Sunday, January 11, 2015

Reading The Mind Of A Robot

            In Mexico, there is a saying which translates into English “Every mind is a world”.  The implication is that every mind is a separate psychological entity that has a coherent self-contained consciousness that can be impacted by other minds but that always remains protected from total penetration and control.  To the extent that machines can be controlled by commands, it is because they have the electrical potential for different activities, but lack a coherent sense of self to direct that potential.  At least up until now.  People are working on creating computers and robots that can approximate as much as possible the cerebral activity of humans.  And through this, there is the hope of somehow creating an equivalent of a mind and a sense of self in robots.

            And while one group of scientists and engineers is trying to create the possibility of robots becoming like humans, another group of scientists and engineers is creating the conditions for humans becoming like robots.  In the case of the latter, I am thinking of the successful experiment that just occurred that allowed for the direct transmission of a message from the brain of someone in India to the brain of someone in France using the Internet as an intermediary.  Brain activity of the person in India was obtained via an electroencephalogram.  This activity was converted into the letters of the two word message using binary code.  Then the message was passed to a computer and then to the Internet where it was transmitted to the person receiving the message in France.  Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was used to activate a part of the brain of the receiver, letting him know that the message was arriving.

            There is the hope that this technology could be useful to help those who have severe communication difficulties.  Unfortunately, the potential for misusing this form of “communication” once the technology evolves is enormous.  What is important here is the fact that the stimulation used here is the kind of focused defined discrete stimulation that is also used to activate modern machines.  The implications of this are vast.  Eventually we could get to the point where certain people could control other people’s movements and activities through thoughts.  Individual humans would no longer have the effective mental barriers created by protected coherent senses of self.  Gradually trained to respond primarily to these focused defined discrete thought stimuli, humans would lose the capacity to respond to the less focused organic flowing blendable continual stimuli found in nature.  Without the organic flowing blendable continual stimuli, there is no possibility for a person as an individual organic entity to make, preserve or receive organic imprints, to have rich vibrant life experiences as an individual organism, and to calm the anxiety in his coherent consciousness by preparing for death with a surrogate immortality.

            Brain to brain communication can all too easily lead to the abuse of thought control.  The experiment just performed in India and France was still very primitive and very limited in its scope.  But modern technologies have a way of evolving very quickly, and they frequently move into applications for which they were not initially intended.  This technology-based brain-to-brain communication is qualitatively very different from telepathy, one of the major forms, along with clairvoyance, precognition and telekinesis, of so-called extra sensory perception (ESP).  ESP is something that is still being studied, and while many people believe in its existence, many others do not.  While some students of ESP believe that we all have the natural capacity for ESP, in reality, it is only a relatively small number of people who actually profess to have it.  I am not aware of any of these people using their ESP abilities to try and control and manipulate other people on a sustained basis.  On the contrary, particularly with telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition, there is the sense that many of these people do not have control over when they are going to have their supposed ESP experiences.  Instead, these experiences seem to happen at unexpected times.  It is almost like the ESP controls them, rather than vice versa.  Yes, there are clairvoyants who are used to find property or lost people, but most clairvoyants do not seem to have such control over their skills.

            The distinction between technology-based brain-to-brain communication and traditional mental telepathy has to do with the kind of stimuli involved.  In the technology-based brain-to-brain communication, the stimuli for most of the communication journey are digitally-based  defined discrete stimuli.  Because they are defined discrete stimuli, they are easily controllable, and therefore potentially enable the senders of these stimuli to control the people receiving them through the content of the message.  In most cases, the receivers of telepathic messages do not appear to be controlled in any way by the messages they receive.  The receivers are not usually being told to respond in a certain way.  Sometimes the receivers might pick up thoughts from people in danger, which might lead the receivers to try to help the senders, but frequently, such thoughts are translated into physical reactions.  The receiver does not receive a specific message, but instead a global sense of dread or uneasiness or some other vague sensation.  In other words, the message is not a focused, defined, discrete message in such cases.  It is received as organic, flowing, blendable continual stimuli.

            And frequently even the verbal thoughts that are supposedly received through telepathy are not specific, but instead ambiguous.  Such thoughts when received are a mixture of defined discrete stimuli from the verbiage and flowing blendable continual stimuli from the ambiguity of the thoughts being conveyed.  So telepathy functions very differently from the brain-to-brain communication under consideration here.  It does not lend itself to the kind of control of one person by another, because basically it is such an uncontrollable mental function.  It does not tend to be discrete and focused.  It tends to be flowing and blurry.  It cannot be used to enslave people the way that modern computer-based brain-to-brain communication could very possibly be used in the future.

            The question presents itself as to why people felt a need to develop a technology like this?  Was it simply to help certain people with communication disorders, people who are unable to speak?  I tend to think that there is a much deeper reason involved, a reason connected to one of the major reasons that people have felt a need to develop the whole modern technological infrastructure.  Developing a technology that potentially allows a person to control another person by potentially turning him into a puppet or a robot puts the controller into the role of God.  Being omnipotent is one of the traits we ascribe to our monotheistic God in the Western tradition.  Having potentially endless control over another person’s mind certainly puts the controller well on the path to a kind of omnipotence at least over people.  It certainly gives the brain-to-brain communicators a more effective temporary experience of feeling immortal than would be gotten by traditional pathways  of creating a surrogate immortality like having a baby, planting a tree, writing a book, breaking a sports record, painting a picture, building a business, or leaving a fond memory.  Playing God through brain-to-brain communication and potential thought control allows a person to temporarily deny the existence of death.

            The problem is that while one person is playing God, another person, in losing his free will, loses his capacity to live a rich vibrant independent life and to leave his own individual surrogate immortality and thus to prepare for death.  In truth, thought control over a person causes the person to lose his individual coherent sense of self, the very essence of his humanity.  This is why the experiment that just occurred in India and France should be the cause of great concern for anyone who is interested in maintaining the freedom and the dignity of the human race.


© 2014 Laurence Mesirow

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