What happened?

A rather science fiction-esque experiment has shown promising results: the first successful demonstration of multi-person non-invasive direct brain-to-brain interaction (BBI) for solving a problem. Two people were given the role of ‘sender’, observing a Tetris-like game and had to decide if a block needed to turn or not in order to make a line at the bottom. A third person, the ‘receiver’, who could not see the bottom of the screen, had to rely on the counsel of the other two participants. These senders informed the receiver of their decision via a brain-to-brain interface (stimulation of the visual cortex), which is experienced as a flash of light that means “rotate” and its absence “do not rotate”. The receiver must decide what to do, based on the advice of the two senders. This kind of multi-person BBI can be regarded as a next step from single brain to brain interfaces and earlier experiments with brain computer interfaces (BCI) that have already been successfully experimented with for a few years. BCI systems are hardware and software communication systems that control external devices through brain activity. One of the important applications of BCI technology is to enable disabled people, such as paralytic patients, to regain mobility of some sort.

What does this mean?

The application of multi-person BBI technology is more about knowledge enhancement than physical enhancement. Potentially, it could provide direct access to each other’s ideas, memories and knowledge, which could result in a group/hive mind. Early interest in human BBIs was caused by its potential to expand human communication and social interaction capabilities. In nature, a collective knowledge network that is not dependent on a mediating language system can be found, for example, in a network of trees. Trees can communicate through an underground network to exchange information, nutrition, or, more negatively, to hack other trees and exterminate them.

What’s next?

Social media platforms, books, movies, multiplayer games etc. already fulfill the function of spreading information from (multiple) senders to (multiple) receivers. However, the information that is transmitted still needs interpretation from the receiver (words, images or symbols need to be converted by the mind into meaningful information), which can be a weak link in communication. For the interpretation of the receiver does not always correspond with the intended message of the sender, it can take a lot of time to understand information and many nuances can get lost, for example when we want to communicate emotions or sense experiences. The potential revolution of (multi-person) BBI, is to take away a layer of (conscious) interpretation. This could therefore be the next step into transhumanism, which aims to dissolve as many human obstacles as possible.