In my book Microcosm and Medium (available on Lulu print-on-demand books), I recounted the story of Gloria Naylor. Briefly, Ms. Naylor told a story of unbelievable harassment, which included hearing conversations in her head, urging her to kill herself. Being a successful authoress, with everything to live for, these conversations disturbed her, and she sought counseling, and was prescribed medications.
But the conversations continued, and neither the counseling nor the drugs seemed to help. over the course of a few weeks, she began to notice something very “odd” about those conversations: they only seemed to occur in certain places in her home. She made this discovery one evening when lying in bed trying to go to sleep. The “conversations” immediately started. She got out of bed, and moved across the room, and the “conversation” immediately stopped, only to resume again after a few minutes in her new location. Again, she moved, and the “conversation” stopped. Naylor came to an astonishing conclusion: she reasoned that someone was using a technology against her, and that it had to be aimed at her. When she moved, she moved out of the “target zone,” and hence the conversations would momentarily cease.
Intrigued, Naylor investigated mind manipulation technologies, and made two astonishing discoveries: (1) they not only were possible, but remote methods had been patented that could literally “beam” into one’s brain, hence making her observations that her “conversation” was not a psychological disorder, but that someone was deliberately targeting her; and (2) that they actually had “dictionaries” based on brain waves that could be used to “decode” an individual’s thoughts via their brain wave, but that could also project a conversation into an individual, based on modulating specific brainwave templates for specific words onto a carrier wave, such as a microwave.
Naylor’s story intrigued me, not only for its fantastic and (some would say) incredible nature, but because the basic concepts behind it were possible. I investigated further and discovered that indeed work on reading brainwave patterns for specific words had been done, and a simple “electroencephalographic dictionary” of brainwave patterns had been compiled for about 2,000 words, in the 1970s. This research I summarized in Microcosm and Medium.
With that context in mind, consider this story shared by E.J.:
Pay attention to the implications of these opening statements:
In 2017, Facebook announced that it wanted to create a headband that would let people type at a speed of 100 words per minute, just by thinking.
Now, a little over two years later, the social-media giant is revealing that it has been financing extensive university research on human volunteers.
Today, some of that research was described in a scientific paper from the University of California, San Francisco, where researchers have been developing “speech decoders” able to determine what people are trying to say by analyzing their brain signals.
The research is important because it could help show whether a wearable brain-control device is feasible and because it is an early example of a giant tech company being involved in getting hold of data directly from people’s minds.
To some neuro-ethicists, that means we are going to need some rules, and fast, about how brain data is collected, stored, and used.(Emphasis added)
While the concerns about privacy – especially with a company like Facebook – are legitimate, it’s with the implications of that first statement that we are concerned in today’s high octane speculation, for a device that would allow people to “type at a speed of 100 words per minute, just by thinking,” means two things: (1) it requires the concept of the electroencephalographic dictionary to even make the technology work, and (2) to be able to work with the public implies that that electroencephalographic dictionary has now grown in its vocabulary to much more than a meager 2,000 words. And obviously, as Ms. Naylor experienced, and as the article implies, such a technology could be a two-way door, not only from the individual “typing” thoughts, but also into that individual.
But there’s another lesson here, another implication. As noted, this “electroencephalographic dictionary” work began in the 1970s. That, at least, is the publicly available information, though it does not strain reason to assume the research began in secrecy prior to that. But even then, that 1970s research was not “public” in the sense that it was widely known outside the narrow professional group conducting and/or funding that research. So stop and consider: from the 1970s, to this now fully public article and its implications in 2019, is a period of 49 years, which we can “round up” to a nice even 50 years. In other words, there’s been a lag of about half a century between the actual development of a capability that was clearly done in the “black projects world,” and its initial appearance as a concept available to the wide public. And that’s not factoring in the possible and in my opinion probable exploration of that capability entirely in secret for any number of years before its acknowledgement to the professional public.
Half a century.
See you on the flip side…