Developing inner values is
much like physical exercise. The more we train our abilities, the stronger they
become. The difference is that, unlike the body, when it comes to training the
mind, there is no limit to how far we can go.
Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
In scientific investigations into the nature of physical
reality, the most mysterious aspect of the universe continues to be the nature
of consciousness itself. This unknown quality is at the heart of our
experience, yet we do not understand the physical nature of the very process
that is conducting the inquiry.
We know more about black holes in interstellar space than
we do about what is happening to the matter and energy inside our heads and which creates
the interior sense of being alive in the world and self-aware. We know less
about how our mental experience occurs in the material world than we do about any other subject we
This is the hardest problem of neuroscience and it is the
most abstruse of philosophical issues. The nature of our conscious experience –
not just the trillions of synaptic, neuronal, and dendritic interconnections
which serve as networked pathways for our impulses and which animate our
behavior, but simply the most common and fundamental aspect of our experience –
seems ultimately beyond our comprehension.
Yet, we use our minds to do things, even while we do not well
understand how they function. The coming era of brain/computer interface
technology moves the lag time between intent and action in the world toward
zero. How well we are able to train our brains to be more open, resilient, and
responsive does determine how well integrated we will be within the new
bio-technological environments we are creating for ourselves. And because we
will build them before we understand them, it is crucial we condition ourselves
to be the kind of creators we would want to entrust with the future.
Image: The author controlling a computer display using EEG brainwave technology.
YouTube video: “IBM Next 5 in 5 2011: Mind Reading”