Just out of curiosity, who likes video games? I know that I do and just about anything that involves them. I even love the film Gamer from a couple of years ago exploring a hypothesized reality where gaming reaches a new level by not only allowing you to control a character, but a human being, miles away. Now when I thought about this, I thought that gaming would never take this turn and if it did would do so years and years from now. But to my surprise it was closer than I expected. As a matter of fact, it’s already in progress at the University of Washington. Now when I say it’s already in progress, I don’t mean that people are in total control of other individuals, no. But one person has been able to influence, if not control, a movement enacted by another. One man strapped with and EEG helmet was able to send an electrical signal from one side of campus to another, to a man stepped with a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) coil and cause him to tap a spacebar on a keyboard many times in which the tapping of the spacebar caused the man to take part in a video game. Thought this was not overtly his own action, he described the action as being carried out subconsciously as if it were a simple muscle twitch. Creepy, right? Though the article is dated from August of last year, I never knew that this was actually something being researched, let alone possibly becoming a true reality. But as exciting as this might be to me, if this get to the level of Gamer, the implications that this brings are quite scary.
Here’s the article:http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/8/28/scientists-achievefirsteverhumantohumanmindmeld.html
3 thoughts on “A New Level of Gaming”
This is a step in two very different directions. The first direction is towards a complete understanding of all the mechanisms and manipulations possible in the human brain. The other direction is one much more scary. Living in a world where complete control over another person is a world no one should live in. In the wrong hands this kind of capabilities could be devastating. Though this research is incredibly interesting, it could be leading to very unethical ends.
I’d like to put forth the idea that there are also ethical benefits of this line of research. The title of the al Jazeera article sums it up: mind melding. I’ll admit to the fact that I’m a trekkie and mention that mind-melding in the show is usually about helping someone overcome their own emotions or psychological trauma. It’s done between members of the same family or friends who are incredibly close. While the current research involves attempting to induce movement and can be seen as mind control, what if we look at other possible brain-to-brain communications. What if, like in Star Trek, we can use such a system to let someone with psychological trauma or other psychological issues get help processing the condition directly from a trusted family member, spouse, or friend? We currently try to talk it out with people and attempt to relate to them, but what if we could do so on a more direct level? Maybe this would lead to better outcomes. I definitely don’t disagree with the assertion that there will be the potential for abuse-of-power here, but we explore other dangerous notions for their possible benefit (genetic manipulation and “designer children,” for example) and I think the good possible here is worth the risk, as long as we are fully aware of the line we walk.
It is amazing how much we have learned about the brain. Our technology has advanced so much over the years. On one hand, this is amazing. The more we learn about the workings of the brain the more we can apply this knowledge to medicine. On the other hand, this is incredibly scary. Manipulations of the brain walks along a very thin ethical line. Science has often incited many controversies. I can only hope that ethical boards and researchers stay on the right side.