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Category Archives: Neurohacking
Posted: September 20, 2016 at 7:14 pm
~1 user here now
Neurohacking is the colloquial term for (usually personal or 'DIY') neuroengineering. It is a form of biohacking focusing on the brain and CNS. Strictly speaking it is any method of manipulating or interfering with the structure and/or function of neurons for improvement or repair.
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Posted: July 29, 2016 at 3:14 am
Transcript of What is Neurohacking
What is Neurohacking Neurohacking is the colloquial term for neuroengineering. It is a form of biohacking focusing on the brain and CNS. Strictly speaking it is any method of manipulating or interfering with the structure and/or function of neurons for improvement or repair. Neurohacking To observe, effect, manipulate and control the brains process with technology The technology ranges Chemicals pharmaceuticals sound of light electronic devices Electroencephalography (EEG) This Technology allows us to record and monitor the electrical actives of the brain, produced from the firing of neurons EEG is very useful in Biofeedback and can help people control their minds, focus better, relax and much more Brain Waves What the Brain waves mean Delta 0-4 Deep sleep, females show the most Theta 4-7 Drowsy or meditative and sleeping state Alpha 8-12 Closed eyes, relaxed Beta 12-30 Awake, concentrated Gamma 30-100 active and thinking William Grey Walter Wrote the book the living brain Hans berger Inspired Brion Gysin, Ian Sommerville, and William Burroughs to invent the Dream Machine "Anything that can be done chemically, can be done with our minds." -William S. Burroughs Neurofeedback and Biofeedback Refers us to technology where we can see what is happening in the body in real time How it Works
Posted: July 14, 2016 at 4:28 pm
Were part of a robust community of neurohackers with backgrounds in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, smart drugs and nootropics, integrative medicine, bioethics, and private laboratory experimentation.
Aligned with our mission of curating the most meaningful neurohacks, were developing an online hub for our peers to answer questions, give input, and share experiential research on the most promising technologies currently available.
Many incredible technologies exist for enhancing our subjective experience, but most people have never heard about them and likely wouldnt stumble upon them through a typical google search. We want to change that.
We are taking on the challenge of curating a directory of the most effective and promising neurohacking technologies and tools out there. That includes anything that influences the neurologic hardware responsible for mediating our conscious experience and performative capabilities: chemical technologies like nootropics and smart drugs, bioelectrical technologies like transcranial stimulation, photic therapies like low level laser therapy, all the way to neurofeedback techniques, meditation training, or embodied practices like somatics.
Our goal is to broadly cover the various categories of technologies that meet our criteria for neurohacks, then hone in on a vetted list of tools and practices weve discovered that produce the most significant positive results. As new discoveries and breakthroughs are made, well work with the community to keep this resource continually updated.
Citizen science and the quantified self movement have opened new portals for discovery, empowering us to collect and analyze data about ourselves, and share what works and what doesnt with each other.
In that spirit, were developing an app to help track changes in psychological states and cognitive capacities, as a function of using our products or any other neurohacking technologies. The data generated will help us better understand the most effective ways to positively influence our neurology to experience a higher quality of life.
Lets just say, cognitive enhancement is only the beginning.
Originally posted here:
Posted: July 3, 2016 at 6:39 pm
Neurohacking is the colloquial term for (usually personal or 'DIY') neuroengineering. It is a form of biohacking (qv) focusing on the brain and CNS. Strictly speaking it is any method of manipulating or interfering with the structure and/or function of neurons for improvement or repair.
The main goal of neurohacking is optimal mental health. Other goals include damage repair, simulated reality, prevention of disease and augmentation of abilities or of intelligence overall. It utilises information and technology mainly from the fields of epigenetics, bio/neurofeedback, psychopharmacology, biological psychology and functional analysis, but many practitioners also employ physical exercise, nutritional guidelines, vitamins & supplements, meditation and/or self-hypnosis. Some avoid all neuroactive substances including caffeine, alcohol, food additives and fast-release sugars. Current research focus on the nature and development of intelligence and how to increase or improve it. The works of Dr. Herman Epstein, Joseph LeDoux, Alex Ramonsky, Frederick Starr and David Barker are influential. The ethical basis of Neurohacking for health is that it should be practiced strictly with informed consent.
There are numerous examples of the use of neural implants for therapy, however the only experiments involving hacking into the nervous system for enhancement appear to be those conducted by Kevin Warwick. In a series of experiments at the University of Reading, Warwick became the first human recipient of a BrainGate electrode array implant on 14 March 2002, into the median nerve of his left arm. With this in place he was able to control a robot arm to copy his own hand movements. Warwick's nervous system was also connected with the internet in Columbia University, New York to enable him to control the robot arm in the University of Reading, also receiving feedback from sensors in the finger tips. A simpler array was implanted into the arm of Warwick's wife. With this in place they were able to achieve the first direct electronic communication between the nervous systems of two humans.
The term neurohacking is also used for a method of attempting to retrieve information from the brain (such as passwords, locations, etc..) without consent; presently no technology exists for such a tactic. The concept has been used much in science fiction (e.g. the film "The Matrix"). In data retrieval, some sort of braincomputer interface (BCI) is typically used, where the brains neuron synapses are somehow captured or recorded to be processed for information. Promoters of this concept generally refer to the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or MEG (magnetoencephalography) to support the plausibility of this concept. Although some sort of neuroimaging could someday be used, the accuracy of any present day method is not nearly close enough. For instance, it is assumed that neurohacking requires detection of the state of individual neurons (approximately 1 micrometer diameter) while the resolution of the MEG is several thousand neurons and other imaging systems may be even larger. It is estimated that usable neurohacking of this type is still many decades away.
Caffeine, alcohol, over the counter medicine, and other drugs are all forms of neurohacking. Every one of these substances alters or "tricks" the brain into desirable conditions. When ingesting caffeine, the brain is fooled into thinking the body has energy and keeps the consumer awake. The brain's neurons naturally produce adenosine as a byproduct which is monitored by the nervous system. Once the level of adenosine is at a certain point, the body will feel tired. Caffeine acts as fake adenosine and binds to the body's receptors. However, instead of disappearing, it blocks the adenosine receptors so the brain's stimulants, dopamine and glutamate, can work more freely. Since neurohacking is the interference with the structure and function of neurons, caffeine consumption is in fact a neurohack. Similarly, other substances that affect the brain and functions of neurons are also neurohacks. Alcohol is the most interesting form of neurohacking because it affects multiple neurotransmitters instead of just one. This is because alcohol is a fat soluble molecule. Since lipids are a major component of cell membranes, alcohol is able to enter the membranes of neurons and change their properties. Specifically, alcohol inhibits the glutamate receptor function, enhances GABA receptor function, as well as raises dopamine and endorphin levels. This causes all sorts of reactions, including liveliness and excitement. Alcohol also causes one to lose their anxieties, because of the effect of alcohol on GABA receptors. After alcohol affects the system, it causes the body to go through what is called neurotransmitter rebound. This is because when alcohol takes effect, it overuses the GABA system so when it wears off, the GABA system makes the body feel restless.
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Posted: June 30, 2016 at 3:36 am
Here's another new year; that's another new chance To remake our lives, you and me; A world without borders or barriers or bounds
A world some don't want us to see...
Each year I resolve with the strongest intent To go farther this year than the last. And to look back and see how far last year I went, Though distractions distract me so fast!
I did meditation and lay on my bed,
I just started to feel where its at,
With a wonderful warmth round the top of my head,
Then I looked up and saw its the cat.
I threw out my TV! My girlfriend went too,
But that's a good lesson you see;
It was 50 wide, and I think on the side
She was living with it, not with me.
I went low GI and I've lost lots of weight
And now eating whatever I please,
But last night I dreamed I had antlers and wings,
So I really must lay off the cheese.
My new GSR made an interesting noise,
Which I hoped was my mind rearranging,
Then I read the instructions; my genius it seems
Was just that the batteries need changing.
But with this new year I just know Ill win out, Just watch how I do and youll see! Im not going to head for another blowout; Ill be cool as I know I can be.
Cos when stupid things beckon, and Im not so strong, When I snapback and fall on my ass, Ill be thankful again you folks help me along As you have during all the years past.
Im so grateful that youre all here! Happy New Year!
Read this article:
Posted: at 3:36 am
Seeking a Definition for Neurohacking...?
Rather than giving you one strict definition, which is never the truth for everyone, we asked group members: How would you explain what neurohacking is, and why do you do it? The comments below are their replies:
I see neurohacking simply as neuroscience-based self-improvement, and I do it to narrow the gap between the life I have and the life I want.
Neurohacking teaches you how your brain works and how you can improve your mood and health. For me it was a way to repair some problems because I got rid of migraine and backaches by learning one of the first things, the relaxation response. Then I got into biofeedback because that way I didnt need tablets for blood pressure because I can control it. I notice that my confidence has got better as well.
Neurohacking is about ways of keeping your mind healthy and your brain performing at its best. I do it for maintaining and improving my mental health and partly to avoid decline with age, the same reasons I go to the gym for health of my body.
Why have a fit healthy body and a weak confused mind?
Neurohacking helps you to understand yourself. When doing NH you can go beyond "I must have got out of bed on the wrong side" way of thinking and figure out which side exactly is better to get out of bed on.
The Matrix had me. Neurohacking was the Red pill.
Neurohacking is changing your mind by changing your brain chemistry and learning how to control these states and work with them. Sometimes we humans do this just for fun, but it is what shamans have been doing since ages past. I like experimenting with drugs and methods of changing perception. Im also interested in intelligence augmentation or as I would call it the pursuit of Wisdom and enhancing our creativity and imagination, basically expanding all the frontiers of our minds, working with nature and our biology.
"Neurohacking is The act of evolving from a simple lab-rat to a pandimensional being."
"Self-Help gone right."
"Trying to keep the fragile balance required to be a sturdy human being."
To me, neurohacking begins with the acknowledgement that you are your bodybrain. From there, it's just a system of practical advice designed to reground yourself in the physical and mental capabilities that you were born with. It's not 'hacking' in the sense of overclocking, but in the sense of 'lifting the hood, understanding what's going on, and making obvious and natural improvements'. It's open-source and voluntary.
"The culmination of millenia old philosophy, psychology, physiology and more, in one little red pill. The fastest means to achieve the most valuable human resource: Freedom. Why do I do it? There is no way not to do it, I only get it (right)." (Marcos Rojas)
For me, neurohacking (the concept as it has evolved for me, as a part of this forum), is simply having some knowledge and techniques for improving the functioning of my body/mind/emotions, to improve the overall quality of my life, including longevity, health/vitality, mental functioning, emotional balance, as well as interpersonal communication, cooperative ventures, including art, music, poetry/prose/ songwriting, etc., and even on-line discussion.
For me, knowing things and learning things are not the ultimate achievements in my life, however theycan help me to create a much better foundation and framework, (or matrix) for what I dovalue most. ( a synergy of physical emotional, mental and spiritualgrowth or evolution ofconsciousness, interaction/communication, and expression.)
Neurohacking is the 'practical' to the 'theory' of neuroscience. Neuroscience gives you knowledge as facts about the brain and mind and intelligence. Neurohacking gives you knowledge as ability to use that information to improve yourself.
Neurohacking is another word for 'entelechy' for me that means learning how to do the most beneficial things for the good of intelligence, and that has fulfilled me personally as well. I have always been interested in how intelligence works. The more I learn, the more interested I get. I now see NH as a path to imaginative creativity in all things, interactions and relationships. I am hoping to learn enough to start running workshops and courses in the future.
I would say that neurohacking is having a conscious awareness of the forces shaping your consciousness, and consciously altering those forces in order to improve the interaction between your consciousness and the outside world. Neurohacking is inherently recursive, since the system doing the altering is also the system being altered, and I would say that any form of 'self-improvement' that has that feature probably qualifies as a neurohacking technique.
Neurohacking is just like computer hacking you change the system to do something better, to perform better, or sometimes to stop someone doing something nasty to you. Im interested in "Artificial Intelligence" and biotechnology stuff like mind/brain-computer interface and uploading, virtual reality. Intelligence is like the most important thing that humans (and machines) have access to, but most of them dont really even have a clue what it is and what it can do.
"Hacking is often associated with the quest for efficiency, expanding the concept to the ultimate machine, our own brains, seems toencompass much more than just brain efficiency, since the brain can assimilate the real world and expand its domain overit. True freedom of choice is impossible without knowing the full spectrum of your choices.
Expanding your mind is arequirement to fit that spectrum in, and start to glance its magnificence.
NGI = Natural General Intelligence. (contrasting with the search for AGI)
"Neurohacking is any act of intentionally altering/modifying your bodybrain state resulting in eithertemporary or long-term effects. The primary goal of NH is developing a bodybrain in full health with access to all it's functions in all networks, and in the process repairing any pre-existing damage and building the potential for experiencing an extraordinary life."
Theres a formal definition of Neurohacking (NH) here:
I like being able to learn the latest discoveries about intelligence and discuss it. My reasons are various: intellectually & scientific interest, improving my intelligence and to keep my mind sharp as I get older, personally because the relief at being free from anxiety and really feeling personal power in my life has made me a much happier person and my life much happier (and much better organized!) I can only describe the process as like stepping out of a cloud and its a clear day.
Neurohacking for me is used for a spiritual path, but I know it can be used for many more purposes. The Dalai Lamas talks got me interested in neuroscience. I use some biofeedback to aid my meditation progress and I plan my diet and things like Tai Chi exercises. I also do NH techniques to support emotional stability and clarity of perception. My goal is I seek wisdom, understanding, and unity.
Neurohacking is any ability distilled by knowledge that deliberately seeks to promote the growth of co
mplexity in any intelligent system."
A Couple of Personal Accounts:
To be completely honest, neurohacking is the story of my life; as long as I can remember I've been fighting those dragons: beings, institutions and ideas that wanted to implant in my head the seeds of their controlled universe. Yes, way back to the times when even the word "hacking" was not part of my vocabulary, I remember... I remember the terrible shock of their blades, I remember the dry sound of their shields blocking my sword, I remember the smell of my skin burning under the repeated assaults of their fire-breathing steeds, and I remember the loneliness. I remember how I could have felt so alone in this never ending struggle, desperately seeking to meet some other brave knights out there, ready to stand and fight at my side. It took me 34 long years to find the first one, his name was Sir Alexander Ramonsky...
So yeah, maybe you can now better understand what kind of relief it was for me to find a neuroscientist who actually confirmed the righteousness of my holy war. And it might explain why, at first, I was rather focused on the will to build something like the New Camelot, reforming the old Round Table, and living in that golden stronghold with young and strong and brave knights, patiently furbishing our weapons, preparing for the day of revenge... I was so hurt, so weary, I needed a place for retreat. Although the quest for a 100% hassle-free zone was like another unattainable Holy Grail unworthy of our - quite limited - time. Avalon is the resting place of the dead, it is not made for the living.
So these days are over now. Today, my own neurohacking practice have led me to the land where Voltaire spent his late years, or as Candide himself did put it: "we must cultivate our garden". And then I understood that even if I spent so many years wondering what was my true mission on this planet, still I've always fulfilled it by being true to myself, by being the living example that one can refuse all the bullshit they pretend to seriously care about. What has changed, though, is that today I know why by cultivating my own garden I'm doing precisely the only best thing I can do to utterly slain all the dragons...
That's what neurohacking has done in my case, that's what neurohacking does anyway, because it simply allows Intelligence to blossom naturally; and if Intelligence speaks many languages, it speaks only in one voice. Hence the delicious feeling of unity in which my mind is increasingly wandering these days.
So from now on, my focus will simply be on participating in this wide movement which - somehow - will consist in offering to the Spirit of Candide, of Voltaire and of the Enlightenment philosophers, but above all to any living dude who'll be smart enough to really care about it, a 'Science of Gardening'..." - Scalino Corleone di Napoli
I work in Biological Psychology and I got into Neurohacking as part of a search for the truth about what intelligence really is and whats happened to most peoples minds. I searched because I had to; I was driven, because for my life to have personal meaning it has to make sense to me, and the way my society was structured and the way that most people behaved did not make sense to me.
I searched because I knew there was something wrong, and that it was hidden from our eyes, like a computer virus running in the undercurrents of society, running in the unconscious minds of people going about their conscious business, living out their lives like duped slaves in a mindless soap-opera-in-the-matrix existence, oblivious to any real truth or any real satisfaction, and because I knew that whatever was wrong was going wrong in epidemic proportions.
I searched because I knew there was something more. Along the way I met others, potential explorers driven by their own needs, people baffled by their own experiences that did not make sense, thrown off balance by sentiments and anxieties that should not exist in healthy human intelligence (and to be truly human, or truly intelligent, I have now come to believe is the very thing humans may have to fight for). Chronic anxiety rules the world, creating the very problem that makes people unable to face it.
I went looking for the causes of humanitys dysfunctional state and my own, and I found them, in the hard, undeniable evidence of human science. The truth is way too much to swallow, for the many. Trying to think intelligently with anxiety is like trying to swim in quicksand. You can get out if you stop struggling and let intelligence save you, but most people really do not want to be unplugged. Most people are too busy hiding from, rather than looking for, the answers.
But nevertheless, Im here because its in biological psychology that I found my answers, and through neurohacking I managed to change my mind.
I am not MorpheusIf people want to be unplugged, seek to understand the truth about intelligence, and want to free their minds, Im here to work with them, but if they want to 'stay in the matrix', they can stay by all means. Neurohacking is not for wimps. It's Red Pillsville, buckle your seatbelt, and Kansas is about to go bye bye. There are lots of potentials (the many) but very few actuals (the few').
And now its a part of my life to work with the few, wherever I can. Mend the wires. Stop the virus. Make healthy intelligence 'software' and mental health information open source. Create a space for intelligent people to get on with real things. I make no predictions about what Ill be doing next, because from my point of view its as simple as "whatever's necessary".
Why are we here? "Because there is still some good in the world, Mr Frodo, and its worth fighting for"."
Now Perhaps you can empathize with some of the views above or perhaps you will discover your own definitions and reasons; whatever they are you are welcome aboard
We hope you now have a clearer idea of what NH is about and what we are doing here.
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Posted: June 26, 2016 at 10:53 am
Harvard's Ellen Langer and Psychology Hacking by Relabeling New Research on Stress, Anxiety, DNA, and the Likelihood of Getting Sick Barbara Fredrickson: Positive Emotions Open Our Mind Barbara Fredrickson: Positive Emotions Transform Us Neurohacking: rewiring your brain | Don Vaughn | TEDxUCLA Neuro-Hacking 101: Taming Your Inner Curmudgeon Les neuro-rvolutionnaires - Laurent Alexandre, l'USI Hacking yourself: Dave Asprey at TEDxConstitutionDrive Le dfi de la complexit - Edgar Morin, l'USI Que nous apprennent les neurosciences sur les tats modifis de conscience ? Shauna Shapiro: Mindfulness Meditation and the Brain Etudier autrement | Laurene Castor | TEDxGrenoble A Brief Introduction to the Default Mode Network Dan Harris: Hack Your Brain's Default Mode with Meditation Risk Taking: The Hardest Growth Hacking Concept to Teach Le rapport collaboratif - 1 Minute Guide NeuroHacking [SYDOSPEECH 2015] - Laurne Castor - Les 4 boosters de l'apprentissage NeuroHacking Blog, Neuroscience, Psychologie Positive et Dveloppement Personnel Cycle d'action - PDCA - Guide Neurohacking Muse in 45 seconds. Difficulty with meditation? Ariel Garten: Know thyself, with a brain scanner Ariel Garten Shows Off the Muse Headset at LeWeb Paris 2012 LeWeb 2011 Ariel Garten, Interaxon Connect your computer to your brain update LeWeb 2010 - Thought Controlled Computing - Ariel Garten, CEO, Interaxon - Tech & Innovation Thought Controlled Computing is Here -Cause/Action: Ariel Garten at TEDxSanDiego 2012 Hack Your Flow: Understanding Flow Cycles, with Steven Kotler Ariel Garten at The Chopra Center Sharon Salzberg: "Real Happiness at Work" | Talks at Google Meditation for Beginners - Featuring Dan Harris and Sharon Salzberg STOP La mthode simple de Mditation de la Pleine Conscience - Mindfulness - 1 minute Mditation de la compassion / bienveillance - 10 minutes Vipassana Meditation and Body Sensation: Eilona Ariel at TEDxJaffa 2013 How Meditation Can Reshape Our Brains: Sara Lazar at TEDxCambridge 2011 E.O. Wilson: Science, Not Philosophy, Will Explain the Meaning of Existence Stress Response: Savior to Killer [Private Video] 4 Cls pour grer son stress efficacement Pico Iyer: The art of stillness STOP: A Short Mindfulness Practice
Posted: June 19, 2016 at 3:42 am
Merge proposal for Neurohacking and Biohacking?
Wiki already cover biohacking, and the methods, technology and ontology are identical. ARAlexramonsky (talk) 10:10, 27 April 2010 (UTC)
There three articles seem incredibly similar and they are also in need of clean-up / expansion. Why not combine them and explain all the specific techniques within one article. I did a popularity check via google on the three terms and their variants:
From this view of things, I would suggest that we merge everything into neurohacking. What does everyone else think? --Ben Houston 22:12, 27 February 2006 (UTC)
I respect your idea, especially after reviewing your user page. I hope that mine will reflect a similar contribution some day. Having said that, I would like to defend the wetware hacker article. It is more developed then neurohacking, and I think that it is interlinked with the definition of wetware that I revised recently. I would like to assit with your goal of Improving the Cybernetic End of Human-Computer Interaction. Bocaj 02:17, 1 March 2006 (UTC)
No, dont merge. there is a clear difference. Wetware hacking is modifying the existing brain. Neurohacking includes the hacking of a simulation of a brain (which exists after mind uploading). There is a difference. Also, wireheading only involves the hacking of the existing brain - and only in one specific way. Crippled Sloth 23:35, 30 March 2006 (UTC)
Rather than merging it might make more sense to further narrow and separate the definitions. Wetware hacking being more along the lines of social engineering based upon communicating via normal spoken, written, and imaging routes, done by individuals or groups, targeting individuals or groups. With nothing done to augment that, no drugs, no physical coercion, no devices, beyond devices used to transmit normal human communications, done in much the same manner as computer hacking but in a human communication sense. So humans seeking to alter the nature of humanity via the effective use of memory memes, would be a prime example of wetware hacking. So the logic follows, hardware hacking (computer hardware), software hacking(computer software running on computer hardware), wetware hacking(those things that use computer hardware and software). Preceding unsigned comment added by 2001:44B8:23C:6D00:F44B:E181:2429:15F0 (talk) 05:40, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
I believe that a merger would not necessarily be helpful and may actually confuse the issue further. Remember that 'neurohacking' is not just about the brain; it is about neurons. You can neurohack your leg or your finger if you want to. Interrupting the signal of a nerve in order to stop pain anywhere is neurohacking. There is also a problem that serious practitioners are finding that people relate N-hacking more to the sci-fi/horror movies than the real life therapy or research [there used to be a similar problem in cryonics], and if we are aiming to be clear and informative here it's helpful to use terms such as DBS [deep brain stimulation] instead of 'wireheading'. AJ Ramonsky
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Posted: June 17, 2016 at 4:56 am
Even if scientists and marketers can't get access to our brains for neurohacking or neuromarketing, can they get access to our data? With unprecedented amounts of images and data available online, filling clouds and other Web-based storage, media, government regulatory bodies and marketers work around the clock to mine user preferences, habits and even relationships.
What to do with all of this data, and more specifically and maybe more urgently, how can we keep all of our activities in the virtual space from shaping the real space of our world? As search preferences narrow results when using the Internet, and our reading and research have become "optimized" based on what key words people search for, our choices in buying products and accessing news and information narrows as the enormous stores of data accumulate.
Data and the machines and algorithms used to manage and make sense of it could largely replace independent decision-making -- either large or small -- and it is happening at such a speed that it's sometimes hard to remember the data isn't in control. People still control the data, but just who has this control and what they do with it will become an ongoing challenge [source: Seligson; IGF].
Posted: June 12, 2016 at 8:20 pm
In the 1995 anime sci-fi classic, Ghost in the Shell, a futuristic world was envisioned in which cybernetic individuals routinely operate in the virtual world as easily as in the real one. Transhuman cybernetic minds are inextricably connected to the cyber-realm, leaving them vulnerable to attacks.
In this projected future people are subjected to 'ghost hacking' in which their minds are taken over by computer hackers without their knowing it. Their 'ghost' or essence, or soul, or self, or whatever descriptor you want to give for self-identity, is manipulated and controlled from a remote source.
As disturbing as this sounds, it's not beyond the realm of plausibility. When considering the Church-Turing thesis of computational compatability, and given recent insight into cognitive computationalism (or functionalism), one can make the assumption that future human minds will be indelibly linked to extraneous computer systems.
And as a frightening precursor to 'ghost hacking', also known as neurohacking, a recent article in Technology Review reveals that the first generation of invasive neurohacking may be only years away.
In her article, titled "Could Terrorists Hijack Your Brain?" Emily Singer reports on how security experts are warning that we need to prepare for a much broader spectrum of potential bioterror agents -- this according to a report released this week by the Washington, DC-based National Academies.
While most bioweapons research is focused on the usual suspects, namely such agents as anthrax and smallpox, it is now thought that emerging technologies in biotechnology and the life sciences could be usurped to take control of genes, immune systems, and even brains.
Terrorists, or even state-actors for that matter, could also co-opt relatively new technologies, such as synthetic biology (which aims to build organisms that can detect or produce chemicals or perform other functions) or RNA interference (a technique that allows scientists to easily control gene expression).
There is also concern about the potential of bioregulators -- small, biologically active organic compounds that can regulate different systems in the body. Newer technologies such as targeted delivery methods that zero in on the immune or neuroendocrine systems could make it easier to use bioregulators in evil ways.
Such is the double-edged sword of technological development. For each advancement, someone can twist it for self-serving and nefarious purposes. Consequently, in order to prepare for the ever-changing "threat spectrum," the advisors recommend that technologies with dual-use potential -- those that can be used to either help or harm humanity -- be continually reassessed to take account of rapid advances in biotechnology.
Additionally, it is suggested that a scientific advisory board be developed to assist the national security community and to ensure that teams monitoring these threats have the most up-to-date scientific expertise. It was also advised that public health infrastructures be strengthened and that incentives be put into place for the creation of broadly active vaccines and other products that can protect against diverse agents.
"It's like the transition from trench warfare to mobilized warfare between World War I and World War II," notes one of the report authors. "How do we begin to defend ourselves against that dynamic threat landscape? How do we adapt our health, medical, and biodefense systems to respond to that?"
Interestingly, the advisors also endorsed an open exchange of information in the life sciences as much as possible, emphasizing that the best means of protecting against future threats is further advances in technology.
So, are we indelibly headed for a Ghost in the Shell like future? Quite possibly yes, but it appears that we may have the safeguards, firewalls, and prophylaxis in place to deal with the problems as they arise.
As a final aside, humans have had to deal with 'neurohacking' for quite some time now, but not in such invasive ways. Ever since propaganda was developed, people have had their minds influenced by external sources. And memes themselves, whether they be autonomous or created and directed by individuals or groups, are impacting on their hosts, directing the human sense of self and how decisions are formulated.
It looks, however, that keeping control of our minds is about to get harder by an order of magnitude.
This article was orginally published on February 1, 2006.