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Telepathy and Technology

magic

Telepathy is direct brain-to-brain contact. In x0 it is a poorly developed human sense somewhat like touch or smell but understood far less well. It is most often an emotional feeling received from someone else which is sometimes accompanied by a mental image, or sounds or words heard in one’s head including tunes or songs. It can also involve a physical sensation such as falling, nausea, or cold, or the memory of a smell, touch, or taste.

After I writing x0 I began to occasionally search for news about telepathy, and I noticed an increasing number of stories about using technology to achieve the same effect as psychic powers. In 2013 I described a story in Science about lab rats who had their brains wired together such that what one rat learned could be transmitted by direct wire to the other. Turns out that the other rat listened better if he got a treat for doing so (big surprise) but basically they communicated pretty well with what the researchers call a BTBI (brain to brain interface).

A couple of months ago Mark Zuckerberg made news by saying that the future of communication is telepathy. In a Q&A session with site users, he wrote “One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too.”

The Washington Post responded with a well done article analyzing how this could work. They talked about the linked rats, as well as a University of California at Berkeley study in which a team of cognitive scientists managed to reconstruct clips of movies their subjects were watching, based solely on measurements of their brainwaves. They described how in another experiment involving a noninvasive technique called “transcranial magnetic stimulation” test subjects in India were able to think words to test subjects in France. The Washington Post added that “the process was painfully slow, however, and the words weren’t sent in their entirety — they had to be encoded as binary digits, uploaded to the Internet, sent, downloaded and then decoded as flashes of light.” Yes, painfully slow.

horseThe article quoted Mark Harris at the MIT Technology Review as saying “‘Telepathy’ technology remains so crude that it’s unlikely to have any practical impact.” It concluded by noting that “even if Facebook isn’t leading the charge toward telepathy — a worrying concept in itself, given the site’s past indiscretions re: research consent and user privacy — the field poses tons of ethical challenges” which, lucky for us, “is many breakthroughs and advances away.”

Yes, it is. But it is worth remembering that most big advances began very slowly, at first, and their use and their impact were poorly understood. For decades, many people laughed at the idea of a fancy machine replacing something as reliable as a horse. We all know how that one worked out.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2015 in telepathy

 

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Understanding compassion

At the Mind and Life XXVI Conference-Mind, Brain and Matter: Critical Conversations Between Buddhist Thought and Science

At the Mind and Life XXVI Conference-Mind, Brain and Matter: Critical Conversations Between Buddhist Thought and Science (click to visit CCARE Facebook page)

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
–– His Holiness the Dalai Lama ––

My empathic hero of xo finds that the more she understands how others feel, the more compassionate she becomes. As a young woman, she hopes that someday her empathic gifts will be studied and understood every bit as well the physical sciences that she also loves.

I was surprised to discover today that Stanford University has a Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and they are trying to understanding empathy. According to their webpage they are ” striving to create a community of scholars and researchers, including neuroscientists, psychologists, educators and philosophical and contemplative thinkers around the study of compassion.” They also have a facebook page filled with fascinating links, photos and art.

As Lola makes the transition from empath to telepath, she is concerned about whether she will be able to maintain her concern and compassion for others with the barrage of suffering now coming at her.  She worries that maybe a true telepath can only survive by becoming cold and isolated.

handsImagine my surprise at finding a link on the CCARE website to an interesting article by C. Daryl Cameron called How to Increase your Compassion Bandwidth.  It comes from the University of California at Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and it deals with the exact issue of compassion overload, and the ways to cope with it in an age of electronic communication that sort of makes us all psudo telepaths. Also please note in the photo above the wonderful mixture of technology and humans striving for wisdom. I love to see how the two can indeed go hand in hand. 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in telepathy

 

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A Believer’s View of Telepathy

Writing x0 took me down the path of researching telepathy and in October 2012, I posted about the skeptics point of view.  I offered the most compelling arguments I encountered against the existence of any sort of extra sensory perception.  I also pointed out that while writing x0 I had come to appreciate both the the desire for truth and the effort to help others avoid scams that appears to compel telepathy’s strongest detractors. The fact is that a wide variety experiments, conducted thousands of times over decades, have failed to produce convincing evidence that telepathy exists. And some of these folks have really looked.

From Crystalinks.com

From Crystalinks.com

And yet …… according to a 2005 Gallup Poll, about one third of Americans believe telepathy is real.  These believers are more or less evenly divided among age, gender, race, income, education and region of the country. Don’t believe me? Check it out here. This prompts me to wonder whether we are such a wishful species that some of us will accept an appealing idea as true even after multiple experiments appear to disprove it, or whether many of us choose to ignore massive amounts of data because our own experiences suggest a different truth. Websites such as Crystalinks suggest the latter.

Part of the problem, I think, is that tests for telepathy tend to center around conveying information.  What color of dot am I thinking of? What number between one and ten? Quick. Concentrate. Answer. Yet no one I am aware of claims to have ever had a mind to mind transfer of this kind of information. Rather, telepathy is a gentle nudge, an added awareness that involves feelings, not facts. It speaks in symbols, like dreams. It whispers of primal sensations, leaving you sure of the essential emotions, but vague about the rest.

So it did not surprise me to learn that the one test for telepathy that has shown statistically significant positiveganzfeld results is the “Ganzfeld” experiments in which one person is shown photos and film clips and tries to send a sense of the feelings behind these images to the receiver. The receiver has four choices, and after 6700 tests receivers made the right choice about 28% of the time.  This is instead of the 25% one would expect. Impressive? Frankly, no. Not to you or I.  But to a statistician, it is. In fact, if you assume, like the book x0 does, that everyone can project their feelings but only a telepath can receive them, these results suggest that about 3% of the population is somewhat telepathic.

But how? The human brain is a complex electrical and chemical device.  Companion book y1 discusses how  neurotransmitters travel through the brain carrying thoughts and feelings with a precession that is astounding. Might it not be possible for another brain to detect some of this activity? We smell each other. Our eyes can detect light from a star a billions of miles away.  Our ears hear a whisper that corresponds to a pressure variation of less than a billionth of the current atmospheric pressure. Are we so that sure we know of every type of sensory receptor that every one of us has?

How contagious is the fear felt around a campfire where ghost stories are being told? The anger of a mob, the exhilaration of sports fans, and the growing confidence of a group on the path to accomplishing something great all give testament to the idea that we catch feelings from one another.

From Wired

From Wired

A researcher in Sydney recently finished a five-year study monitoring brain activity during therapy sessions and used electrodes placed around the head to investigate how two people can become physiologically aligned. And  according to an article in Wired, the U.S. army is investigating ways to wire brains to communicate “pre-speech” thoughts. And in spite of the fact that we all know that we pick up countless tiny clues from each other that can be misconstrued as telepathy, sometimes the feeling that there is more to it than that is overwhelming.

Other work has suggested that after two people spend years together, their brain waves become more similar. It’s late, and I’m about to go curl up in bed with the man I have slept next to for the last three decades. I know him almost as well as I know myself, and as I drift off to sleep I sometimes have a sense of knowing how he is feeling.  Am I picking up some of those those tiny body language clues? Of course I am. Am I using my knowledge of him and of the kind day we have had? Certainly. Is there something more?  Maybe ….  just maybe.  I’m open to the idea, anyway.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in telepathy

 

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