The same sort of "Library of Vicarious Living Experiences" visualized for the turn of the century has been imagined by Arthur C. Clarke at the end of his books, "Profiles of the Future". Clarke states that;"artificial memories, if they could be composed, taped, and then fed into the brain electronically ... would be a form of vicarious experience far more vivid (because of its affectation of all the sense) than anything that could be produced by the massed resources of Hollywood. They would indeed be the ultimate form of entertainment - a fictional experience more real that reality..."
Robert Anton Wilson notes in his article 'The Sexual Domestication of the Four Brained Biped', that the fifth circuit of the brain defines 'Cybersomatic Intelligence' - the capacity to expand, intergrate, rewire and hedonically engineer all the previous imprints in terms of direct bodily sensation. The first scientific study of this circuit 'Cosmic Consciousness' by psychiatrist R.M. Bucke, proposed that this was a new evolutionary development, not a pathology, and it seemed to be statistically increasing in recent centuries.
In fact, Phillip K. Dick in his short story, "We can remember it for you Wholesale", is totally concerned with the concept of memory experience brain implant in future societies. "A tangible reality programmed by technicians. An economic variant for those who cannot afford the real thing." The idea of memory stored within the brain goes back to classical times. Stimuli falling on the sensory organs produces disturbances in the brain, which cause the perception of the stimuli. The disturbances leave behind traces, minute changes in the structure of the brain. As a result of these changes, brain activity becomes more likely to follow the same paths again in a response to stimuli that are similar, or whose traces are intermingled or "associated" with those first stimulus.
In the 17th century, Descartes proposed a hydraulic version of his theory based on the assumption that nerves are hollow and conduct a flow of 'animal spirits'. Sensory nerves contain delicate threads attached to the valves within the brain, the opening of which releases animal spirits which pass through the nerves to the appropriate muscles. Descartes in fact invented the concept of the reflex; animal spirits are 'reflectal' in the brain, and pass back to the muscles. Descartes' ideas are echoed in the modern theories of Synaptic Modification.
Pavlov's famous research in conditioned reflexes greatly strengthen the traditional concept of 'traces'. Pavlov himself was reluctant to claim that reflex arcs depended on specifically localized traces within the cerebral cortex, because he found that the conditioning could survive considerable surgical damage to the brain.
Modern theories usually rely on computer analogies, the central model of which is coding, storage and retrieval. Karl Lashley considered the possibility that memories might not be stored inside the brain at all. He suggested that rather than localized traces, there must be multiple memory traces throughout the entire functional area of the brain. He thought that this indicated that; "...the characteristics of the nervous network are such that when it is subject to any pattern of excitation, it may develop a pattern of activity reduplicated through an entire functional area by the spread of excitation, such as the surface of a liquid develops an interference pattern or spreading waves when it is disturbed at several parts". He suggested that recall involved some sort of resonance among a very large number of neurons. These ideas have been carried further by his former student Karl Pribram, in his proposal that memories are stored in a distributed manner analogous to the interference patterns in a hologram.
Analogous experiments have shown specific memory traces cannot be localized. This has led to the seemingly paradoxical conclusion that "memory is both everywhere and nowhere in particular." Not only have the hypothetical memory traces proved to be spaceiously elusive, but their physical nature has also remained obscure.
The idea of specific RNA "memory molecules" were fashionable in the 1960's, but have now more or less been abandoned. The theory of reverberating circuits of reverberating electrical activity, giving a kind of "echo" may help to account for short term memory over periods of seconds or minutes, but cannot plausibly explain long term memory. The most popular hypothesis remains the old favorite that memory depends on modifications of synaptic connections between nerve connections in a manner still unknown.
The electrical evocation of memories has been conducted by Wilder Penfield. Stimulation of the secondary visual cortex ,gave rise to complex recognizable visual hallucinations, e.g. flowers, animals, families, people and so on, and in epileptics when some regions of the temporal cortex were touched - some patients recalled appropriately specific memory sequences - for example, an evening at a concert, or a telephone conversation. The patients often alluded to the dream-like quality of the experiences.
The electrical evocation of these memories could mean that they were stored in the stimulated tissue as Penfield initially assumed in that it could mean that stimulation's of that region activated other parts of the brain that were involved in remembering the episode - but it could also mean that the stimulation resulted in a pattern of activity that tuned into the memory by Morphic Resonance.
Penfield, like Lashley and Pribam, ,gave up the idea of localized memory traces within the cortex in favor of the theory that they were distributed in various parts of the brain instead, or as well. The advantage of this hypothesis is that it accounts for the recurrent failure of attempts to find these traces. The disadvantage is that it is untestable in the light of formative causation. The elusiveness of memory traces have a very simple explanation - they do not exist. Rather, memory depends on morphic resonance from the patterns of activity of the brain. We do not carry all our memories inside our brains. If we are influenced by morphic resonance by particular individuals to whom we are in some way linked or connected, then it is conceivable that we might pick up images, thoughts, impressions of feelings from them either during waking life, or whilest dreaming in a way that would go beyond the means of communication recognized by contemporary science Such resonant connections would be possible even if the people were thousands of miles apart.
Is there any evidence that such a process actually happens? Perhaps there is, for such a process may be similar to if not identical with the mysterious phenomenon of telepathy.
There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence for the occurrence of telepathy many people claim to have experienced it themselves, and it has been detected in many parapsychological experiments." This evidence of course is much disputed, largely because from the conventional scientific point of view, telepathy, like the other alleged phenomena of parapsychology is theoretically impossible By contrast, in the context of the theory of morphic resonance, it is theoretically possible.
On the other hand, Carver Mead is using silicon as a medium to design nervous systems - the networks of neurons, axons and synapses that shape sight, hearing and touch. Silicon would come to his senses - or more precisely, the senses would come to silicon. Traditional computer chips are not up to the challenge of replicating the senses, which, if you think about it, only makes sense because we do not see and hear like computers do by contrast, Mead's chips are analogies of the real thing. He has crafted synthetic neurons into a silicon retina that can see, not like a movie camera, but like an eye He has designed a silicon cochlea that hears not like a tape recorder, but like the ear. In fact, it is now being considered for cochlea implants for the profoundly deaf. Other neural network chips emulate memory - what is more, these chips do not need to be programmed they can learn from experience.
"We can already do some pretty amazing things": says Mead. "This gives you a way to deal with the natural world. . "
Even today, some of these neural network chips can do things that would stump a CRAY supercomputer. Even if digital computers will always remain the highspeed calculator of choice, just as movies and television have become the mirrors of culture and society, the emerging generation of neural network may become the new mirrors of senses and of thought.
What does the future of computing look like then? The computers are based on biological models of thought instead of computer models.
These are not speculative questions - these are the questions this new design metaphor creates.
A. Newton Anterior Research 1991