Excerpt: I’m writing this now as I’m not sure what I’ll remember tomorrow. Hell, I’m not even sure I’m writing this now. Yesterday when I woke up...
Well, let me back up a little. I don’t know who will ever read this, so I should explain. I—we, the people I work with, study the brain. Right now we are working on some-thing pretty neat, but also scary. We want to map a brain, functionally, down to the individual neuron. The trouble is, until now there’s been no way to do this without killing the brain’s owner.
But we’ve been able to do it—with a rat, and a cat. We don’t really know if it worked with the cat, but we are currently running a simulation of the rat’s brain and it appears to be exhibiting strikingly rat-like behavior. I.e. f—ing amazing. Top secret. Even writing this down on something outside of company premises I’m sure violates a dozen clauses in my contract, but...let me move forward.
This is basically my project. I’m the one who’s had the faith in it from the start, the drive to push it forward, and the ingenuity to make it work. But I feel I’ve been ﬁghting bureaucracies the whole way, from trying to get money from people who could never understand what it’s for to trying to get permission from people who could never understand why they should give it. We want to scan a monkey next. I think we’ll be employing lawyers and public relations people for years to get that one to ﬂy.
The problem is the process gives people the willies, especially animal rights oﬃcials, especially if they’re religious or spiritual and have other reasons for not wanting us to tread here. The process is not passive, and the subject is aware...of everything. And I do mean everything. We use a combination of drugs and targeted electromagnetic stimulation to selectively ﬁre semi-random sparse patterns of neural activity, and we use a sort of temporal computed tomography of the emitted EM to capture the resulting signal paths. That is, we’re able to trace individual axons from neuron to neuron, and over time build up a complete connectivity map of the brain. From there, we can forcibly trigger particular groups of neurons and observe how the neurons they are connected to respond. To make this as eﬃcient as possible, multiple non-overlapping groups are explored in this way in parallel—so it’s rather like the subject is in one moment be-ing forced to think of his grandmother, some musical score, a mathematical formula, a blue dot in his left visual ﬁeld, and the best way to clean a carburetor all at the same time. And then in the next moment, some completely diﬀerent set of things. Hundreds of times a second. And this goes on for many, many hours.
What makes the process tolerable is that half the drugs we’re using are devoted entirely to protecting the brain. Speciﬁcally, we completely halt the processes that normally lead to the physical changes underlying the formation of memories. In eﬀect the brain is held in a sort of chemical deep freeze, a state immune to change, but still able to function in a purely reactionary way. Other drugs keep the necessary neurotransmitters and nutrients replenished, and also keep the level of spontaneous activity as low as possible. This latter point would amount to keeping the subject un-conscious, except that we then go in and light up their brain with activity much as if they were conscious, but completely under our control. In some sense, we have drugged their will to sleep, closed their eyes and ears, and replaced all of that with a machine that decides exactly what they’re go-ing to think, see, hear and feel in each moment. Yes—some day this could lead to the ultimate virtual reality experience, but that’s a long time oﬀ. Right now there’s no real coherent thinking or experience going on. We don’t know nearly enough, nor have the computing power, to do that. Right now, it’s just a random nightmare of disconnected thoughts, feelings, and sensations, experienced in rapid ﬁre succession and immediately and forever forgotten. But that’s enough—that’s enough, I believe, for us to reconstruct the mind within the brain.