Home » Ariel Garten: Redefining Consciousness at TEDxToronto (Transcript)

Ariel Garten: Redefining Consciousness at TEDxToronto (Transcript)

Normally, we think about technology as interactive. This technology is intra-active. It understands what’s inside of you and builds a sort of responsive relationship between you and your technology so that you can use this information to move you forward.

So you can use this information to understand you in a responsive loop. For example, a thought controlled computer can teach children with ADD how to improve their focus.

With ADD, children have a low proportion of beta waves, or focus state, and high proportion of theta states. So you can create applications that reward focused brain states. So you can imagine kids playing video games with their brain waves and improving their ADD symptoms as they do it. This can be as effective as Ritalin.

Perhaps even more importantly, thought-controlled computing can give children with ADD insights into their own fluctuating mental states, so they can better understand themselves and their learning needs. The way these children will be able to use their new awareness to improve themselves will upend many of the damaging and widespread social stigmas that people who are diagnosed as different are challenged with.

We can peer inside our heads and interact with what was once locked away from us, what once mystified and separated us.

Brainwave technology can understand us, anticipate our emotions and find the best solutions for our needs. Imagine this collected awareness of the individual computed and reflected across an entire lifespan. Imagine the insights that you can gain from this kind of second sight. It would be like plugging into your own personal Google.

On the subject of Google, today you can search and tag images based on the thoughts and feelings you had while you watched them. You can tag pictures of baby animals as happy, or whatever baby animals are to you, and then you can search that database, navigating with your feelings, rather than the keywords that just hint at them.

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Or you could tag Facebook photos with the emotions that you had associated with those memories and then instantly prioritize the streams that catch your attention, just like this.

Humanizing technology is about taking what’s already natural about the human-tech experience and building technology seamlessly in tandem with it. As it aligns with our human behaviors, it can allow us to make better sense of what we do and, more importantly, why.

Creating a big picture out of all the important little details that make up who we are. With humanized technology we can monitor the quality of your sleep cycles. When our productivity starts to slacken, we can go back to that data and see how we can make more effective balance between work and play.

Do you know what causes fatigue in you or what brings out your energetic self, what triggers cause you to be depressed or what fun things are going to bring you out of that funk?

Imagine if you had access to data that allowed you to rank on a scale of overall happiness which people in your life made you the happiest, or what activities brought you joy. Would you make more time for those people? Would you prioritize? Would you get a divorce?

What thought-controlled computing can allow you to do is build colorful layered pictures of our lives. And with this, we can get the skinny on our psychological happenings and build a story of our behaviors over time.

We can begin to see the underlying narratives that propel us forward and tell us about what’s going on. And from this, we can learn how to change the plot, the outcome and the character of our personal stories.

Two millennia ago, those Greeks had some powerful insights. They knew that a fundamental piece falls into place when you start to live out their little phrase, when you come into contact with yourself. They understood the power of human narrative and the value that we place on humans as changing, evolving and growing.

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But they understood something more fundamental: The sheer joy in discovery, the delight and fascination that we get from the world and being ourselves in it; the richness that we get from seeing, feeling and knowing the lives that we are.

My mom’s an artist, and as a child, I’d often see her bring things to life with the stroke of a brush. One moment, it was all white space, pure possibility. The next, it was alive with her colorful ideas and expressions.

As I sat easel-side, watching her transform canvas after canvas, I learned that you could create your own world. I learned that our own inner worlds — our ideas, emotions and imaginations — were, in fact, not bound by our brains and bodies. If you could think it, if you could discover it, you could bring it to life.

To me, thought-controlled computing is as simple and powerful as a paintbrush. One more tool to unlock and enliven the hidden worlds within us.

I look forward to the day that I can sit beside you, easel-side, watching the world that we can create with our new toolboxes and the discoveries that we can make about ourselves.

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