Collaborative thinking

In recent a recent post I tried to explain my thinking between mechanical and virtual intervention on the human body and noted that it was difficult for me to imagine machinery penetrating the mind.

Today I stand corrected.

Having read Hamzelou’s (2016) contribution to New Scientist’s article entitled ‘We will soon be able to read minds and share our thoughts‘ I was fascinated by the possibility of collaborative thinking by mapping brain activity. Initially I found the idea really exciting and imagined a new generation of cybernetics where multiple people could contribute to a task without as much as opening their eyes.

However as I referred to in my previous post, I am of the belief that our minds and souls are what make humans unique and different one from another. I therefore began wondering what life would be like and how things such as global politics, the economy or even relationships would withstand a population functioning from unfiltered thoughts taken directly from the brain. I imagine it to be very different indeed.

I also found some irony in the suggestion that the thoughts of multiple human beings could be extracted and stored on a single device – typical of a client/server relationship. Perhaps we are heading towards a network of minds?

If this comes to fruition then the opportunities – in particular for education- could be very exciting indeed. As C.S Lewis once said “Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction”


Hamzelou, J. (2016). We will soon be able to read minds and share our thoughts. Retrieved: 4 February 2017.

3 Replies to “Collaborative thinking”

  1. This is a really interesting evaluation of a very very complex topic. I agree that losing the ability to conceal our thoughts if we choose would lead to a very different situation than we’re in now. Though I wonder if we’re already on that road? There are definite issues surrounding privacy and surveillance and our ability to conceal what we think. However, I have two follow up questions:

    – do you think that our ability to disclose (roughly) what we choose is actually connected to our mind and soul (which makes us unique)? is it innate, or a social construct? (I’m in two minds – no pun intended!)

    – do you think that ‘thought’ in its natural form would make much sense to an onlooker? or is it our interpretation of that thought that makes it intelligible? I strongly suspect that if a robot were able to read my mind right now it would very quickly go into shutdown… 🙂


  2. This is a fascinating post and comment, thanks Stuart and Helen. George Orwell’s dystopian “thought police” immediately spring to mind. Regarding your points, Helen,

    – I like to think that disclosing our feelings is the “natural” position as I like to think being truthful is the norm, but as we are social beings and therefore the “natural” is the social, we must have learned that withholding the truth and failing to disclose is sometimes in our best interest.

    – It isn’t often that I have thoughts which aren’t common to most people, but they have been mediated through my brain and body and experience which does in that sense make them unique.


  3. This is an interesting post (and wider conversation) Stuart.

    I wondered whether you felt any of these ideas – those in the New Scientist and your own – resonated with the course readings we’ve been looking at in block one? I thought there were a few points of interesting crossover. In fact if this is a subject of interest, it might be interesting to revisit this theme when we move on to talk about algorithmic culture in block 3.

    Meanwhile, as a light-hearted aside I’ve just finished reading The Restaurant at the end of the Universe therefore I might disagree with C.S. Lewis’ position on two heads 😉 :-/

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