Wednesday, 13 January 2010

training my psychokinetic powers...

The Psychic Science website has quite an arsenal of rudimentary ESP tests, games and 'training 'devices (if indeed you can train for something as yet unpoven).

I've been 'training' for a few days now in order to develop my psychokinetic abilities (e.g. making dials turn left or right with my mind), and have the aching muscles (over my eyes and skewering my skull diagonally like a spit-roasted pig) to prove it. Despite the pain, my z-statistics remain sufferingly poor. Maybe I should stick with saturday crosswords and paper airplanes, things I'm actually good at...

In my frustration, I reach out to the various sources of info and 'techniques' for developing PK, and turns out I've been doing it all wrong! Apparently, the harder you try, the less likely it is to work (or something to that oxymoronic effect)!

I sigh. This has something of the Buddhist one-hand clapping logic about it (none). How am I supposed to develop something without effort? I read more in order to understand. Numerous informal accounts of macro-PK activity (briefly, macro-PK refers to instances where a person mentally moves objects such as chairs and clocks, or bends spoons, etc, whereas micro-PK refers to the generation of a non-random distribution of outcomes, such as when a person tried to make dice land on a six more than 1/6 times) suggest that it is not so much that PK events happen without effort, but rather, that they often occur when the person stops trying.

This anecdotal evidence is further supported by study by Pamela R. Heath (2000), which used a phenomenological approach (i.e. study of subjective experiences (Psychology)) to identify experiential factors that correlate with PK activity. The study examined the experiences of eight individuals who had had a PK experience. Fifteen factors were identified (e.g. altered state of consciousness, investment, openness to the experience) that correlated with PK experiences, including what is termed: 'release of effort/ attention'. Thus, according to this study, PK events tend to occur once the subject has stopped concentrating or trying to achieve an effect. So in fact, effort is required (one of the key factors identified in this study), but the PK event only happens upon release of that effort.

Of course, these findings, although interesting, are barely conclusive given that the study is based on eight individuals. However, reading this has reminded me of something I came across last week when I was writing about the thought-controlled wheelchair (posted 1st January) - according to Andrzej Cichocki, the project leader at the RIKEN research centre (which has produced the wheelchair in collaboration with Toyota), the wheelchair is piloted best if you don't try too hard. Again, the 'trying too hard' theme.

Could it be that trying hard isn't the problem, but trying hard with the wrong set of tools? Am I failing to move that stubborn dial in the right direction because I'm trying to hammer when I should be twisting? Or banging when I should be plucking? Or....alright, you get the picture: we're trying to swat mosquitoes with canon-balls.

So which is the right tool? What exactly is happening when there is a release of effort or concentration? What brain waves (or other magnetic/electrical force) are you emitting when you're not trying too hard? What mechansim comes into play at those times when you're slacking? Should I find the right tool, will it allow me to move mountains whilst staring into space, a mild hangover numbing my skull? Will lying in bed all day become not just acceptable, but obligatory? Are the lazy going to inherit the earth?

Friday, 1 January 2010

mind-controlled wheelchair

So I was watching a programme covering notable events of the year 2009, and amongst the obvious falling wall anniversaries and global financial collapses, a cursory mention was made about Toyota's release of a new faster-than-ever 'mind-controlled wheelchair' onto the market in mid-2009.

The wheelchair user's intentions ("turn left", "turn right" etc) produce definable electrical impulses which are picked up by a network of sensors that are embedded in a cap that the user wears on her head. These electrical impulses are analysed by an onboard computer, which translates the results to movement in a speedy 125 milliseconds. Check out the video on youtube.

Ok, so this isn't psychokinesis, but still pretty amazing - only difference with PK is that the process of converting an intention into an external response (without assistance of a finger or toe) is not only understood but made useable. Think of a future with this technology (with improvements)! The possibilities multiply exponentially with each aha!...

Think: sensor-embedded skullcaps indispensable as shoes. Think also: models skulking down catwalks sporting the latest fashion in sensor-embedded caps. Then think: doors and elevators, cars and motorbikes, lawnmowers, computer games and household appliances, all connected to your sensor-cap, picking up the electrical pulses and carrying out the commands. Imagine a world like this! Hands-free!

Maybe it would be fun for a while.

In the long run, however, the elimination of necessary physical activity to convert intention into a physical outcome could have some pretty disastrous consequences. Imagine arriving home from an exhausting day at work (where you were expected to work mind and hands in tandem), and throwing yourself on the sofa, where you proceed to switch on the lights, turn on the kettle in the kitchen, zap through the tv channels and make a few phone-calls without moving a finger! Man would you get FAT!

Or what if you don't really know what you want? What if you want something, but aren't aware of it? Could the technology pick up on an image, a memory, something you saw on tv earlier? What about clashing commands from different users?

Despite the long list of possible problems, I'm a believer in all things new. After some decades of lying in our sofas (it's not like we don't do that already), and setting fire to the kitchen, new ways of using the mind-matter technology would probably emerge that we haven't even thought of yet. Can't wait. Bring it on.