Thursday, 23 September 2010

E. O. Wilson - Extract from 'Consilience' (as regards 'mind script')

Imagine the following experiment: A team of scholars ... has constructed an iconic language from the visual patterns of brain activity. The result resembles a stream of Chinese ideograms, each one representing an entity, process, or concept. The new writing - call it "mind script" - is translated into other languages. As the fluency of its readers increases, the mind script can be read directly by brain imaging.

In the silent recesses of the mind, volunteer subjects recount episodes, summon adventure in dreams, recite poems, solve equations, recall melodies, and while they are doing this the fiery play of their neuronal circuitry is made visible by the techniques of neurobiology. The observer reads the script unfolding not as ink on paper but as electric patterns in live tissue. At least some of the thinker's subjective experience - his feeling - is transferred. The observer reflects, he laughs or weeps. And from his own mind patterns he is able to transmit the subjective responses back. The two brains are linked by perception of brain activity.

Whether seated across from one another at a table, or alone in separate rooms or even in separate cities, the communicants can perform feats that resemble extrasensory perception (ESP). But only superficially. The first thinker glances at a playing card he holds cupped in his hand. With no clue other than the neural imagery to guide him, the second thinker reads the face of the card. The first thinker reads a novel; the second thinker follows the narrative.

Accurate transmission of the mind script depends as much as conventional language does on the commonality of the users' culture. When the overlap is slight, the script may be limited in use to a hundred characters; when extensive, the lexicon can expand to thousands. At its most efficient, the script transmits the tones and flourishes indigenous to particular cultures and individual minds.

Mind script would resemble Chinese calligraphy, not only a medium employed for the communication of factual and conceptual information, but also one of the great art forms of Eastern civilisation. The ideograms contain subtle variations with aesthetic and other subjective meanings of their own shared by writer and reader. Of this property the Sinologist Simon Leys has written, "The silk or paper used for calligraphy has an absorbent quality: the lightest touch of the brush, the slightest drop of ink, registers at once - irretrievably and indelibly. The brush acts as a seismograph of the mind, answering every pressure, every turn of the wrist. Like painting, Chinese calligraphy addresses the eye and is an art of space; like music, it unfolds in time; like dance, it develops as dynamic sequence of movements, pulsating in rhythm."

No comments:

Post a Comment