Thought Controlled Computing Seems Bleak


Thought controlled computing is an interface that allows an individual to affect his or her physical reality by the sole act of thinking. At the forefront of consumer-centric thought controlled computing is Ontario-based company InteraXon, who produced the video above.

In the video, we see a number of startling images of people affecting their physical realities using only their minds. Closing their eyes in focus, a ‘quartet’ of ‘thought-musicians’ ‘composes’ a song without instruments, but with EEG-sensing headbands. The CEO of InteraXon, Ariel Garten, is in front of them of them ‘conducting.’

We see Garten herself ‘levitating’ a Jetsons-like chair (the editors intelligently made sure the cable and pulley system suspending the chair from the ceiling was out of frame). We watch the executives of the company playing games without using any of their body parts. Commanding toy race cars with their brains. Controlling light displays from hundreds of miles away.

Pretty insane. But all this isn’t terribly new. Thought controlled computing appeared in its earlier, more practical forms through forays into cures for blindness.

In this effort, scientist William Dobelle developed a device that could be worn as a pair of sunglasses. Attached to the ‘glasses’ were sensory devices that measured light patterns of the environment and sent these signals directly into the patient’s brain, via a cable plugged into their brain’s gray matter.

But at the time, the technology was incredibly expensive and largely unaffordable to the general public. Now, though, the headsets we see in the InteraXon video are about $200 a piece. Cheap.

The implications for this seem big. This technology will be available to consumers in its earliest stages very soon. We will definitely witness a couple generations of thought-controlled devices in our lifetimes. What might they look like? Some ideas:

  • A robotic, responsive house. As you approach your front door it both unlocks and opens for you. You walk in and it’s cold. The house adjusts its temperature accordingly. You feel tense – your ‘relax’ music begins to play softly. Actually, you think, you’d rather watch TV. A nature documentary. The music turns off, the TV turns on. A nature documentary starts. Lights turn on and off as you enter and leave rooms. They dim according to your mood. You decide to have pasta for dinner and a burner on your stove top begins to warm up in preparation.
  • ‘Experiental marketing.’ The executives at InteraXon suggest thought controlled computing could become a powerful marketing tool for advertisers and corporations. Imagine going to a car show. You get in a concept car, feel excited. The car responds by playing loud, motivational electronic music. It’s too loud. The volume lowers. “How are you, anyway,” the car’s GPS-woman-voice says. “I don’t know,” you say, “cold. Uncomfortable.” “Sweet…” the car says. The car turns on the heated seats, then a seat-vibration-massage setting. You get out of the car, feeling raped.
  • Telepathic warfare, or ‘synthetic telepathy.’ Synthetic telepathy “would allow user-to-user communication through analysis of neural signals. The research aims to detect and analyze the word-specific neural signals, using EEG, which occur before speech is vocalized.” The latest venture in synthetic telepathy “is focused on military uses.” Pretty sure this means they’re trying to develop soldiers that can talk to each other without the use of radios, satellite, cell phones or voices. Seems bleak.
  • Mind-controlled browsing and the death of the mouse and keyboard. InteraXon’s already developed thought-controlled computer games. But since there are more internet users than there are gamers, a more practical use of this development would be to allow humans, when sitting in front of their laptops, to control which webpages appear, which are discarded, which buttons they ‘click’ (or think of clicking)(would there even be buttons? Might YouTube prompt us to think “Play” instead?), and what text appears in their Gmail chat box. And their emails.
  • Velocity and direction thought-modified bullets. Killing rampages, assassinations and hunting activities will be much more accurate.
  • More ‘booby traps’ and scary, life-threatening ‘obstacle courses.’ ‘Booby traps’ and ‘obstacle courses’ will be the policing method of the future. As you run away from the cops on foot, large walls of concrete will erupt from the ground to block your way, activated by a thought-password that only the police know. You go another direction and a jet of fire reminiscent of those in the ship levels of Super Mario Brothers 3 shoots down at you from a traffic light overhead. You scream, wild-eyed. Spikes like the ones in Mortal Kombat spring from the ground your standing on. Somehow you avoid these. The police finally kill you with velocity and direction thought-modified bullets.
  • Automated fast food ordering. People that eat fast food every day will become even more weird, out-of-touch and lazy. Upon entering the store, customers will walk to the ‘feeding area,’ approach the register-device thing, and think their order. The syntax of ordering will have been broken down in order to decrease the computer’s confusion – clients will be instructed to use only key words. Rather than thinking “I’d like a large number seven with a coke for here please,” they’ll be required to think “Large number seven, Coke, here.”
  • Very, very fat Americans, the continuation of cultural decay, silent, bleak and mechanistic cities and a boom in the couch industry. Meals will be created by thinking. Ordering in will no longer require phones or speaking to a human being. Your toothbrush will brush your teeth for you. Channels will be changed by thinking “CHANGE. CHANGE. CHANGE” (etc.). Internet will be hands free and a part of your television and music player. Sex will be shared through EEG waves in chat programs. Nobody will talk anymore. Machines will do the interacting for us. Everyone will buy very comfortable couches.
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