A teacher once asked his class: what is the difference between the brain and the mind? A naughty student replied with a quip: the mind is what the brain does for a living. Frankly speaking, when Al-Ries and Jack Trout penned the book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, little did they know that this concept would one day become a reality in literal terms, thanks to advancement in Neuro-technology (the tool with which we understand and influence our brain and nervous system) Forget about the popular obsession about space exploration in mainstream media, there’s a quiet exploration of the universe within us. While we are fascinated by the idea of the brain, studying our brains and drawing conclusions based on the limits of our brains, a cynic once said ;"sleep is the last turf capitalism is yet to conquer, if you dare to disagree wake up from your slumber, it’s not all in your head; it’s here." The revolution will not be televised, the revolution will all be in your mind.
We’ve come a long way baby! We make technology and the technology in turn shapes us. For the past 250 years, we have passed through five technological waves. First, it was the water mechanization whereby handcraft production methods was replaced by machinery. Second, the steam mechanization began in 1820 and 1880 which lead to the birth of rail that enables us to move goods to distant markets. The next wave was electric: 1870 to 1930 which light up our world to many possibilities that advanced electronics. And the next was Automobile (1910 to 1970). And there came the information era where computers have moved from super to micro to even a point where evangelists at Google believe the role of technology is to get out of the way while it gets its job done. While futurists like Alvin Toffler and others have been trying to make sense of what this could mean for humanity, change happened again.
Welcome to Neuro-society a life altering lifestyle made possible by Neuro-technology. While cynics are free, as usual, to wink their noses, this already has far reaching implication on every sphere of human existence. In law for example, neuro-technology will make us question all we know about the truth in the eyes of the law. Truth detection by neuro-scientific means has displayed profound results. For example, we can access mental downloads and make certain brain cell spill out dark secrets. This is done by watching a certain part of the brain light up under some conditions: for example to check if someone is a murder, we may choose to show him visual clues to show which area of the brains activates or administer Guilty Knowledge Tests whereby the subject is asked random questions and the brain goes defensive on matters which it had detailed knowledge. Both methods are hinged on the premise that it takes much effort to tell a lie.
With this, we enter into neuro-law; whereby, society begins to place emphasis on crime therapeutic justice as we try to figure out how brain disorders might be responsible for criminal acts so that we can err more on the side of preventive justice than punitive justice.
In the area of finance, neuro-technology will also enable neuro-economists be studied to learn how their brains react to money and daily life decisions with the hope of looking for patterns. Feedback thus far has revealed that whereas we like to say money matters are driven by sound reasoning, money fires up primal feeling which makes two emotions the key decider: greed and fear. For example, imagine after people sign a big deal, they are allowed to re-check if they have gone overboard; buyer remorse, then, is dead and it is a win-win for everyone.
God’s job is to judge the terrorist while it is our job to arrange the meeting, a US Marine remarked. Humanity had better be prepared that modern warfare will move into nuero-warfare. Timothy Thomas, in his article-The mind has no firewall, he opined that the body is capable of being deceived, manipulated like any other data process, but also shut down or destroyed like any other data processing system. It is in this light that one should begin to see. Project Flute for example, has plans to damage nervous system, alter moods, and provoke psychological changes to even kill. We will do well to heed to the worlds of Moreno author of the book-Mind Wars who believes that: understanding more about this excruciating complex system we can turn ourselves from the war of the mind to the peace of the soul.’’
Even God is not spared: neuroscientist will venture into Neuro-theology. Reports of mystical experiences, spiritual moments, and religious epiphanies are common in cultures the world over just as the rivalry between science and faith will go on. Attempts will be made to find connection between forgiveness, compassion, revenge within the context of neuroscience. This will be a unifying thread that will inspire humanity as we navigate through the religiously contentious times we live in.
We can go on and on, on the impact in different areas of human endeavour. For space constraint however, it is time we veer off into the amazing world of neuro-gaming where I believe brands can have fun. Point correction: neuro-gaming, according to Zack Lynch, mind and body meets game play.
Furthermore, neuro-gaming involves the brain and the nervous system. People can play games using new game mechanics. These include brain wave data, pupil dilation, hand and body gestures, facial expression analysis, as well as emotional and cognitive state. All these will naturally influence how games are designed since they are part of the inputs. Rightly, Google Glass, Oculus, and other scent activators are emerging to link more of our senses into the game and hap-tic technology. Who says our senses of perception, verily who says our senses are limited to five?
To bring this a little closer home, here’s a cursory review of the possibilities showcased at the 2013 Nuero-Gaming Conference. Yes, that was the first ever town hall conversation on this nascent industry. PC World editor fondly recalled playing combat games like arm wrestling using only thoughts. As NeuroMage a wizard duel to the death that relies on staying calm to cast magic. The irony is clear: a thought game that helped you relax. In the game, you start weak with no spells and to earn new spells you have to stay calm and meditate for a period of time. So there was Throw Truck With Your Mind, a first person shooter game that relies this time on game stamina. So there are also Intifica point and click adventure games that merely require walking around and solving puzzles . From Sony’s Magic Lab comes Second Son a game that uses eye-tracking to aim and move the camera instead of some analogue stick. Flick your eyes towards a mailbox and the camera adjusts to the centre of the screen. Though in its formative stages, PrioVR shows a full body harness that tracks each limb and torso and this is what makes the game. They are looking at teaming up with Virtuix’s Omni treadmill. Quite touching is Emotiv’s exhibition whereby visitors need to focus their brain in order to see a flower bloom before their very eyes. And once their attention flips, the flower closes up. In fact, there was also the exhibition of a brain gym just as there was Faceshift an animation that tracks your lips and eyes and it will rig them into a funny character. Neuro-games could uncover insight into a users’ psyche and how they respond to stimuli at a subconscious level. This can foster a two way narrative: Think of an audience being able to access the mind of villains in a movie and vice versa as such changing the whole plot. Or a neuro-graphics novel whose plot changes based on the level of one’s engagement.
Going forward, all these will disrupt the gaming industry which can’t keep up with new technologies coming out since they are mass-produced years. It will create a parallel community evolving, which will – not necessarily give the game consoles a run for their money yet – but in time the new game mechanics and new things that will be possible will really drive whatever this future platform might be”.
To be clear, the rise of neuro-gaming won’t be without challenges. Even as Nike has courageously discontinued the production of the Fuelband in order to focus on the Fuel software as a way of collaborating with other hardware makers, hardware designers must meet the desires/vanity of consumers when it comes to wearables like EEG, and other display headsets.
At this stage, one can’t but be curious on how brands will handle this new turf where the real blurs into the virtual, when it goes mainstream? For too long, they have messed up with people’s head. Now, with their minds? Well, we will need to develop a new aesthetic that will address the experience that range from brain controlled music to the development of personal scent delivery devices for reaching deep into one's memories. Brand will have to align in a relevant way because for once our emotions, in its raw form are at play here.
My vision as a Nigerian is what does this Internet of Mind/Soul mean to Africans? Oh did I hear you say Africa is even yet to harness the Internet of Things. Well, it won’t be a bad idea to start thinking of low cost wearables that can help global brands deploy neuro-gaming for social good (without sacrificing commerce), by this I mean helping kids and the illiterate aged keep their minds engaged. Guess what? This idea struck my mind right now: in this neuro-society, what if we Pay with Unwanted Thoughts, a thought currency payment platform. Here, people can convert/mine their suppressed thoughts into a thought currency which can be used to make a purchase. Move over Bitcoins, my suppressed thought is my new currency. For instance, the suppressed thoughts of ladies in the first world about a brand of shoe can be converted into cash that can be used to empower kids in Africa thanks to the brand. I leave you to imagine its usage for pure commerce and its implication in the grand scheme of things. If Bitcoins is built to redefine money system as we know it, imagine the birth of a thought based financial system. It may well change the world as we know it. Forget the fears of Orwell’s 1984, it’s a brave new world and we need no less dangerous ideas to thrive as Slovenian Philosopher Slavoj Zizek had advised.