with:

  • What does it mean to be "free" when your mind can be read?  
  • Do we have an obligation to monitor our children's minds?  
  • Should we scan people in public places?
  • Will the scanning of other animals allow us to communicate with them more fully?
  • How will the law be enforced using brain scans?
  • Can we enhance our ability to learn?
  • Are there some thoughts that should be illegal, immoral, or stopped?

I hope to stick around long enough to see these questions debated!

1 comment:

  1. Yikes. this research, in combination with genome data, will make for a "minority report" scenario.