Mind control is the central focus of a TED talk presented in July of 2010 by Tan Le, founder & CEO of Emotiv Lifescience, a bioinformatics company which uses electroencephalography (EEG) to identify biomarkers for various disorders and conditions.
Tan begins the talk by discussing how communication between people takes into account far more information than what is explicitly expressed, like body movement, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Communicating with a machine on the other hand involves a single, unambiguous command. This leads to a roadblock within the industries of robotics, computer programming, cybernetics, and more: How can a machine communicate more like a human being if it is unable to take into account all of the information outside the literal meaning of the words we use? To get around this dilemma scientists began merging both realms of interactions so that computers could respond to all forms of communicative interactions. This in turn has led to the power of mind control being granted to us mere mortals. But how?
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One of the major difficulties behind creating a computer that can take into account all of the information exchanged during a human to human interaction is the very act of detection. The algorithms required to detect all of the information being exchanged must be extremely complex. Additionally, much of the information exchanged during human interaction can be perceived in wildly different ways due to variations in culture, humor, and other societal norms. According to Tan, this is why researchers are skipping all of the vague information and going right to the source: the brain.
According to Tan,
Our brain is made up of billions of active neurons; around 170,000 kilometers of combined axon links. When these neurons interact, the chemical reaction emits an electrical impulse which can be measured.
So, we measure the electrical impulses emitted by the brain and create a universal map, or language, of the brain’s neuronal activity. Seems pretty straightforward, but fortunately for us critically thinking apes, the brain is not that simple. Tan goes onto explain that,
The majority of our functional brain is distributed over the outer surface area of the brain, and to increase the area that’s available for mental capacity the brain’s surface is highly folded. Now this cortical folding presents a significant challenge for interpreting surface electrical impulses. Each individual’s cortex is folded differently, very much like a fingerprint. So even though a signal may come from the same functional part of the brain, by the time the structure has been folded its physical location is very different between individuals, even identical twins.
So the language of normal human interaction is too vague, and the language of the brain is too complex. What was Tan and her team to do? Tan describes the breakthrough, explaining that,
our breakthrough was to crate an algorithm that unfolds the cortex so that we can map the signal closer to its source and therefore make it capable of working across a mass population.
And this is where mind control begins to enter the scene. The creation of the algorithm gave Tan the necessary code to accurately map the brain’s signals, but the hardware presented a new challenge. Live brain scans traditionally use an array of sensors attached to every square inch of a person’s head using a conductive gel. This method is extremely uncomfortable, and very expensive. To address this issue Tan and her team created a lightweight headset which uses no conductive gel, is wireless, and only takes a few minutes to attach to the head. The best part is that the device only costs a few hundred dollars, compared to around $10,000 for traditional sensor array helmets. Combine the new device with Tan’s complex cortical algorithm and we are left with a relatively cheap headset that can read your brainwaves in real time. The brainwave signature can be used to influence objects, granting users mind control over the object as long as it is configured to read the brainwave signal.
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Tan invites a person from the audience and demonstrates the miraculous mind control abilities afforded by her mind reading headset. The device takes a neutral scan of the user’s brain, and from there it’s all Jedi mind control training. Select the action ‘pull’ on a computer, and imagine that the object on the computer screen is moving toward you for 10 seconds. After a 10 second scan is completed, every time you imagine the object moving toward you, it does exactly that. The same applies to more mentally complex actions like disappearing, multiplying, or growing larger. After getting to know the device, you are systematically granted greater and greater mind control powers.
Tan completes her TED talk by showing some of the other capabilities of her device. For example, she showed that it could be used to turn lights on and off or close the drapes at home without moving a muscle. It can even be used to fly a toy helicopter or make online video games more realistic by having colors in the game change relative to your ongoing emotions. This all sounds amazing, but this was in 2010. Let’s fast forward nearly four years into the future to 2014.
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Although mind control technology is still in its infancy incredible progress has been made since Tan’s TED talk debuted. A great example of the leaps and bounds that have been made in the industry is presented in a recent NPR article. The article describes how Johnny Liu, a manager for the San Jose-based company NeuroSky, came into the KQED studio to show off his own unique pairing of mind control devices: NeuroSky’s MindWave Mobile headset, and the Orbit brain-controlled helicopter. Using these devices in conjunction with one another, Liu reveals how his level of awareness is the greatest influence on the effectiveness and stability of the helicopter’s flight. It is for this reason that this type of technology can be used to improve our mind control, not just to influence the outside world, but also ourselves.
These type of brain games allow users to practice being more calm, aware, and focused, while actually seeing the progress they have made in real-time. Richard Warp, designer of NeuroDisco, a program which allows users to make music with their thoughts, explains that,
You’re doing the same thing as a meditator, a Buddhist monk might do. But maybe we, in the West, need a device to do it.
These types of mind control activities can be seen as games, but the practical application is clear. Mind control devices allow us to hone our control over our own minds by receiving direct feedback on our progress in the form of how strongly we are influencing the world around us. This type of increase in awareness has the incredible potential to allow users to explore their own internal capabilities and begin excising their brain in the same direct manner that we exercise our bodies today.
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Speaking of games, let’s explore an industry that will likely be one of the most heavily influenced by this technology: video games. Video games aren’t just awesome for their fun factor. Playing video games actually alters the brain, and provides myriad physical and psychological health benefits. Most of these benefits directly relate to the use of highly concentrated awareness. Awareness can be cultivated into greater control and efficiency using biosensors and mind control technology.
Still within the realm of video games, one of the most brilliant ways this technology can be used is by giving physically disabled people the opportunity to participate in and be a part of the world at large without such extreme physical difficulty and embarrassment (unfortunate, but that’s the society we live in). 15% of the entire world population, or 1 billion people, live with disabilities. This makes disabled people the world’s largest minority.
For a large number of those billion people, video games are the only form of societal interaction available. In a game it doesn’t matter if you have no legs, are paralyzed, or are psychologically impaired. Everyone starts out on equal footing in a video game. Mind control devices allow for even greater realism and control in the only world where disabled people won’t feel alone, hopeless, and stuck in a broken body. Consider as well that some disabled people are fully paralyzed but still retain complete lucidity and control of their brain. Fort the first time in the history of our planet, these people can be freed from their bodily imprisonment by being granted a new body which they can control with their mind alone.
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Another technological avenue to consider is that of cybernetics, where mind control technology has been used for years. Don’t have legs? No problem, here’s some robotic legs controlled by your brain. Lost your arm in a freak accident at Grandma’s house? No big deal, here’s a new mind controlled arm.
This is all just the tip of the iceberg. The technology is extremely young and yet new mind control gadgets are being released every day. The combinations are limitless as well. While mind control sounds exciting and fun, for fully paralyzed people that are basically brains in a useless body, a whole new life can be granted to them. I’m sure one day they will be able to control a fully mobile robot via mind control with all of their senses returned to them, even touch. The more we learn about our own minds, the more limitless our horizon’s become.
Who knows, maybe over time the use of these mind control devices will grant us actual force powers. Only time will tell. May the force be with you.