Scientists connected two rats – one located in Brazil and the other in North Carolina, United States – and linked them via a brain-to-brain interface (BTBI) connected across the Internet. What one rat learned was shared with the other – in this case, by pulling a specific level and earning a reward, one lab rat was able to share this information with the other lab rat. The result was a 95% or greater accuracy rate which was far better than if the rats weren’t connected at all.
Before you get overly excited, however, let us understand something: this approach is surgically invasive and thus we can’t readily expect folks to have this kind of thing on the streets overnight.
But what this experiment did prove was that it is possible – and that given time, a new means of training and education (as but one example) can be offered. Remember those ‘Matrix’ films – more specifically, the parts where the protagonist Neal logs on the network and is able to ‘learn’ to do things simply through electronic means? You get the idea.
Other studies suggested that the brain – in close coordination with the body – can indeed learn and guide the body – via mental routines – acts which normally would not be readily done through ‘normal’ means (i.e., repetition, practice and physical action). In some studies, it’s been suggested we learn as we dream, reviewing the days prior events and going over what we’ve experienced in an effort to better cope with our surroundings.
So much for student loans, eh? Plug me in, you say.
Wait a minute; don’t hold your breath just yet. It’s going to take a while before we develop the means to create non-invasive means to connect our brains between ourselves. And given that our brains are substantially more complex than a rat’s, this is going to take a little time because where and how we wire up our brains is going to be another key determinant in making this a reality for people.
Minor issues of morality and invasive technology aside, all of this begs a number of questions – such (as but one) somebody’s gotta know how to do things, and unless you actually do them, how else will that knowledge be passed on from brain to brain? Does knowledge and practical experience fade over time, like badly Xeroxed copies? Or can it be passed on and on without end?
Imagine the legal liability of folks learning how to drive a car, only to also replicate the same quirks and ticks that the original ‘learned’ mind practiced and having it passed on and on (I can hear it now: ‘you drive just like your great-great-great grandfather!’).
Do emotions, wishes and desires from our subconscious also get passed on to others without our knowing it – like viruses and trojans passed between computers programs and files?
Could people, in time as they undergo these processes, be subconsciously controlled to certain beliefs without their knowledge, making them into ‘good little citizens’ trained to not question authority?
Or be trained as soldiers to act in specific ways and means without their full realization, learning to hate without reason and function with no fear at the cost of their lives?
Also, another very important point to ask is that potentially we could learn more quickly, but what of retaining that knowledge? In the long run, is it better to undertake this approach or is it better to do the tried and true route of repetition and practice to ensure that what we learn retains within our heads?
And what happens to us as a society when, over time, we learn more from the machines as opposed to learning on our own?
What kind of people do we become whereby the majority of our learning and experience is attained through plug-in modules and not thorough our own efforts?
These are just but some questions we need to consider before we start opening up those ‘educational centers’ in strip malls whereby we come on down, walk in the door, place our credit card on the counter and learn how to be brain surgeons.
Growing up, there was a saying installed within us as students while we memorized the multiplication tables and Shakesperean sonnets: the mind is a muscle – it must be exercised.
I recall one sonnet:
Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
(Hamlet speaking with Rosenkrantz and GIldenstern; kind of ironic when you read the context that this quote is derived from,…)
Here is the link to learn more about this groundbreaking discovery: http://www.nature.com/srep/2013/130228/srep01319/full/srep01319.html