Throughout history people learned by rote and repetition. That's about to change say excited researchers who see people boosting their knowledge and skills by simply downloading everything right into their brains.
As knowledge about the brain continues to grow exponentially, so do the ways that the brain can be augmented, enhanced and supercharged.
In the past such methods as drugs, electronic stimulation and cranial chips were considered. Most attempts fell far short of expectations.
But now scientists researching the functional magnetic resonance machine (FMRI) are discovering that magnetic fields—tuned to carry information—can reprogram the brain affecting a person through the visual cortex and significantly altering the brainwave activity. Their study appears in the journal Science.
Converting virtual reality to actual reality with FMRI
The problem with downloading viable information directly into the human brain is how the bits of information are channeled and how the brain can sort the packets of information in a format that allows it to incorporate the new skill set or data into its existing matrix of experience, likes, dislikes and prejudices.
Think of the film "Total Recall," based on famous science fiction writer Philip K. Dick's short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale."
Although implanting a memory or experience is a science fiction concept, in essence creating a technology that implants a person with the instant ability to downhill ski, drive a Formula-1 race car, or recite selected works of Shakespeare from an artificial memory literally downloaded seconds earlier is what Dick envisioned.
Going writer Dick one step better, the scientists at Boston University and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, claim the learning of tomorrow will not be based on tedious rote and repetition, but merely staring at an advanced computer interface that will download all the cognitive skills, memory bits and motor learning functions necessary to be a Black Belt Karate champ or symphony orchestra conductor.
Is FMRI the future of learning?
Augmenting this revolutionary brainboost approach, a team of medical researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas are investigating a remarkable process called Decoded Neurofeedback (DecNef).
Upon the discovery that inhibited PKR molecules generates brain activity leading to the formation of long-term memories in the adult brain, the scientists realized that by artificially blocking it they can create a memory enhancing drug that can boost the brain's power at will.
The Daily Mail quotes Dr. Mauro Costa-Mattioli, from Baylor, as saying: "It is indeed quite amazing that we can also enhance both memory and brain activity with a drug that specifically targets PKR. Our identity and uniqueness is made up of our memories. This molecule could hold the key to how we can keep our memories longer, but also how we create new ones."
FMRI will work, affirms University of Boston's Takeo Watanabe, the lead author of the study, as no medication is necessary. The patient (customer?) can even be asleep—the target pattern can still be assimilated by the uploading process.
Imagine the advertising: Go to sleep tonight, wake up tomorrow a fully qualified helicopter pilot? Have two left feet, but always wanted to be a master surfer…? Well, the possibilities are endless.
While it would be an amazing achievement, there could be pitfalls. The downside was explored way back in 1968 by an episode of the cult TV show, "The Prisoner." In an episode titled, "The General" a new speed learning technology is introduced to the resident prisoners of the Village. Speedlearn promises that a person will learn a university level course in history in three minutes. [See "The General" episode here]
But things go awry and the technology is exposed as another scheme to gain control over peoples minds and free will.
The reality of FMRI
Could FMRI really be just theory? Is it nothing but fantasy in the mind's eyes of scientific dreamers?
The Daily Telegraph flatly reports: "The researchers knew their technique had worked because the FMRI volunteers all underwent visual skill tests and had their results compared with those of people not given the treatment—and the former had far better scores."