Brain to brain ‘direct’

April 2014: Some random musings that might get me into trouble.

2-brainCommunication in essence is trying to make another person’s brain a bit more like your brain. So would direct brain to brain communication achieve this much better than we can achieve this now? Communication has thrived through technological inventions. Writing enabled human beings to communicate with other people long dead and people far away.

Printing and mass literacy extended the reach of written language to anybody. Telegraph and telephone enabled human beings to communicate instantaneously even when both are in distant places. Smartphones have enabled human beings to ‘text’ and ‘chat’ with very little time lag.

Now consider this: Two people can be in different locations, and they are asked to connect with each other by the power of their thoughts and feelings. Imagine electrical activity, perhaps in the form of waves displayed visually, as the only way that messages can flow between the two people. With a little more technological development it might be possible to induce the waves to follow that same rhythm in both brains.

Since communication is in essence changing each other’s brains to be more alike, would such a direct connection make communication better than ever?

There is something strange about this. But what?

Everything we normally use for communication, words, voice, expression, gesture, and so on, is produced by our brain, but is bypassed in direct brain to brain communication. Communication typically suffers if one of these channels is not available – so what would happen if none were? All these channels are the result of millions of years of evolution, precisely to enable brain to brain communication.

Surely there is more to communication than sharing our thoughts and feelings and making each other’s brains more alike. But what? What about conscious reflection? What about conscious decisions about what to say and what to conceal, what to make a joke about, thrown scorn on,  or hammer home relentlessly. What about knowing when to stop a communication?

My preliminary conclusion is that communication brain to brain can at best be only contagion and contagion is only the most basic form of communication. In this sense brain to brain communication is no better than body to body communication:  we can pick up ‘vibes’, smells, moods, laughter, fear and anger from each other. But this is only the basic alignment stage of social interaction. What is the alignment for, that is the question.

Once aligned, we can start to change each other’s brain in the way we like to do it – by talking, usually.  Communication as we know and like it involves persons and not just brains. Involving persons means taking into account the history of previous communications, the attribution of dispositions, traits and attitudes. On top of this it also requires the tracking of mental states from moment to moment.  Strangely enough, although all these processes can function unconsciously and automatically, at the sub-personal level, it seems that to properly communicate we need the personal level. In other words, consciousness.

The different channels of communication are not enough to do the job that we have come to expect from talking to or texting each other. There is something over and above that owns and deploys these channels, and this is not just the person, but the conscious person.

We need to do more than linking up brains to improve communication.





2 thoughts on “Brain to brain ‘direct’

  1. When a cognitive ability evolves, a motivation to use it and a sense of reward from having achieved it must also evolve. Otherwise we would not bother to use that ability. Brain-to-brain communication would be like being fed through a naso-gastric tube. It would lack all the enjoyment of normal social interaction.

    But there is another problem. I might think I would find a brain-to-brain download of Spanish useful if I was about to go to live in Spain. But a download of the lexicon and the rules of grammar would be no more useable than a Spanish/English dictionary and a text book of grammar. To use the language properly I would need all the semantic memory of the brain-sender and that would require me to have all his episodic memories as well. So when I was talking in English I would be me and when I was talking in Spanish I would be him. Perhaps I’ll just stick to evening classes.

  2. Hello,

    You ask: “Since communication is in essence changing each other’s brains to be more alike, would such a direct connection make communication better than ever? There is something strange about this. But what?”

    Observing my teenage Aspie boy, the following comes to mind…

    Perhaps your premise is blocking the way to the “what”. From an evolutionary view, our brains might not be aligning to each other at all, but synchronizing to one another, in order for us to cooperate and survive (to be social). This synchronicity adapts to the environment in which the two minds find themselves in, so a dynamic feedback between the two minds will keep the synchronicity calibrated just right, for social behavior to appear or continue.

    The communication you mention is a tool marking a very advanced stage of synchronization, where the calibration is made in a complex and fast manner. From guttural utterances of fear or warning, to formal sentences denoting abstract thought and purpose, communication remains a tool for calibrating the synchronization of two minds.

    None of this is possible without consciousness, and mental states are only perceived as such through the dynamic equilibrium of ongoing calibration in the synchronicity of minds.

    Thank you for your hard work, my very best,


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