We are about to make history. As long as these electrodes don’t electrocute me first, I am seconds away from becoming the first journalist in the universe to try the professor’s telepathy machine.
He doesn’t call it a telepathy machine, of course. He’s a scientist so it’s called the brain-to-brain communication experiment, or B2B. Still, my brain is about to read his daughter’s brain. Gwyneth and I will communicate solely by brain wave. Which, in my unscientific book, is telepathy.
The “professor” is actually Dr Christopher James, a pioneering biomedical engineer at Southampton University, and his invention makes fact out of science fiction. Decades from now we won’t be phoning home to say the train’s late. We’ll be thinking it. Soldiers will take orders from their commanding officers cerebrally and minds imprisoned in disabled bodies will be free to communicate with others via cyberspace. Centuries from now, one evil dictator will misappropriate the brain-to-brain technology, take over all our minds and destroy us.
Right now we’re at the very beginning of this revolutionary journey. I’m at one end of an anonymous office on the university campus with two electrodes stuck to the back of my head (and one, alarmingly, on the front “for grounding”). Gwyneth is sitting at the other end thinking either “left” or “right”. Two electrodes are connecting her to a computer that can tell, from her brain waves, what she is thinking.
It then passes this information, via the internet, to my computer, which flashes a series of lights at me. I can’t tell the difference — it’s all far too quick — but my brain can. My electrodes detect the same sequence of lefts and rights that Gwyneth is thinking. In short, my brain has read her brain. Eureka.
James is keen to point out his invention’s limitations. If his 11-year-old daughter thought of a cat or Venezuela or how she’d much rather be out tobogganing than sitting here thinking of left and right, I wouldn’t know it. We can only do lefts and rights. Nevertheless, non-verbal communication has arrived. …