Hacking Into The Human Brain Could Create Superhumans. Here’s How
You’ve probably heard the idea that people only use 10 percent of their brain. According to Moran Cerf, professor of neuroscience and business at the Kellogg School of Management, that is a complete myth.
No one can pinpoint exactly where the myth originated, but it can be traced as far back as the early 1900s, when psychologist William James argued that “humans only use a small part of their mental and physical abilities,” in his book “The Energies of Men”.
Research shows that you can access much more than 10 percent of your brain. In fact, your entire brain may be used at any given time, but the likely source of the myth, according to Cerf, is that you are only conscious and in control of a small percent. The rest is controlled subconsciously.
Cerf explains, “It is like the keys on your piano: not all of them are played all the time. At some point, each key is being used, but you wouldn’t say you’re using only 10 percent of the piano to play music.”
Similarly, in our brain, if you ask someone to see the world in shades of grey, they will fail. Even though processing colors is done in their brains, they cannot control the parts that govern the color processing. It is physically impossible for someone to access those processes that happen in their own brain, at least for now.
It’s also not possible to erase memories, remove information or control emotions at will. You can’t decide that you’ll be sad for 10 minutes and then happy for the rest of the day. However, Cerf argues that this could change.
Cerf, a former professional computer hacker for more than a decade, was curious if it was possible to “hack into the brain”, giving people access and control over unconscious systems.
He explains that the brain is currently wired like a one way road. Information goes in one direction. Neuroscientists call it “Feed-Forward” networks. It is nearly impossible for information to propagate backwards in the process.
By creating detours back to earlier points, neuroscientists could make information flow in both directions.
Working with patients whose brains were open for surgery, Cerf and his team placed electrodes inside the brain to create detours. In this state, they could access parts of the brain of patients and train them to have control over the parts that are normally inaccessible. The big question was: Could people change their interpretation of reality? In practice, they tested the theory on the perception system first.
There are multiple processes that happen before your mind sees: photons hit your retina, your brain aggregates the information into colors and shapes, and you eventually understand the image as, say, your mother.
However, if you could access the right sections of the brain, you could see one thing with your eyes and a different thing with your mind. You may see your mother, but elicit the thought of your father in your mind’s “eye”. This is just what Cerf’s research team did, but the possibilities don’t end there. With additional training, they could enable participants to alter what they heard. Imagine hearing a bully insult you, but your mind chooses to ignore it completely.
The study’s findings suggest that with more control of their brain, people could have more power and governance over their lives. You could see and hear what you want to, instead of what comes naturally through the senses. You could control how you feel, which could potentially end depression.
It could have incredible implications for relationships, work, satisfaction, and productivity. On the other hand, there’s the potential for backlash on mental health. What will happen if everyone sees themselves as fit, healthy and friendly, but in reality, they are out of shape and antisocial?
Additionally, if people have these abilities they might evolve so far beyond the rest of us that we would no longer be seen as equals. In his recent TED talk about the work, Cerf uses the example of the world’s smartest chimpanzee: It can interact with humans in a way that is similar to a two-year old child. Yet, we don’t consider these apes as part of our species. Will humans who developed absolute control over their minds consider us part of theirs, or would they view us the way humans view chimpanzees?
There is no doubt that Cerf’s accomplishments are incredible, but they also raise many questions about the implications for humans as a species. What is clear is that we should be asking these questions now, so that we are prepared to tackle the potential impact as is it becomes real.
How Enhanced Launch Vehicles Are Supporting The Booming Space Economy
More than 6,000 satellites have been sent into orbit around Earth since the space industry’s inception some 60 years ago, according to NASA. And a report from the Satellite Industry Association claims an average of 144 were deployed every year between 2012 and 2016. That’s an increase of 53 percent over the prior five-year period and part of the booming global space economy, which is now valued at US$339.1 billion.
That trend appears to be continuing as new players enter the market. While funding was once dominated by the global superpowers, private investment in the commercial sector has been fuelling the future of space exploration as companies look for market share in the space economy. Morgan Stanley estimates that the revenue generated by the global space industry may increase to $1.1 trillion or more by 2040, with the “most significant short- and medium-term opportunities [coming] from satellite broadband Internet access.” Behind this growth are several key factors:
- Mobile everywhere The drive to supply seamless mobile communications across borders, with no dead zones or roaming costs.
- Connecting the unconnected The desire to bring communications to remote communities to boost interpersonal connections and drive economic enablement.
- Eliminating congestion Enabling networks to support growing user numbers and bandwidth-hungry applications such as video, gaming or virtual/augmented reality.
During this new era of expansion and advancement, Japan is taking steps to ensure it solidifies its place as a global top-tier nation for space exploration and launch services by investing in flexible, reliable launch capability.
Flexible, reliable and affordable
For more than 10 years, Mitsubishi Heavy Industry (MHI) has been one of the cornerstones of the global space industry, working closely with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). MHI began providing launch services using the H-IIA in 2007 and the H-IIB Launch Vehicle in 2013.
The successor to the H-IIA/H-IIB vehicles will be the H3 – Japan’s new flagship rocket– which is on schedule to make its maiden flight in 2020. The H3 will support satellite launches for companies like Inmarsat – a world leader in global mobile satellite communications – which entered into an agreement with MHI as its first commercial customer. The H3 will also resupply missions to the International Space Station. The objective is for the H3 to support an increase of more than double the current average number of annual launches.
The H-IIA and H-IIB earned reputations for safety and high reliability; in particular, launch schedules were adhered to, helping to avoid unnecessary cost overruns. The H3 development team has been committed to maintaining this impressive record of on-time, on-budget delivery, while meeting the ever-increasing standards of the next generation of satellite launches.
The core advantages of the highly-flexible H3 will be its suitability to a wide range of launch requirements, superior reliability and attractive cost performance. Part of the initial project request asked the H3 to reduce the launch price by 50 percent. While the H3’s structural and propulsion systems are based on the existing specifications, process automation, the use of construction materials, and aerodynamic simplification and aerodynamic refinement are helping to achieve that cost reduction goal.
One of the most visible enhancements the H3 offers is a simpler and more reliable first stage engine – the LE-9, which uses a combustion system engine inherited from the LE-5B.
The flexible configuration offered by the H3 launch vehicle will offer two or three first-stage engines (LE-9) and zero, two or four solid rocket boosters (SRB-3) to help support different payload mass and orbit requirements. The H3 will also offer the highest-ever launch performance to geostationary transfer orbit, going beyond that of the existing H-IIA and H-IIB, and can support payload weights of approximately two-to-seven tons.
Agile and competitive
Only a few years ago, nations that now operate their own satellites faced insurmountable barriers to the space economy. However, the ongoing democratization of space put an end to that, opening space exploration up to more nations and facilitating the development of a thriving commercial aerospace sector. Now, both countries and private companies need an agile, competitive launch ecosystem – one that the MHI H3 aims to support.