Tag Archives: brain

Pathways you’d forgotten existed

Picture of library shelvesThe brain is a wonderful thing. I imagine it as a library, with all the recent chronicles up the front, in the reading room with the electronic equipment and bright lights. But as you walk along between the shelves that mark the years the shadows deepen, sounds become hushed, the smooth, stone floor disintegrates into a rocky path, and cobwebs and dust obstruct your path. Maybe you’ll end up in a vault, lit only by flickering candles where the darkness dances to the movement of your passing. The very air is old, filled with the distinctive smell of words written years ago, when they were in the reading room. But life moves on, and now they’re left to moulder in the dark. It’s not a path most people often travel, down into that memory vault. But sometimes, just sometimes…

You know that quiet time in the morning when your mind wakes up but you’re not ready to get up, so you lie there with your eyes closed and drift? And your brain wanders off on pathways you’d forgotten existed, down between those stacks of shelves, deep into the vault where time has all but obliterated any traces that a path ever existed.

A face comes up, with no name attached. A guy from the past. Who was he? Oh yes. A guy I met at dancing. He came from a Catholic family. He had eleven or twelve siblings, most of them brothers. I went to his house once, for dinner. The parents had a picture of Jesus hung on the lounge room wall, one of those rather grisly images, with a heart. We attended a wedding together, too. His brother married the daughter of a Methodist minister. That was fascinating. Being Methodist, the reception was alcohol-free. And fun free, too, as far as I could tell, at least on the Methodist side of the hall. Po-faced people seated at the Methodist tables scowled at the Catholics over their orange juice. We’d smuggled in Vodka to lace the OJ, and we danced and laughed and had fun.

We didn’t go out for long, just a few weeks. He was a nice guy, but not really my type. I’m not into religion.

My mind pushes on, shoving aside tangled vines until it fixes on a memory. Dancing, where I’d met whatsisname. That was proper dancing, foxtrots and modern waltz, cha-cha and jive. Gilkison’s dance studio ran a dance every Saturday night. It wasn’t formal, people came to dance. If you didn’t know how, someone would teach you. I went often, sometimes straight after playing hockey on Saturday afternoon. I had energy then. I’d catch a bus into town, on my own, and I’d catch a bus home, on my own, then walk from the stop to the house at eleven. Unless I took a lift with somebody.

Remember the cold feet, my mind whispers? I wiggle my toes in response. Yes. After all that activity, when I stopped moving and if it was a cold night, my feet would feel like ice blocks. I’d wash off the makeup, crawl into bed and wait to go to sleep. But I couldn’t, because of the frozen feet. We didn’t have electric blankets in those days. Eventually, I’d crawl out of bed again and run hot water over my feet in the bathroom, praying that I wouldn’t disturb my mother, sleeping in the next room.

And now I’m up, writing it all down. What sort of memories do you dredge up at those quiet times? I think this is fun, and interesting. If you’d care to share, take a trip down a pathway you’d forgotten existed, and write what you found in your own blog, and leave a link to the article in a comment here. I’ll certainly come and visit you, and leave a comment.

Oh, and thanks for calling. I appreciate it.

Is telepathy science fiction – or should we shove it in the fantasy basket?

Picture of a neuronI’ve always had a thing about telepathy in a science fiction novel. To me, it smacks far too much of ouija boards, mind reading and charlatanism. So when I come across telepathy as a skill in an SF book, I roll my eyes, sigh – but if it’s somebody whose work I like, I’ll keep reading. One such is Linnea Sinclair. Her book Games of Command has two story arcs, one which is high tech SF, the other concerning telepathy. I really enjoyed the book, but I much preferred the high tech action half. Because of my preferences, it took me a long time to actually get around to reading An Accidental Goddess. And again, while I enjoyed the book, the whole mental powers higher human thing required me to not analyze too deeply.

Anne McCaffrey had her telepath type series, too. That was To Ride Pegasus and its sequels and it didn’t press buttons for me. In fact, it was a did-not-finish.

So this article in io9, entitled how much longer until humanity becomes a hive mind, left me somewhat bemused. Because a form of mental telepathy does seem to be… well… just around the corner. Granted, you need electronics to make it work, but even so. Lots of novels (including mine) foresee humans enhancing their mental capability with a neural chip. Not many novels consider the dangers, though. One of my regular readers mentioned the idea of Facebook playing in one’s head. And, of course, viruses, worms and the like. It’s a scenario I consider in The Iron Admiral: Deception. Then there’s who controls the systems? And what about privacy?

But as far as the nuts and bolts are concerned, the thing about this article which really had me thinking was the transmission of ideas. Let’s take something really simple, like colour. As it happens, my husband is colour blind. I’ve often wondered what he sees when he looks at (say) a red rose. I know the flower sort of disappears into the foliage for him, so I’m guessing that his brain sees that wave length the same as what I call green. But really, I don’t know, because his brain is interpreting the signals in a different way to my brain. The same thing takes place when we talk about objects such as trees, or mountains – or anything else you care to name. As the article points out, we use a thing called language to kind of code what we’re talking about. The fact that the tree you visualise in your brain isn’t the same as the tree I visualise in mine, doesn’t matter. So given all that, speech is much, much easier to transmit than a mental picture.

So has all of this changed my mind about telepathy in SF? Show me how its done – with some sort of neural net or nanotech or a chip or something, and yes, I’ll go along for the ride. Otherwise – it sits over in the corner marked ‘magic’, I’m afraid. Don’t worry, though. It’s in good company. The Force is lurking around over there, too.

Thoughts? Telepathy in SF – yes, no?