Modern electronics enable deeper mind-to-mind talk

Smart rats may point the way toward achieving stronger co-ordinative human brainpower

Duke University scientists have connected the brains of two rats by wire. So Brian Dodson reported in Gizmag.

The rat-pairs scored 65 to 70 per cent in earning rewards – drops of water – for correctly conveying flashing-light and door-opening information to one another.

Smart rats may point the way toward achieving stronger co-ordinative human brainpower through linking brains together by wireless.

This sounds scary, but stronger brainpower arguably could help us make the world safer. The researchers are now trying to interconnect several rats. Could a “brain-net” become a super-brain? Neurobiologist Miguel Nicolilis and colleagues hope to find out.

Could an array of biological brains, networked together with a high-performance computer, outshine individual humans and offer workable solutions to global problems, just as IBM’s Big Blue outshone human champions in playing chess and answering Jeopardy questions?

Priest-scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was tuned in to this idea before the spread of computers. He postulated three levels of being: geosphere, biosphere and noosphere – the realm of thought.

The enquiry raises echoes ranging from global and United Nations, to local and Capital Regional District.

The optimistic view is that people have started to mobilize in quiet strength against such neglected dangers as the asteroid strike that wiped out the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.

Another strike will happen again, unless action is taken to find the undiscovered space-rocks and divert them – maybe with nuclear pushers or lasers.

Currently only $3 million a year is invested in asteroid research – one half of one per cent of the budget for cleansing polluted sites in the U.S.A. But the balance may change as the result of a meteor hit in Russia and an asteroid near-miss, Feb. 15.

Scientific people-watchers doubt that the popular mindset can be changed by deliberate, calculated action – action to convince us we must shield Earth from remotely foreseen asteroids, for example.

Most of us don’t care. But modern electronics have enabled faster, deeper mind-to-mind talk than ever before. So the old rules may be out of date.

Flexible, co-ordinated strategies may evolve, beyond the scope of orthodox government or commerce, to reduce the harm or danger of asteroid hits,  economic breakdown, nuclear war, ethno-linguistic hatred, global warming, destruction of fish and forests, road-traffic gridlock, drug addiction, dementia, violent crime and mass starvation.

I like to guess that such world-saving plans are already taking shape, but what do I know? Nothing.

I draw some pleasure from the notion of talk between species – like human to rat, guinea pig, goldfish or chimpanzee. Maybe future generations of kids will  enjoy conversations with their pets.

I would have been delighted to know what was passing through the minds of my white rats – or get some inkling of the thoughts in the heads of the wild rats and other animals I have met since childhood.

A puzzling two-way parade of rats passed along a rafter in a building where companions and I took our meals in Sri Lanka. Where did the rat commuters go, and what brought them back? Probably I will never know.

Some fish have sense-channels that humans do not have. They feel electric vibrations in the water.

I feel uneasy about trading thoughts with goldfish or electric eels, or even with hippos and giraffes. To my grandchildren, however, it may seem a natural process.

• G.E. Mortimore is a longtime columnist with the Goldstream News Gazette.