Like something out of a Philip K. Dick novel, Scientists have formed a neural network linking the brains of monkeys and rats in two separate experiments, allowing them to co-operate and learn as a hive-mind or collective consciousness. Reminiscent of the three Wise Monkeys- See no Evil, Hear No Evil Speak No Evil, Scientists have linked together the brains of three monkeys, with the objective of collectively controlling an avatar arm. What does that mean for the advancement of Humanity and Trans-humanism?
In research that raises the prospect of direct brain-to-brain interfaces in humans, the brains of four rats were wired together in a network, enabling the rodents to synchronise their brain activity and collectively solve a simple weather forecasting problem that the rats struggled to complete on their own. The experiments, ultimately promise direct brain to brain communication between humans albeit through technological means, through the intervention of a Brain\ Machine Interface. First proposed by Miguel Nicolelis, of the Duke University in an attempt at allowing amputees and the paralysed to directly control prosthetic limbs and exo-skeletons. These latest advancements could have clinical benefits in brain manipulation and bio-computing. That is a collective brain bank of living organisms not unlike the concepts of the ‘Noosphere‘ first postulated by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in 1922.
These experiments are the most convincing demonstration yet that brains, in this case those of animals, can be linked together in direct communication to solve problems. Essentially forming a super-brain, a collective brain created from three monkey brains, which has never been accomplished before.
In the first study, scientists fitted three rhesus macaque monkeys with arrays that could record electrical activity from hundreds of neurons in the motor region of the brain. The monkeys learned, independently, to control the 3D movements of an avatar arm shown on a digital display in front of them, just by imagining moving it. The monkeys were then given joint control of the arm, with each monkey able to control two out of three dimensions, along the x- and y-axis, and their activity made an even contribution to each. Further along in the experiment,the monkeys intuitively started to synchronise their brain activity, allowing them to move the arm collaboratively to reach for a virtual ball on the screen. Even though their brains were not directly wired together.
The scientists via two-way electrical connections also successfully linked the brains of rats together that allowed for both the delivery of outside stimulus to neurons and record electrical activity. The system appeared to work, even if one of the three monkeys was temporarily distracted. In another experiment an electrical impulse was delivered to the brain of one rat, and the other rats having synchronised their brain activity, copied the first rat’s brain response, experiencing what the first rat felt, by proxy.
Electro-magnetic Pulses that were intermittently increased ordecreased were delivered to the brains of individual rats, these were identified by the collective hive-mind as representing temperature and barometric pressure information. The rats were able to combine the information to produce a collective output that predicted an increased or decreased chance of rain. Rats scored better on this task when they were linked as a “brain net”, than when individual rats tried to combine the two pieces of initial information – temperature and pressure – to perform the simple calculation alone. The research may be extended to produce neurally connected rat packs with combined super-intelligence.
In the future the research could have tremendous benefits for brain rehabilitation in the field of neuro-science. Take for example in Stroke patients, where language abilities might be able to be restored more quickly if a patient’s brain was retrained by directly synchronising with the language regions of the brain of a healthy person. In humans, the link could potentially be made non-invasively using electrodes on the scalp. However at this stage it is unlikely that humans would ever be able to directly share complex mental experiences. The research shows that it is impossible to upload and or download your emotions or personality to a brain-net, as these are not reducible to a digital algorithm.
Ultimately, people may also decide that wiring themselves up with others whether in a social network or a utilitarian relationship is not entirely desirable. There may be special instances where you’d want a long-term connection with someone – like a Tight- knit Family or a Fire Brigade, But there’s no guarantee that brain-to-brain interfaces will be a sensible thing in practice. Which opens the Pandora’s box of privacy and legislation and the ethics that may or may not support this technology.