Thursday, November 25, 2004

The Adaptable Brain


Brains are cool. They can do some really awesome stuff. Here's a link discussing a few of those.

Essentially, the brain appears able to comprehend sensory input apparently of one sort as though it were another. To provide an example, it can garner visual information / perception based on electrical impulses applied to the skin.

I don't know about you, but I find that both freaky and cool. While the article didn't go into sufficient detail, it suggested that one could experience vision, including things like object recognition, shape, proportion etc in this way. It speaks strongly to the idea that minds are tied less strongly to our particular inputs that might otherwise be thought. Unfortunately, due to the nature of academic publication, it's impossible to get good information from a primary source, but if true this is suggestive of many applications straight out of science fiction.

The article directly addresses many astonishing things remarkably casually - the ability to compensate for lost senses, allowing the deaf to hear, the blind to see and those without a sense of touch to feel. It also talks about augmenting existing senses by feeding feedback from night-vision goggles without impairing normal vision, for example. The possibilities are endless. As far as I'm concerned, if this is real, the revolution is coming. I'll go home, take out my million dollar loan and buy myself the hardware to see in the infra-red range, gain a third eye looking behind me. Ones mind even turns towards the entertainment value of this kind of technology.

Unfortunately, journalist reports are not science. If it were really that easy, I wouldn't need a million dollar loan - a soldering iron, pliers and a few hundred dollars worth of bits and bobs from the electronics store would suffice.

What this also has implications for is the plasticity of the mind. What, for example, might man achieve if new senses could be included in their life, possibly from birth. There are many things that humans are good at doing that are currently done only via the computer. Giving humans additional channels of input might provide leaps forward in human ability where previously they had to depend on computing models. On example might be signal analysis. What might it be like to directly experience radiation outside of the visual range accurately? What might the powers of the human minds be turned to by a scientist mad enough?



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10/07/2005 10:18:00 PM  
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10/08/2005 01:06:00 AM  

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