In the 90s I developed a concept, a “road map” that would show how technology and the skills of the brain can evolve and improve one-another. Even today, I am convinced that these issues are converging more and more, hence the idea for a name I coined for my plan and “road map”: Mental Convergence. Since a lot has happened on the way, this time I would like to offer a small retrospect and dedicate the next blog post to discussing the Road Map’s future.
So far in the cultural history of mankind the expansion of the human mind has been pursued through approaches such as meditation and new-fangled techniques of mental training. Already so, amazing things are indeed possible, which have the power to remove us far from the everyday consciousness and enable us to experience new forms of awareness and adventures. The core issue of Mental Convergence has been thus far, how can we enhance the human spirit through the use of technology, or even eventually merging with technology at some point.
You see, we know that we can only evolve as humans by either developing the human individual or by being more skillful at connecting humans, or letting themselves be connected,. Or both. Mental Convergence is now about the first possibility, the human spirit and what results the mix of brain research, knowledge of the human spirit and digitization can lead us to.
My first interest was aimed at learning. And not just learning in the sense of numbers, dates, facts, but also what we would consider the personality development that takes place during coaching. The ideal model for such a learning was shown to me in the movie “The Game”, in which the main character – played by Michael Douglas – is given the chance to take part in a game that changes his life. The game in the movie is “real”, in the sense that the participant plunges into it with his full experience and senses; therefore, it also causes profound changes in him. And the game is tailored to his personality, his perception and to the problems lying deep under his conscience.
So “full immersion”, tailored to the individual, should be a reasonable Mental Convergence System for adventurous learning. At this time I had already largely completed my training in NLP, Hypnosis and Design Human Engineering. That provided me with “material” for my journey. In NLP we learn, for example, that the way people represent certain perceptions, thoughts, ideas in their head is unique to each person. It makes a difference whether I see certain ideas as images, or “hear” them in an inner dialogue. And in order to achieve specific effects, these images must be presented in a certain way, which in the NLP is called “submodalities”. Therefore learning content is presented to me, specifically tailored for my mind, and thus making it more likely that I remember it, as if it were a “Standard-Show”.
That is what I wanted to display – at least rudimentary – in technology. In the experimental and future oriented 90s I have since tried weird things with the emerging 3D worlds. A classic was my VRML Submodalizer from 1997, a web-based 3D application, which was supposed to help with mental training. The application was based on the VRML programming language and used the freshly developped 3D-sound and MPEG-video. The user could adjust directly the size of the central image, at which distance it appears and the direction from which it comes. Likewise, he could adjust the direction and the volume of the “hypnotic voice” in his headset. Even the color of the background would be individually controllable. So each user could adjust the display as he himself would represent it “in his mind”. And it is exactly such a representation that he will be likely to believe.
We remember that this was well before the Internet and multimedia and in an era before smartphones existed. To program something like this today in an app with 3D glasses would obviously be too easy. Amazingly, nobody does it. The zeitgeist is absolutely not experimental when it comes to such topics. People will rather program apps that create a merciless submission to some diet guru (more details on positive exceptions in the second part).
My approach to binding mind and technology went on to computer games with biofeedback, in which the computer was controlled through body measurements or where one’s own feelings had an impact on the gameplay (yes, this kind of things already existed about 20 years ago!). Even such a thing could be used in the future for computer-assisted learning.
The experiments of that time led me to learning with games, also online games, and to the fact that I am working on a daily, pragmatic basis in the e-learning and mobile learning area ever since. But I have never forgotten the futuristic agenda behind it.
At the same time I was working on the “VRML Submodalizer” I also worked intensively on another “cool” area: lucid dreaming, which is the ability to become aware during a dream that you are dreaming, but to remain in that dream. In addition to the fun you can experience in such dreams, it’s relevance to my topic is obvious. Do we have a better game machine so far than our brain? Where do we get more “full immersion” with all your senses than in our dreams? It would seem pretty obvious to use this for learning purposes or for personal development as long as our 3D technology is not advanced enough, right? Pioneers like Paul Tholey also tried accordingly to experiment with sports training within lucid dreaming.
On my Mental Convergence path, I approached the topic of lucidity along with the mental training, technologically. I tried all tools, such as the NovaDreamer or the DreamSpeaker, etc., when they came on the market, supported by self-made hypnosis tapes.
What I noticed back then already – that fits perfectly into my concept – was the similarity of perception in dream worlds and virtual worlds. Oneironauts (as the lucid dreamers are called) have to learn, for example, how to control their attention, in order to stay in the dream. They need to realize what exactly is caused by the fact of “being there”. Experiments on perception in virtual worlds at HitLab – Washington University, showed excitingly enough the exact same criteria that made people in cyberspace feel the illusion was real and from their point of view that they were “there”. So could it be possible at some point, to merge our mental landscapes and virtual landscapes in order to develop our mind?
Continue with Mental Convergence in the next blog post!