Imagine being able to play a game in virtual reality. Only instead of making one’s movements in this alternate world with a controller in the external world of primary experience, one does it simply with one’s thoughts. One puts on the virtual reality headset and one is ready to navigate the virtual reality world with the same apparent immediacy of experience that one has in the external world. One manipulates the software involved in the game with one’s brain. Neurable, the company that is involved in this game project sees it as simply the first step toward total control of one’s digital living environment by one’s thoughts. These thought control connections that are being created here are called brain-computer interfaces or BCI’s. It is a little like telekinesis: the use of thought to bend or move things in the external world, except that it occurs only in the virtual world. For instance, one can pick up virtual objects and throw them using one’s brain.
Supposedly, these BCI’s are going to open up a whole new world of possibilities of human interaction with the computer. Supposedly, these BCI’s are ultimately going to allow for an increase in work productivity, because one won’t have to waste time, energy or state of mind in actual physical movements with one’s hands in computer operations in the external world of primary experience. In other words, transforming work activity in the primary experience world, to BCI work activity in virtual reality (and augmented reality) allows it to be much more frictionless and therefore speeds up work activity. It is as if life had not already become frictionless enough just with computers alone, using vacuumized spaces on the screen where one has to perform various computer operations with external world computer keys. How incredibly cumbersome and laborious using real computer keys will soon seem.
So what are the implications of Neurable’s new game and new technological research? First of all, it means adding another layer of mediation to a person’s experiencing of the world with modern technology. No longer will the brain be telling the hand or the foot what to do in a world of virtual reality. Instead, the brain will be maneuvering the objects in its environment with telekinesis, mind over matter, or more precisely, in this case, mind over vacuumized versions of material entities. Extremities are unnecessary in Neurable’s world. But having access to the mind over vacuumized matter in a virtual world will certainly give the user a tremendous sense of power. And, of course, much of the vacuumized matter will relate to the stuff that is seen on a computer screen. So one will have a wonderful sense of power while manipulating the world with a virtual keyboard through the phenomena on the computer screen. If a person could experience ongoing telekinesis in virtual reality and on a computer screen, wouldn’t he feel a strong motivation to spend more and more time in such an environment and less and less time in the real world of primary experience?
But how does one truly bond with other people and leave organic imprints without spending time living in the external world of primary experience. A vacuumized imprint is evanescent. It is fleeting. Particularly because there is practically no friction involved. Without organic friction, there are no meaningful imprints. Without meaningful organic imprints, a person can’t live a rich vibrant life or prepare for death with a surrogate immortality based on preserved imprints.
And the more one finds that he can’t make and preserve meaningful organic imprints with BCI’s, the harder he is going to try to feel authentically alive, and the harder he is going to try and exert his virtual power in his virtual world. And the more solipsistic and megalomaniacal he will become, as he desperately tries to engage with and bond with the virtual surfaces of his newfound field of experience.
The sense of a primary experience world that involves the ongoing use of touching seems to be totally missing in a world based on BCI’s. And yet a person will experience an enormous sense of power from the apparent telekinetic skills he evinces in his virtual living environment. But, on one level, it is a false sense of power, a bogus sense of power, because the person is not making any bonded organic imprints, not preserving any lasting imprints. The combination of the ease of the telekinetic process in the person’s virtual world and the lack of capacity to leave any bonded or lasting imprints within it creates all the perfect conditions for a person to have a strong addictive attachment to his BCI’s. Stronger than a young person’s attachment today to video games. The attachment will result in a person’s increasing involvement in virtual reality and a tendency to push away external world primary experience reality, where the person in no way is able to evince such seemingly strong powerful defined discrete skills. The increasing lack of use of the sense of touch will result in increasing numbness. As processes increasingly get transformed into brain thoughts leading quickly to computer operations and results, the whole notion of human narrative, where processes and activities are carried out in the external world in intersubjective real time, will gradually disappear. Everything that is significant to the flow of human life will happen in the alternate field of experience that is virtual reality. But because the BCI’s lead to vacuumized compressed processes and activities, the whole notion of meaningful human narrative will shrivel away. The telekinetic life created by BCI’s will consist of going from brain point A to virtual reality point B with no flowing blendable continual journey in between. Any meaningful history in a person’s new BCI’s life will cease to exist. And yet the illusion of a strong feeling of power will keep a person hooked on his virtual reality world.
This explains the danger in Neurable’s invention. People will be sucked into the illusion of immense power and, in the process, will lose the opportunity to have a rich vibrant life, to deep bond with other people, to make and preserve organic imprints and to prepare for death with a surrogate immortality. People have to understand that, in the end, this illusion of immense power will cheat a person out of living a life that will allow him to feel that he has had a life that is truly worth living.
(c) 2017 Laurence Mesirow