The other day, I heard an interview on “Science Friday”, a popular talk radio program in Philadelphia, with the futurist Ray Kurzweil (recorded on December 12, 2012). The interview is titled, “Is it Possible to Create a Mind”. Ray Kurzweil claimed that it already is possible for the human brain to be internet wired via a pea sized implant. He explained that such implantation is already being performed on Parkinson patients for the purpose of wirelessly downloading programs into their minds. He projects that in the 2040’s it will be commonplace to have our brains internet enabled in order to allow our memories to be backed up into the cloud for easier retrieval.
I seriously doubt that memory enhancement is the end road envisioned for such cyber implantation. If the technology can become sufficiently far reaching to enable cloud backup of human memory then why push even further to engineer implants capable of scanning and communicating across the entire spectrum of the internet? Imagine the innate intelligence humans will suddenly acquire, along with the added advantage of being able to communicate with almost anyone in a style that resembles telepathy. Also, imagine also how this bio-technology can be used to introduce sights and sounds into the minds of the terminally deaf and blind. This future wave certainly carries innumerable advances, capable of vastly expanding and improving the horizons of the human experience.
While the sea of optimistic potential implied by these futuristic advances truly seem like earth’s paradise, there also seems to be a very serious downside. Implanting internet enabled devices into our minds could easily blur the line between artificial and natural intelligence, which threatens to blur our ability to distinguish between own thoughts and imported thoughts. On a less pervasive level some of this problem already exists even without implantation. However, when internet implantation becomes widespread, the line between the stream and the self will become awfully fuzzy because the thoughts of so many others will be received cyber-telepathically and the mind will treat all the thoughts that are already alive its inner sanctum equally.
Imagine, a scenario where propaganda that a person would normally reject if read in a magazine suddenly resounds in his/her head with all the clarity and features of a naturally produced thought. With the mind’s internal gateways entirely bypassed, it becomes much harder to reject or at least question what should really be considered a “foreign thought”. Even today, as we become more widely exposed to a world of ceaseless communication, to some extent our internal filters become weary and are in danger of being easily bypassed. However, this problem will become massively magnified if distinguishing between a naturally produced thought and a streamed in thought becomes extremely difficult because both have similar, if not equal “mind feel”.
A possible solution to this problem is to teach people how to discover their ultimate self or pure self. For centuries, spiritual traditions have taught humanity that in each of us there is a pure center of self that lives beyond our thoughts, feelings and appetites. It can become detached and isolated out through meditation. It is not coincidental that certain traditional forms of meditation require of the meditator to cease all forms of thought in order to facilitate the detachment of self from thought. Some even suggest viewing thoughts take shape and form, as if one were standing outside their ever changing patterns.
Spiritual traditions have taught these meditative techniques in an effort to bring one into direct contact with the soul. Whether or not all people believe that the pure self is the soul (as I do), there still remains tremendous value in mining these spiritual traditions in order to learn techniques for helping people isolate their pure selves. Once in touch with pure self, one should be able to participate in the vast sea of information without drowning, as one can stand outside of all thoughts - whether natural or imported. Such connection with pure self is already important for today’s internet involvement and will certainly become an essential for tomorrow’s involvement.
Without becoming adept at isolating our pure selves, it’s natural for us to confuse our pure selves with our appetites, feelings and thoughts. The source of the confusion is that our core selves tend to “dress up” in our appetites, feelings and thoughts. So to some extent the self can be found there, the way a hand can be found in a glove. However, just as a hand can detach from a glove, so our pure self can exist independently - detached from the trapping of other inner experiences.
Due to the natural difficulties people have identifying their pure selves, before becoming internet implanted; they should be required to participate in an educational program designed to help them discover their pure selves. It’s important for psychology to embark on a research and discovery mission to cull meditative techniques from various spiritual traditions in order to repackage them for use in today’s educational environment. The need for us to discover our pure selves has become too urgent to leave to the unreliable winds of optional spiritual growth. In a secular, spiritually neutral way, such inner discovery needs to become integrated into regular education.
In most cases, attaining such pure self-awareness is not automatic and requires learning. We’re too close to ourselves to see ourselves. It’s like the idea that our faces are so close that we need a mirror to see them. As the prophet Elijah discovered the inner truth wasn’t in the loud sounds, but, in an easily missed silent whisper. Since the 1950’s, the technology for amplifying a singer’s whisper above the clamor of a band has been perfected. We need to learn how to do the same thing on the psychological level. Each of us needs to learn how to amplify our own silent whisper.