Scientists claim to have been able to transmit thoughts – brain to brain – over a 4,000-mile distance from India to France. The breakthrough, which sounds more like a b-list sci-fi film fixed in with a little Twilight Zone fantasy, is the first occasion where humans have communicated to one another using unspoken thoughts only.
Writes ABC News: “An international team of scientists has succeeded in transmitting the thoughts of one individual into the brain of a second person, located thousands of miles away, combining some of the latest technological marvels with the long arm of the Internet. This is thought to be the first time that two brains have communicated with each other directly over a long distance without the sender having to utter a single word.”
In 1876, the first spoken words through Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone were: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you,” referring to Bell’s assistant Thomas A. Watson. In 2014, the first unspoken words, “thought” across the Middle East and Europe, was the two word greeting “hola ciao.”
The words made the historic trip from India to France, where they were received and spoken by a researcher who was blindfolded and equipped with earplugs. The scientists wanted to ensure that the receiver knew what his colleague 5,000 miles away was thinking because of the brain-to-brain transmission, not because of some other cue.
“We wanted to find out if one could communicate directly between two people by reading out the brain activity from one person and injecting brain activity into the second person, and do so across great physical distances,” said study co-author, Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, the director of the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass.
“One such pathway is, of course, the Internet, so our question became, could we develop an experiment that would bypass the talking or typing part of Internet and establish direct brain-to-brain communication between subjects located far away from each other in India and France?” asked Pascual-Leone.
According to CNet.com, the message was translated into binary code – using a combination of zeroes and ones – and sent using “a combination of Internet-connected electroencephalogram and trans-cranial magnetic stimulation,” which essentially created two telepathic individuals.
Full details of the experiment were published in the journal Plos One.
While the researchers understand the wide potential applications of brain-to-brain communication, they also foresee possible nefarious usage and cautioned that such technology must be studied under stringent oversight.
“We anticipate that computers in the not-so-distant future will interact directly with the human brain in a fluent manner, supporting both computer- and brain-to-brain communication routinely,” the team wrote in their report. “The widespread use of human brain-to-brain technologically mediated communication will create novel possibilities for human interrelation with broad social implications that will require new ethical and legislative responses.”