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"Reading" minds

vgaffney's picture

Following our conversation with Chorost,  I was very intrigued by the enhanced interaction and interconnection that seemed to be the goal of such a technological innovation (giving human brains constant access to the internet). Overall, I very much enjoyed listening to the aspects of the conversation revolving around the notion of communication. Admittedly, when I first read the sections of the book I was a bit wary of such close interconnection between minds. However, after hearing the advantages of modern technological innovations—email, instant messaging, facebook etc—I became more acclimated to the idea. Many people, mostly the older generation, are still adverse to these new practices of communication. However, this resistance of the new and unknown is understandable and, as Chorost pointed out, consistent with humans’ history with technological advancement. As he pointed out, each new technological advancement has always been met with opposition and resistance, but in time individuals have learned to adapt.  I’m still a bit unclear, however, on where exactly the line is drawn for this potential method of communication. It’s clear that the communication which Chorost suggests is aimed at bringing humans even closer together, bridging the current gaps in communication. However, he also mentioned in the book that humans will never be able to read each others’ minds: “It will never be possible to experience the world exactly the way another brain does” (13).  I still have some lingering confusion and don’t know exactly how to reconcile the notion of having access to another’s emotions and thoughts with this statement that reading minds will never be possible.  Is the suggestion implicit here that we would have access to others’ thoughts and emotions objectively—almost like a data stream—but would not glean the sensation of the subjective experience itself? I guess I’m still having trouble understanding what exactly such access to others’ thoughts and emotions would mean and what the implications or consequences might be.  Having access to another’s thoughts and emotions does seem to me to be pretty close to “reading” another’s private thoughts and emotions, even if it is only an objective account. 



MissArcher2's picture

Facebook again

 I feel like the answer to your question, vgaffney, lies in the existing technology that you point to, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. We've managed to connect so many threads of this class back to Facebook, and I think the way it functions could be used as a metaphor to explain your confusion over how to reconcile having access to another's emotions and thoughts but not be reading their mind. I think Chorost was suggesting that rather than open a computer or iPhone app, log into Facebook, and check our friends' news feeds, we'd simply have all of that information, via the internet, in our brains. The data stream would be like a news feed on Facebook, where people post status updates and talk to each other. Just because I can see someone's status doesn't mean I understand the emotions behind it and just because I read a wall-to-wall conversation between two friends doesn't mean I heard the entire story. 

I love that we had this conversation with Chorost, who is only able to hear us because of technology, over Skype, without which we would not have been able to have him in the classroom. Perhaps the future of the world wide mind would be a place where we are all able to seamlessly share thoughts and ideas, ask questions, and debate without the difficulties of setting up a webcam and having to repeat ourselves when someone's cochlear implants can't quite make out the yelling from the back of the classroom. 

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