John-Dylan Haynes – TOTAL RECALL Symposium


Reading and influencing other people’s minds seems like science fiction to you? Then John-Dylan Haynes’ talk during the TOTAL RECALL – Symposium is probably exactly your thing.

Neuro-Science has been one of the scientifial shootingstars in recent years, after all the decoding of our brain might hold the key for great future developments. How much do we know about our brains, how much will we know in the next years?

The human brain is an absolutely fascinating research topic. How the brain gives rise to conscious experience, how the mind is realized by our neural tissue, still remains unclear even after decades of research. But we have come a long way and have learned a great deal about the human brain over recent years. This is partly due to the tremendous advances in research methods, ways in which it is possible to measure many different aspects of brain activity. We have long been able to measure the activity of single neurons in the animal brain. But since the rise of modern brain scanners it has also become possible to study the human brain at work and observe the intricate patterns of brain activity that underlie our thought processes. Recent work has even shown that it is possible to some degree “read out” of brain activity what a person is currently thinking. Of course these are just first steps, but it seems that we are now unravelling more and more mysteries about the way the way the brain gives way to the unique capabilities of the human mind.

Total Recall is not only the theme of this year’s Festival Ars Electronica, it’s also the title of a movie (actually two, including the remake) and of course a technical term for recalling settings on digital devices. Will we ever be able to use our brains the way we are using computers, browsing through memories like files?

Of course the technological visions in science fiction movies appear much more sophisticated and ergonomic than current technology. But already today modern brain computer interfaces make it possible to control computers by thoughts alone. What neuroscience needs to show now is that it is possible to translate this basic research into powerful applications.

You take moments from various movies, including Total Recall, and try to put them in perspective with the knowledge we have to day. Do you mind sharing a couple of things that we can except to see during your talk?

The talk is based around short sequences from science fiction movies that involve brain technology. Imagine films such as Total Recall, Strange Days or Matrix. All these involve some form of technology that allows a human mind to “couple” with a computer system, to read out what a person is thinking and to even programm what they are thinking. The aim is to take these science fiction movies and to ask what is really possible, and what is likely to stay science fiction for a long time.

John-Dylan Haynes talk is part of the first panel of the TOTAL RECALL – Symposium on September 6th 2013.