Science is on the verge of broadcasting Twitter directly into your brain.

Original author: David Eagleman
  • Transfer

Data streams will soon be transferred directly to our brains, which will allow us to take a fresh look at the world.

Do not want to add yourself a new variety of sensations ? This idea requires clarification. The main thing to understand is that our brain is sharpened in silence and darkness inside the skull. All that he possesses electrical and chemical signals transmitted between nerve cells, he sees nothing, does not hear, and does not touch. Regardless of whether information comes in the form of compressed air waves of a symphony being played, light waves reflected by a snow-covered sculpture, molecules of volatile substances evaporated from an apple pie, or pain from a wasp sting, all of this is represented in brain cells by electrical impulse flows. And in the first approximation, everything looks the same.

This leads to a question that still remains unanswered in neuroscience: why are visual sensations so different from sound or taste? Why do you never mistake the beauty of a pine tree swaying in the wind with a taste of feta cheese? Or the feeling of sandpaper on your finger tips with the smell of fresh espresso?

It can be assumed that this is somehow related to the structure of the brain: the areas associated with hearing differ from those associated with tactile sensations. But on closer examination, this assumption does not work . In the blind, the area of ​​the brain, which we call the “visual cortex,” is captured by touch and hearing. Considering the “reflashed” part of the brain, it is difficult to say that there is something fundamentally connected with visual sensations in the “visual” cortex.

Based on this, another assumption arises: the subjective experience of sensation, known as “qualia,” is determined by the structure of the data itself. In other words, the information coming from the two-dimensional surface of the retina has a different structure than the one-dimensional signal from the ear drum, or from the multidimensional receptor fields of the fingertips. As a result, they all feel differently.

This may indicate that if we could submit a new data stream directly to the brain, for example, data from a mobile robot or the state of your spouse's microbiome or infrared radiation from the environment, this will lead to a new qualification. It will not be like sight or hearing, taste or touch, smell or any other sensation, but will be something completely different.

It is hard to imagine what this new feeling will be like. In fact, it is impossible to imagine. By analogy, try to imagine a new color. This seems like a simple task, but it is impossible.

But next year we will be able to experience new feelings first-hand by feeding new data streams to the brain. This can be a real-time data flow from a drone, such as its speed, yaw, roll, direction and orientation. This may be an activity on an enterprise, on Twitter, or on the stock market. As a result, the brain will have a direct perception of the drone, the production process, hashtags or the state of the economy of the entire planet in real time.

This seems like a pure fantasy, but now we are finally at the point where technology allows us to test this idea.

There are two ways to do this. The first is invasive - by implanting electrodes directly into the brain, or using nanorobots in cells or the circulatory system of the brain. The second is to transmit signals to the brain non-invasively. My Neuroscience Laboratory and my NeoSensory company have together created wearable devices that create spatial distributions of vibrations on the skin. Imagine wearing a bracelet with several vibration motors that stimulate different places around your wrist to represent the flow of data. When we establish a clear mapping between the received information and tactile sensations, we can easily learn how to respond to new data - and this ultimately leads to the emergence of a completely new qualia.

Qualia develops over time. This is the ability of the brain to summarize large amounts of data. Think about how babies “learn” to use their ears by clapping or mumbling something, and catching feedback in their ears. At first, air compression waves are simply converted into electrical activity in the brain, and only with time does it begin to be perceived as sound. Such training can also be observed in people born deaf and have installed cochlear implants.being adults. The first experience of using a cochlear implant is not at all like sound sensations. My friend described it as a painless electric shock in her head - she did not feel that it was somehow related to the sound. But about a month later, a “sound” appeared, even if it was disgusting, like a metallic and distorted sound of a radio. It probably looks like the same process that happened with each of us when we learned to use our ears. We just don't remember it.

If the ability to create new sensations turns out to be possible, then the surprising effect will be that we cannot explain a new feeling to someone else. For example, to understand what purple is, one must have experience in perceiving purple color; no amount of academic descriptions will allow color blindness to the color blind. Similarly, it is useless to try to explain the visual perception of one who was born blind. To understand the visual sensations, you need to go through them.

The same will happen with the development of new sensations. We will have to experience them in order to understand what they are; and the only way to do this is to experience the effects of data streams on our brain. Fortunately, in 2019 we will be able to connect to find out.

David Eagleman - Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behaviorism at Stanford University and author of The Brain: The Story Of You

Afterword of the author of the translation
Несколько замечаний и дополнений к переводу.
1. Мотивом перевода именно этой статьи послужило некоторые совпадения собственных воззрений на природу возникновения ощущений с воззрениями автора публикации. Однако на более высоком нежели у автора статьи уровне, связанном с внедрение носимых устройств. Речь идет о гносеологии, роли чувственно восприятия в процессе познания, и ограничений связанных с эволюционной обусловленностью этого восприятия. Чтобы не повторять аргументацию приведу ссылку на ветку коментов в одной из тем.

2. Возможно из-за краткости статьи автор не упомянул об органах чувств у животных, отличающихся от имеющегося у человека набора, и связанными с восприятием в др. диапазонах электромагнитного излучения (ИК и УФ), электрорецепцией, магниторецепцией, звуковыми сонарами и др. То есть эволюция решала эти проблемы если было необходимо, почему не сможем человек? Есть люди с расширенным восприятием, например оттенков цветов, или синестизией, кот. отмечали недостаток имеющихся понятий для описания своего восприятия.

3. Автор статьи использует понятие квалия для описания возникновения нового вида ощущения. Для тех, кто не знаком с этим понятием рекомендую эту статью. Первично тем не менее ощущение, как информационный синтез. О гипотезе его возникновения можно познакомиться в работах А. Иваницкого, видео. Также ощущение не только субъективно, но относительно, см. эту публикацию.

4. Внимательный читатель статьи возможно заметит уловку автора с подменой тем) Исходно описывает возникновение нового типа (новой модальности) ощущения с помощью передачи информации о стимуле непосредственно в мозг, миную другие органы чувств, что представляется теоретически верным. Но в дальнейшем переходит к описанию передачи информации с помощью разработанных устройств, преобразующих поступающую информацию в тактильные ощущения. Вряд ли в этом случае можно говорить о возникновении действительно нового типа ощущения, вероятно это будет подкласс тактильного. Это не умаляет важность проведенной автором разработки интерфейсов, кот. могут найти применение в различных областях, включая приложения VR.
Однако на данный момент имеется исследование, кот. несколько иным способом проверяет гипотезу возникновения нового ощущения, см. эту статью.

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