Instantly Learn Anything You Want in the Real-Life Matrix
Imagine you’re a student taking classes at a nearby community college. Times are tight, so you’re forced to hold down a full-time job while earning your degree. Today, your boss needs you to work overtime because another employee is out sick with the flu. Whereas you could use the money, and your boss’ good graces, this means you won’t have any time to study for your final exam, which is scheduled for the next day.
So, instead, you call a friend from class and ask if he’d be willing to make a brain connection later that evening on the popular social networking site OurMind. He obliges, and a few hours later, you each log on to the Supernet using your blue-tooth brain chips. Your friend pulls up his mental file of information from the course, and subsequently begins the transfer. An instant later, you perceive a slight tone, indicating the copying has completed, and you thank your friend for his time and energy. You log off the Supernet and begin contemplating all you’ve just learned. The next day, you both receive A’s on the exam.
Or instead, imagine that school didn’t exist because you can learn everything instantly and wirelessly, via brain-to-brain interface (BTBI).
The idea of BTBI was once the stuff of science-fiction novels and futuristic action movies like The Matrix. Today, however, scientists are bringing us closer to this reality than you may have ever imagined. Remember how Neo instantly learned by downloading information directly into his brain, via a pointy, scary-looking cord plugged into his skull? Neo used the technology to quickly master all kinds of amazing abilities like Kung Fu, helicopter flying, and being awesome. Today, we appear to be a few steps closer to making this happen, sans that freaky plug (why didn’t the creators of The Matrix think of WiFi?!).
In a recent experiment, researchers successfully tested brain-to-brain communication in rats. The over-simplification goes like this: RAT-A learned to make a choice in a discrimination task, which was represented in the brain by specific neuronal firing. That information was encoded in real-time and wirelessly beamed to RAT-B’s brain, where it was quickly decoded, causing RAT-B to make a predicted choice at a rate significantly higher than chance. Basically, RAT-B learned which choice to make without having to actually put in the effort involved in typical learning.
I’d learn Latin.
Interestingly, the authors admit being unsure of the effect of interference between RAT-B’s own sensory information and the information decoded via the brain-to-brain interface. Clearly, more research will be conducted, but I’m guessing humans will be communicating solely in this manner within 3 months, tops.
In a related study from 2011, researchers used humans to demonstrate the potential for learning without that annoying, time-consuming, conscious effort. Using fMRI machines to monitor people’s brains in areas associated with visual processing, neural activity was measured and compared to a target level of activity previously determined by the scientists to be associated with specific learned information. Subsequently, participants were led through a series of simple visual activities, aimed at bringing their brain activity closer to that of the target level.
Later, when faced with a choice on a discrimination task, participants were significantly more likely to choose the stimuli associated with the aforementioned target brain activity. They had learned which choice to make, without a conscious attempt to do so.
Soon to be a thing of the past (the books, not sleeping)?
In fact, participants performed better than chance even when they were unaware what they would be learning, and this raises some interesting concerns regarding the ethics of this research. Plainly stated, there exists potential for abuse–for example, if someone were forced to learn something under a hypnotic state. Others argue that the aforementioned brain-to-brain communication in rats is a futile effort of science that won’t lead anywhere. Others, still, argue that this type of technological innovation could be the demise of humanity, as we know it.
Either way, acing your college classes through quick subconscious learning would be pretty convenient. Think how much time that would save for ultimate frisbee. Or, we could all learn the moves to a dance without actually having to practice, and then show up at the mall for the biggest flash mob in history. Or, The Harlem Shake, whatever it is now. Regardless, it seems we’re slowly headed towards the creation of a super network powered by interconnected brains, where neural network activity patterns are shared as seamlessly as today’s email, leading to the obliteration of effortful learning.
3 months, tops.