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Peering through the filter of an iPhone at the augmented world, we can see further into the data-sphere than ever before. But what if we could turn that iPhone on ourselves and get to see the data-stream within? What would it tell us about ourselves and, more importantly, could we handle what we might find? In Theta Head, British author Greg Dawe explores just that - will neuroscience at last deliver a technology which can bring people closer to themselves, just as technology has brought people closer with others? Greg explains, ‘I’m writing present-day science fiction - speculative fiction - which is like writing about the real world but with plug-ins. This genre allows me to make predictions about how technology might evolve in the near future. The neuroscience technology in Theta Head does exist, it does work in the way it works in the real world, only it’s in a slightly different form and is used for a slightly different purpose. It’s the most intimate technology you could imagine, allowing us a glimpse into the nature of our deepest selves.’ The problem with wanting a technology that can change the world is that it may not be the world that needs changing.
Neurofeedback is a technology which allows a person to monitor their own brainwaves. Armed with this knowledge the user is then able to consciously intrude into the feedback loop and make adjustments. Stressed out with a head full of buzzing, logical beta? Try a shot of theta. Too much dreamy alpha? Up your beta waves. Once you’ve got the hang of it - once the brain begins to wake up to itself - the idea is to create a symphony of brainwaves which gives you that feeling when everything makes perfect, crystal clear sense. In other words, a state of complete freedom and infinite possibilities. Which sounds great. So why isn’t everyone doing it?
‘Maybe they will,’ says Greg. ‘But right now the technology is too intrusive. Those searching for that elusive spirit within are often turned off by technology because it gets in the way and distracts them. Who wants to walk around with electrodes stuck all over their head, not to mention the practicalities of carting a hefty EEG machine around after themselves. This creates yet another layer of interference between us and the world we experience. What’s needed for this technology to really catch on is miniaturisation and a more consumerfocused marketing plan.’
The ultimate app of all
Which is where Emotiv comes in. A few months ago this neuro-ware company launched Epoc, its latest brainwave headgear. This is the first of its kind to be aimed directly at the home consumer, not strictly for the lofty ideal of raising consciousness, but for a far broader agenda. According to Emotiv.com, these are a few of the applications we might use neuroscience to enhance: Artistic and creative expression - Use your thoughts, feeling, and emotion to dynamically create color, music, and art. Life changing applications for disabled patients, such as controlling an electric wheelchair, mind-keyboard, or playing a hands-free game. Games & Virtual Worlds - Experience the fantasy of controlling and influencing the virtual environment with your mind. Play games developed specifically for the EPOC, or use the EmoKey to connect to current PC games and experience them in a completely new way. Market Research & Advertising - get true insight about how people respond and feel about material presented to them. Get real-time feedback on user enjoyment and engagement.
‘If playing games is what brings neuroscience the mainstream cultural awareness it deserves,’ Greg says, ‘that certainly gets my thumbs up. I just hope people will also recognise its self-development potential.’ The benefits of meditation/deep relaxation are well known these days and consistent practice can be a life changing experience. What’s missing is time - we simply don’t have enough. It takes years of monk-like practise and dedication to reach those states. But with neuro-tech things are different - a person can learn to get themselves into ‘the zone’ after only a few hours training. It takes longer to attain a consistent peak performance state, but once a person is armed with those skills the neuro-equipment can then be discarded, just as a child discards a set of training wheels on a bicycle once balance has been achieved. ‘I’ve always been fascinated with the question of whether technology is driving us or vice versa, and my response to this is: why can’t we have both at the same time?’ What do you think? Is there a case for augmenting consciousness with technology, or should we leave consciousness to its own devices?