It had to come. Some neuroscientist has developed a gadget that turns people into instant experts, such as crack shots, in about 30 minutes. It runs on a 9-volt battery.
How is this possible? By enabling people to concentrate. They can block out rival information: “noise.” An article in New Scientist explains.
Flow has been maddeningly difficult to pin down, let alone harness, but a wealth of new technologies could soon allow us all to conjure up this state. The plan is to provide a short cut to virtuosity, slashing the amount of time it takes to master a new skill – be it tennis, playing the piano or marksmanship. . . .
Flow typically accompanies these actions. It involves a Zen-like feeling of intense concentration, with time seeming to stop as you focus completely on the activity in hand. The experience crops up repeatedly when experts describe what it feels like to be at the top of their game, and with years of practice it becomes second nature to enter that state. . . .
Wulf’s findings fit well with the idea that flow – and better learning – comes when you turn off conscious thought. “When you have an external focus, you achieve a more automatic type of control,” she says. “You don’t think about what you are doing, you just focus on the outcome.” . . . .
That is why I’m now allowing Michael Weisend, who works at the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to hook my brain up to what’s essentially a 9-volt battery. He sticks the anode – the positive pole of the battery – to my temple, and the cathode to my left arm. “You’re going to feel a slight tingle,” he says, and warns me that if I remove an electrode and break the connection, the voltage passing through my brain will blind me for a good few seconds.
Weisend, who is working on a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency programme to accelerate learning, has been using this form of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to cut the time it takes to train snipers. From the electrodes, a 2-milliamp current will run through the part of my brain associated with object recognition – an important skill when visually combing a scene for assailants. . . .
Mysteriously, however, these long-term changes also seem to be preceded by a feeling that emerges as soon as the current is switched on and is markedly similar to the flow state. “The number one thing I hear people say after tDCS is that time passed unduly fast,” says Weisend. Their movements also seem to become more automatic; they report calm, focused concentration – and their performance improves immediately. . . .
Zapping your brain with a small current seems to improve everything from mathematical skills to marksmanship, but for now your best chance of experiencing this boost is to sign up for a lab experiment. Machines that provide transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) cost £5000 a pop, and their makers often sell them only to researchers.
If this works, in a few years, there will be $200 machines made in China that do this.
Competition will force down prices and force up demand. Keeping up with thebJ9neses will mean keeping up mentally.