Brain-to-brain communication

Communication seems to be a bit of a theme just at present!

About 18 months ago, I wrote a piece on Learning from Dogs about Rupert Sheldrake’s fascinating book Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home. The reason that this has come up again (and, as it happens, I’m rereading Sheldrake’s book just now) is a recent item on the Big Think website called Can We Have Brain-to-Brain Communication?  Here’s what was written.

Dr. Michio Kaku addresses the question of Collective Intelligence. Some people think that the next big innovation in the coming decades is not going to involve the Internet because we can already connect computers to the human mind. Therefore, Dr. Kaku says this brain-to-brain communication would involve not just the exchange of information, but also the transmission of emotions and feelings, “because these are also part of the fabric of our thoughts.”

There’s also an interesting 4-minute video by Dr. Kaku that may be accessed here.

But then again, many pet owners would probably take it for granted that our cats and dogs can read our mind, as Dr. Sheldrake rather entertainingly explains below.

Before closing today’s post, the research that Dr. Sheldrake has undertaken is very impressive.  His website is here, from which one learns that,

Dr. Sheldrake

Rupert Sheldrake, one of the world’s most innovative biologists and writers, is best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance, which leads to a vision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory.

He worked in developmental biology at Cambridge University, where he was a Fellow of Clare College. He was then Principal Plant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), in Hyderabad, India. From 2005 to 2010 he was Director of the Perrott-Warrick project. , funded from Trinity College, Cambridge.

Rupert Sheldrake … Biography 
A Guide to the Website Rupert’s Science and Philosophy

The website is a very useful resource, as this section underlines,

Unexplained Powers of Animals

by Rupert Sheldrake

In the late 1980s and early 1990s I explored a variety of experimental approaches for the investigation of unexplained phenomena that might help to enlarge our scientific view of the world, summarised in my book Seven Experiments That Could Change the World: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Revolutionary Science (1994).

One of the seven experiments concerned unexplained abilities of animals, and I published a series of papers on the unexplained powers of animals, see Papers on animals .

I summarised much of this research in my book Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals (1999).

My research with Aimée Morgana into the telepathic powers of her African Grey Parrot, Nkisi, led to the celebrated debate at the London RSA with Prof Lewis Wolpert, which is featured on this website The Telepathy Debate 

More information is available on Nkisi, including a tape of one of his conversations with Aimée in The Nkisi project

So if your pet is looking at you as though they know what you are thinking – they probably are!

28 thoughts on “Brain-to-brain communication

  1. There is also research showing that our plants know what’s going on, too. Personally, I think all living organisms have a conscience. Just because humans are not yet smart enough to know it, or understand it, doesn’t mean that Mother and Father Nature’s little ones don’t know what’s going on in their world.

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      1. Russel, this just in to my ‘in-box’, a Sheldrake newsletter, from which I extract:

        We look forward to another family migration to Cortes Island next summer, when I am scheduled to give a workshop at Hollyhock together with my sons Merlin and Cosmo, called “Plants, Minds and Resonance”, from July 31 to August 4, 2013. Merlin is now back in the jungles of Panama, studying the mycorrhizae on the roots of forest trees, and contending with torrential rain, muddy trails and bullet ants. Cosmo graduated this summer from Sussex University in anthropology, and is now making music in London.

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    1. Martin, a number of thoughts come to mind.

      Firstly, have you read Sheldrake’s book? He is a serious scientist who has backed up countless examples of ‘morphic resonance’ with good research and good science. His web site contains much of value.

      Secondly, across the animal kingdom there are numerous examples of, what I will call cognitive linking. Many of the herding, flocking, shoaling, swarming, podding creatures exhibit group behaviour that can’t be explained otherwise. But we can’t deny the behaviour that we see all around us.

      Thirdly, take this story told to us yesterday by the inspector who was undertaking a home inspection for our potential buyer. He owns 5 dogs; I will call him ‘B’.

      B sat down with us after he had completed his inspection. The talk was all about dogs. B queried Sheldrake’s book that was laying on the table. He recounted this tale.

      A number of years ago he had a very close relationship with a dog that was a Golden Retriever. B spoke of the very close bond that he shared with the dog.

      His father was terminally ill and on the night of his father’s death he was by his father’s side at the hospital. The dog was at home in the bedroom with B’s wife.

      B’s father died shortly after 1am and a few hours later he arrived back home some miles away from the hospital. He was surprised to see his wife awake and aware of the sad event, before B had even mentioned anything. Reason was that shortly after 1am B’s wife had been awakened by the dog starting up a mournful howl.

      It’s not science, only anecdotal. But the stories of this form of resonance between humans and animals are legendary; Sheldrake’s books cover much of the research that has been carried out.

      Finally, there is an arrogance in today’s ‘know-it-all’ society that there is nothing left to discover. Whereas the truth to my mind is much more along the lines of the more we know the less we know.

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      1. Thanks for politely (but firmly) rebutting my scepticism.

        I am afraid my scientific training tends to make me assume all such anecdotes essentially mistake correlation for causation (i.e. “rooster syndrome”). However, setting that aside, I must admit I am emotionally inclined to reject the idea that everything is capable of scientific explanation. Therefore, I am still mulling over Stephen Hawking’s Grand Design programme on the UK’s Discovery Channel last night – the final installment of a 3-part series looking at the nature of reality; the meaning of life; and whether the Universe needs a creator. Hawking politely (but very firmly) placed God in a box marked “superseded and unnecessary superstition”… From a cosmological point of view, there was nothing I had not already heard in these programmes but the way the message was put together it is hard to fault. However, I was left with two concerns: A seriously disabled but brilliant scientist like Hawking would not want God to exist because ultimately (1) his chronic disability would seem ‘unfair’; and (2) his life’s work would seem ‘pointless’ (i.e. “God did it!” is not a scientific explanation). Therefore, whilst I appreciate his predicament, I am inclined to think that scientific attempts to explain the existence of the Universe and/or dismiss the existence of God are unwise.

        Therefore, also, I cannot prove that Sheldrake is wrong (I can only say I am sceptical).

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      2. I must admit I am emotionally inclined to reject the idea that everything is capable of scientific explanation.

        You see that’s interesting because I believe that everything is, and will be, capable of scientific explanation. It’s just that we are a very long way from understanding the science behind many things that we see around us, and will see in the vastness of the future ahead of us.

        Take, as another example, the work that is being carried out under the generic lable of the ‘digital medical cabinet’ and how sound waves can heal. Then there’s the discover, as a by-product of that last, that the purring of a cat produces a sound wave that calms the human mind. Or the track record of over 2,000 years of Jin Shin Jyutsu (sp?) – science can’t explain that either (yet).

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      3. Maybe so but, if you’re going to wait for a scientific explanation for bogus alternative medicine such as homeopathy, I think you will be disisappointed. Chinese medicine, on the other hand (ignoring for the moment the abominable slaughter and trade of endangered species), is either reliant on the placebo effect or herbal remedies. Placebo effect is mind-over-matter; whereas herbal remedies are (like you say) things that work (irrespective of whether or not we have yet worked out why they do).

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      4. The sentence of mine that you quoted applies in a cosmological context only. On everything else, I tend towards reductionism rather than holism (i.e. see link to scienceornot in my original comment).

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      5. You quoted me as saying “I am emotionally inclined to reject the idea that everything is capable of scientific explanation” – and I am pointing out this describes my attitude Cosmology only.

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      6. I should have written “my attitude to Cosmology only”. By which I meant my attitude to scientists attempting to explain how the Universe came into existence spontaneously without being caused by anything or anyone. You really need to watch the Grand Design programmes – they are very good. Sorry for the use of scientific jargon.

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      7. Martin: “I must admit I am emotionally inclined to reject the idea that everything is capable of scientific explanation.”

        Paul: You see that’s interesting because I believe that everything is, and will be, capable of scientific explanation. It’s just that we are a very long way from understanding the science behind many things that we see around us, and will see in the vastness of the future ahead of us.

        Me: You’re both right. Like Paul, I believe that everything is, and will be, capable of scientific explanation; however, I also agree with Martin: not everything is capable of scientific explanation. Reconciliation of the apparent parodox: humans are too stupid to accept that they will never be smart enough to understand it all.

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      8. I am grateful to Colin for his conciliatory contribution to this discussion. However, is he going to tell Stephen Hawking that we “will never be smart enough to understand it all”… or shall I do it?

        As I have implied in my previous comments, the only thing that was new in the Grand Design programme was the bluntness of Hawking’s ultimate conclusion that – because both space and time did not exist before the Big Bang and quantum mechanics makes the spontaneous creation of energy possible – there is no need for God to exist and no time for him to have existed. This is not proof that God does not exist. Indeed the existence of God is no less reasonable than multiple universes; 22 dimensions of space-time; or the supposition that we are all in The Matrix-like virtual reality of a superior race.

        As it happens, however, I completely refuted the entire premise of Hawking’s third and final programme several years ago. This may have only been posted on my old Falsifiable Theology ‘blog’ four years ago; but the final paragraph was actually first written down by me over 25 years ago when I was an undergraduate geology student. Nevertheless, for those pushed for time (ha ha), the essence of my argument is this: The human mind is incapable of comprehending either infinity or eternity (i.e. an absence of time) but that does not mean they do not exist. On the contrary, science tells us that at least one of them is a reality and, therefore, the same could be said of God.

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    2. I am grateful to Colin for his conciliatory contribution to this discussion. However, is he going to tell Stephen Hawking that we “will never be smart enough to understand it all”… or shall I do it?

      Mr Hawking is a man of whom I am in awe for reasons having nothing to do with his academic achievements. It would be highly disrespectful of me to try to put words in his mouth.

      I can only speak for myself: and my view has always been slanted by the realisation that for every Great Thinker ever born to humanity (past and present) whose words are promulgated, there are no doubt umpteen others whose words are never heard except inside their owners’ heads. Take that on board; accept that back in Socrates’ day there were a tad fewer humans than today; realise that the innerwebz has multiplied phlyarologists of both definitions (ie those who speak nonsense and those who attempt to study the phenomenon) and you have to acknowledge that for every Stephen Hawking on the idiot box, there are many more the world will never know.

      [The Man in Black has come upon Vizzini holding Buttercup hostage]
      Vizzini: I can’t compete with you physically, and you’re no match for my brains.
      Man in Black: [intrigued] You’re that smart?
      Vizzini: Let me put it this way: Have you ever heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates?
      Man in Black: Yes.
      Vizzini: Morons.
      Man in Black: Really? In that case, I challenge you to a battle of wits.

      Perhaps one of us should put the question to Mr Hawking. I vote you do it: you’re the natural choice in any case, having had far more experience (and spine) than me when it comes to addressing public figures 🙂

      Indeed the existence of God is no less reasonable than multiple universes; 22 dimensions of space-time; or the supposition that we are all in The Matrix-like virtual reality of a superior race.

      The human mind is incapable of comprehending either infinity or eternity (i.e. an absence of time) but that does not mean they do not exist.

      I’m in total agreement with you on both points. Good times, noodle salad.

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  2. Homeopathy is bogus because there is simply no way it can work other than via the placebo effect. Just think for a milli-second about the concentrations of any active ingredient left in solution if you repeatedly dilute and re-sample it – you are talking about concentrations of 1 part per trillion… That being the case, it is a gift to those who want to extract money from gullible and/or needy people. In other words it is a form of exploitation of the vulnerable.

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    1. I respect your views and your right to have those views but is there solid science that supports those views? One might argue that the placebo effect is a valid effect.

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      1. I was wildly out with my 1 in a trillion. It is more like 1 in 1060 (i.e. 1 followed by 60 zeros).
        See this recent item in the Irish Times newspaper.

        There are more neural connections in a single human brain than there are stars in the known universe. Therefore, clearly, people can convince themselves they will get better. However, that does not make it right to use this ability of the mind to extract money from people who are sick (and/or desperate).

        The purpose of Graham Coghill’s (scienceornot) website is to shine a light on all forms of pseudo-science.

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    1. I will go with a quote from Albert Einstein: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” I will say I prefer spirituality to religion, but the quote is still good, it makes a valid point.

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      1. Thanks Merci, perhaps one could also approach that great quote, as follow: “Science without instinct is lame, instinct without science is blind.” But spirituality, taken as the all-encompassing heart of our universe, is much the better!

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