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Silent Talk 'Telepathy' For Soldiers

Silent Talk is the name of a new DARPA project to “allow user-to-user communication on the battlefield without the use of vocalized speech through analysis of neural signals.” And yes, that's in addition to the money spent to investigate wireless transmission of decoded thoughts.

The intent of the program is to detect "pre-speech" - word-specific neural signals in the brain, analyze them and then send the content to team members.

Obviously, they're just in the investigative stage. DARPA wants to know if it is possible to map EEG patterns to individual words - for one person. Then, determine if everyone has similar patterns. Finally, decode the pattern and broadcast the words to team mates in the field.

The more I learn about DARPA's intentions regarding improving soldier capabilities, the more I think they're trying to create the Meks from Jack Vance's Hugo and Nebula award-winning 1967 novel The Last Castle.


(The Mek solitary - The Last Castle, by Jack Vance)

The Mek was a manlike creature... native... to a planet of Etamin. His tough rusty-brown hide glistened metallically as if oiled or waxed; the spines thrusting back from head and neck shone like gold, and indeed were coated with a conductive copper-chrome film...

His maw, a vertical irregular cleft at the base of this 'face' was an obsolete organ by reason of the syrup sac which had been introduced under the skin of the shoulders...

This was the Mek solitary, a creature intrinsically as effective as man - perhaps more by virtue of his superb brain which also functioned as a radio transceiver...

The Meks are able to share the substance of their thoughts with each other by transmitting brain pattern signals using the conductive spines.

DARPA is already working on the idea of the "syrup sac", creating transdermal patches to deliver essential nutrients (see DARPA Seeks Metabolic Dominance).

Readers may also be thinking of the Borg, whose members are retrofitted with a neuro-transceiver that links every drone into the collective. See Synthetic Telepathy For US Military Borg-Style for more information and a video.


(The Borg neuro-transceiver)

I also think that Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven should get some credit for their work on the idea of a communications implant from their 1981 novel Oath of Fealty. They describe what amounts to computer-mediated telepathy in great detail, and in a variety of situations.

In her 1931 story The Conquest of Gola, L.F. Stone made an interesting distinction between "regular" telepathy and the mechanically-mediated kind with her mechanical thought transformers.

From Wired; thanks to Moira for the tip on this one (welcome back!).

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/16/2009)

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