Can digital reality plug directly into your brain?


A young man Wearing a gray flannel robe, she sat calmly at a table, in front of a featureless black box. He wore a hat that looked like a gauze bandage. A bunch of wires snaked out from the inside and emerged from the back of his head. What is he waiting for.

A sort of researcher Wearing a white lab coat, he walked to the table and stood silently for a while. The man stared at the box. For a while, nothing happened. Then the man blinked, looking a little shy. The researcher asked what happened.

“In the first second,” he said, “I saw an eye-an eye and a mouth.”

The researchers replaced the boxes with different objects. This time it is an orange football. There was a beat, and again it was obvious that something happened in this man’s head. “How do you explain this?” he said. “Like the previous one, I saw an eye-an eye and a mouth, sideways.”

Strictly speaking, this person is a cyborg. His fusiform gyrus is lined with electrodes along the tortuous ridges on both sides of the bottom of his brain. His doctor implanted them because they thought they would help track the cause of the man’s seizures. But electrodes also provide a rare opportunity-not only to read signals from the brain, but also to write them into the brain. A team of neuroscientists led by Nancy Kanwisher of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is studying the so-called fusiform facial area, which becomes active when a person sees a face. Their question is, what if they reverse the pump? Deliberately activate that area-what will a man see?

You don’t have to be a cyborg to know that you should never believe your lying mind. For example, it hides the fact from you that all your perceptions are delayed. Convert photons into vision, air pressure fluctuations into sound, atomized molecules into odors-no matter how long it takes your imperfect sensory organs to receive signals, convert them into the language of the brain, and then deliver them to the bush-like shape The neural network calculates the cells of incoming data. This process is not instantaneous, but you will never realize that countless synaptic stimuli are happening, and electrochemical hissing determines your thoughts. The fact is that this is a kind of stage art-you are both the director and the audience.

The things you perceive or think you perceive do not always “really exist”-they are not anywhere except in your head. This is the dream. This is the effect of psychedelics. This happens when you imagine your aunt’s face, the smell of your first car, the smell of strawberries.

From this perspective, it is actually not difficult to bring sensory experience—a perception—into someone’s mind. I did it to you in the first few paragraphs of this story. I described the cyborg’s clothes, gave you a hint of the appearance of the room, and told you that the football is orange. You see it in your mind, or at least some version of it. You heard that, in your mind, the research subjects are talking to the scientists (even though they speak Japanese in real life). All this is very good and very literary. But it would be nice if there is a more direct route. The brain is a salty food that transforms sensory information into thoughts; you should be able to use this ability to build a complete world there, a simulation indistinguishable from reality.

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