Unlocking the brain

Nov. 19, 2011

So I was watching this documentary on Daniel Tammet, a math savant. He has great ability with numbers and a special synesthetic relationship with them, identifying them by shape, color, texture and feeling. He performs calculations without actually calculating. The way he describes it is that he sees a landscape which evolves, and these landscapes are linked to numbers which he can extract the answer from. Pretty interesting. The documentary also shows kids trained for years in the use of an abacus, who are able to perform calculations using an imaginary one, extremely fast. This leads to the conclusion that some of these amazing feats can be achieved by nurturing a potential in an ordinary person. Much like professional StarCraft players who are able to execute around 300 APM (actions per minute) while micromanaging their hordes (coverage on that herehere, and here), to the expense of several hours of massive training every day.

I think that in the future everyone will be able to do these seemingly amazing things without much effort. The photographic recollection of memories won’t be a skill of a few, but a synthetic enhancement anyone, at any time (or all the time), will be able to take advantage of.

Why do I think this?

I have a pretty good memory for faces, but an ordinary to poor memory for most other things. I have an interest in dreams, remembering them. The way they seem “erased” from your mind but you can recollect them in a split second if something triggers that memory by chance. If that memory can be triggered and retrieved even though it seemed gone, buried pretty deep, so deep you don’t even have that lingering feeling that it’s… almost… coming back to you, then there should be something we can take to enhance that process. I’ve got a feeling that mechanism has got to do with turning off all our sensors to the exterior and to our self-awareness, to a blank existence, allowing us to channel that buried memory back into our work memory or something of the sort.

I’ve experienced that blank existence in a lucid dream. It brought me to a state of absolute focus. I had read pieces of a wikibook on lucid dreaming two days before that night. When I felt the snap in my brain and was thrown into lucidity the first thing to come into my mind was the wikibook itself, because I immediately thought it had triggered that state. But I didn’t just remember the bits I had read. I actually saw the Wiki page as though I was sitting in front of the computer at the time. I was fully “awake” in my dream, I read the text my eyes had already covered two days back, the image crisp in my mind, way crisper than any other image I may try to recall while actually awake. Not only that, but I could sort my thoughts as easily as if they were physical blocks I could hold in my hand and shuffle. There was no noise or smell to overwhelm my brain and no other image to disrupt my view. It was blissful, a moment of intense control and peacefulness. I don’t know how long I was lucid for, but after a while I began to lose my focus, ideas became hard to grasp and I fell back into a regular dream of an unrelated subject. This seems to happen in some of my lucid dreams, when I seem to get too excited about how awesome all of it is…

Am I too naive to expect a legal drug able to trigger that sometime in my lifetime?