Imagine a video game powered by your mind. You stare at an empty fireplace and try to meditate. You don't really know how, but when your brainwaves indicate some slight success, little flames start to burn. Partly through conscious learning and partly through unconscious conditioning, you acquire the ability to still your thoughts. At first the exhultation of partial success breaks the mood and douses the embers immediately. That stage passes, and eventually you stare at a roaring fire without even thinking about not thinking.
This finale is also a beginning, because it opens the rest of the game. You roam an imaginary world and play with symbolic toys that aid you to even more esoteric states of mind, which are also sought by some real Hindi and Buddhists.
Sounds too amazing to be true? I own this game, sort of. Journey to the Wild Divine comes with sensors that attach to your fingertips. Based on the electrical conductivity of your skin and other factors (I forget, it's old) the game attempts to measure your state of mind.
Does it work? Well. Since everyone's brain and skin is different, you calibrate it before you start playing. The first time you may be excited about your new game, creating more contrast and making it easier to convince the game you've achieved meditative quiet. In the future it may be different, making the game harder. Is it cheating to breath hard and try to feel excited while you calibrate the sensors, or is that how you're supposed to do it? Maybe just try to feel normal and average. What is that? The instructions don't say.
So one day you've having trouble, wishing you could find some cheat codes to light the fire with a blowtorch. Just as you're ready to give up and pull the sensors off in disgust, flames blaze up! Perhaps your acceptance of failure was a breakthrough.
More likely you moved your hand slightly as you got ready to pull off the sensors. That's the easiest way to make the flames blaze up. It would be silly to cheat yourself deliberately, but success conditions you, perhaps without your even being aware.
Will the Xwave sensors now being made for the iPhone change anything? They go on your head, so you don't have to worry about moving your hand. I wonder what happens if you move your head, and how you calibrate it.
Still a mind blowing concept, and I hope we don't have to wait for the sort of technology in my book. My novel is set in the future, and the nanotechnology in your blood can work with a helmet on your head to image and communicate with your brain. It's used for accelerated learning, communication, research, and as a collaborative tool. Gonna be quite awhile until that happens though, and my real interest is in human nature, our hopes and fears. Should we fear becoming Borg, or hope to unlock human potential?