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The Future of Mind Control

The Future of Mind Control

By Patrick Dacquel

You’ve just settled yourself down for an evening of mindless television, when that infuriating carpet cleaning/singing frog/hair-flicking commercial bounces into view. In a desperate attempt to spare the death of a few more brain cells, you reach for the remote only to discover that it’s perched ten feet away next to the TV, mocking you with its small, gazing infrared sensor.

Well, consider this next time you find yourself subjected to the torture of unwanted programming: remote controls, along with other handheld devices, may soon be rendered obsolete, by the power of the mind.

Society is becoming increasingly reliant on wireless technology. First there were infrared remote controls, then hands-free headsets, now wireless internet. But even "hands-free" technologies are about to be ousted by those that can tap into the user's brain, using the power of thought to control.

"Pretty soon we’ll be wired up to our laptops, surfing the web, watching movies, instant messaging, and downloading information by brain power alone."
It may sound like science fiction, but brain waves and brain power are far from mysterious. Way back in 1875, Richard Caton discovered that the brain is a complex network of electrical pathways, and in 1920 Hans Berger performed the first electroencephalogram (EEG), in which brain waves are recorded.

Since then the field of EEG has progressed rapidly and has been used to discover more and more about the mind-body connection in animal and human models. A medical breakthrough technology, yes — but what happens when big budget companies start meddling with this idea? You get a brain-computer interface, or BCI for short.

Australian technology start-up Emotiv have taken the concepts of EEG and applied them to the new age of video games. Through Emotiv’s recently developed technology, in which sensors are placed on the skin and are able to sort through the myriad of electrical signals emitted from the human body, gaming via the power of the mind is now a possibility. Good news for gamers who found toggling joysticks and pushing buttons too much of a chore.

Such technology, however, is also being used to benefit the disabled. The Wadsworth Laboratory in New York has developed a BCI technology that measures electrical signals in the cortex and translates it into movement, allowing a completely paralyzed individual to take control of a computer cursor and use mouse driven software simply by concentrating.

As BCIs become more powerful and commonplace, ethicists are siding against developments that may enhance users’ abilities beyond what would be considered therapeutic. For instance concerns have been raised about a Columbia University project to use BCI technology to speed up image processing and improve federal agents’ vision.

There is so much interest in BCI that if technology can keep pace with developers’ imaginations, “mind control” and “brain implants” could become household terms. Pretty soon we’ll be wired up to our laptops, surfing the web, watching movies, instant messaging, and downloading information by brain power alone. The scene from The Matrix, in which mastering Kung Fu requires nothing more than a 45-second download, could one day become reality.

As the future of brain control creeps ever closer, remember the motherly maxim "you can do anything you put your mind to”. Because by the looks of it, Mum may just be right.

If this turned you on, why not try:

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Image: Marcelo Gerpe

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08 Sep 2010
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