Monday, December 12, 2011

Instant Learning through Your Television

I'm highly suspicious of the claim being made here, but io9 links a press release at the National Science Foundation that claims researchers have found a way to make you learn stuff just by looking at things.  Wait a minute, I thought we already knew we could do that.

What the researchers found, or say they found, is that they can use what they call functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to cause the brain activity to reach a certain desired state. It's entirely possible that I don't understand what they're saying, but it sounds like they're saying you can learn stuff by watching things. Hm.

The NSF and io9 both suggest this is similar to the instant learning via brain download shown in the Matrix films, though to me it sounds more like the instant learning that appeared in one episode of ye olde television classic, The Prisoner (the original, not the sucky remake), in which a person could get instant, detailed knowledge of history by looking at a picture on a TV screen.

From being able to make a person recognize shapes faster by showing him pictures--at least I think that's what they're doing; neither the NSF article nor the accompanying video is exactly crystal-clear--the writers have leapt to the speculation that we soon will be able to become super-athletes or quickly heal diseases simply by looking at pictures on computer screens.  Whatever this research actually implies, I strongly suspect it doesn't imply that.  And if you think altering your brainwaves is all it takes to be an athlete, you're dreaming.

What I want to know is whether these researchers are any closer to developing a growling robotic balloon that suffocates people.
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