Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 23, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

ENHANCING THE MIND....Dwight Meredith recommended this New York Times Magazine article yesterday but I didn't click the link to read it. Big mistake. I'll never take Dwight's recommendations lightly again.

Allan Snyder, a researcher in Australia, has been experimenting with a device that directs electromagnetic pulses into the frontal lobes of subjects, and has found that it increases performance on a variety of mental tasks:

He has used TMS dozens of times on university students, measuring its effect on their ability to draw, to proofread and to perform difficult mathematical functions like identifying prime numbers by sight. Hooked up to the machine, 40 percent of test subjects exhibited extraordinary, and newfound, mental skills. That Snyder was able to induce these remarkable feats in a controlled, repeatable experiment is more than just a great party trick; it's a breakthrough that may lead to a revolution in the way we understand the limits of our own intelligence -- and the functioning of the human brain in general.

This is genuinely remarkable, especially considering that Snyder has only been doing this for a short while and we still know virtually nothing about what's really going on in the brain. But if this really turns out to work, it's possible that in the future it might affect more complex mental skills than the ones Snyder has enhanced so far, and we might be able to tune the machine to produce different effects.

So someday maybe we will go to work, and depending on what task we're working on we'll program the machine to enhance a critical skill. Maybe we'll be able to enhance multiple skills at once, and we'll change the programming dozens or hundreds of times a day depending on what we're doing.

This is all in the very early stages, but it's genuinely remarkable stuff with potentially mind blowing consequences. Read the whole article.

Kevin Drum 11:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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