In psychohistory news, neuroscientists claim to be able to predict future catastrophes using only monkeys and math.
At the University of Sussex in England, a group of professors, psychologists, and physicists published a paper proposing a possible prognostication paradigm that could potentially predict painful predicaments so the problems can be prevented proactively.
A central focus of the study involved touching a macaque’s hand and recording the brain activity. Using this data, the scientists were able to synthesize the feeling of touching a monkey’s hand. When the monkey responded to the artificial sensations, the lead neuroscientist mocked him, saying, “I’m not touching you! I’m still not touching you!” This is believed to be the first time humans have been able to replicate sibling behavior on a long car ride within a controlled laboratory environment.
At the press conference announcing the study results, the lead macaque (pictured above) was quoted as saying, “Will you stop touching me!” He predicted that once he had telepathically controlled robot arms, researchers will be more willing to keep their hands to themselves.
The team included members of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, who indicated that they were aware of the controversial nature of their research. One researcher, who requested anonymity because he was self-conscious, said that the actual equation that turns teasing monkeys into predictions about the future would not be disclosed, but insisted that annoying the monkeys was definitely crucial to the program’s success.
A representative from the Sackler Centre for Unconsciousness Science offered no response, other than a little bit of drooling.
According to lead author Lionel Barnett, the key to their breakthrough is the discovery that in a system, things “casually influence each other”. “The dynamics of complex systems — like the brain and the economy — depend on how their elements causally influence each other.” The phenomenon of casual influence has been the subject of speculation for decades, but concrete evidence of its existence remains elusive.
A large body of anecdotal evidence demonstrates the high correlation between a monkey’s paw and disaster, but this is the first time scientists have been able to quantify the relationship mathematically. Consciousness scientist Anil Seth explained that they excluded “the possibility that our results are due to performing ‘finite’ simulations” by doing 200 simulations. The math equations proved conclusively that 200 is an infinite number of simulations.
Seth called the implications of their work “far-reaching”, explaining that electrically stimulating the brain could prevent seizures, and the effects could spread to financial, climate and immune systems. “With this technology, everyone – from financiers to climatologists to immunologists — could predict future cataclysms with mathematical precision by knowing whether someone was touching a macaque’s hand.”
Although Seth was excited about the possibilities, he expressed concern that predicting humanity’s future using math was limited by the free will and poor math skills of humans, which might interfere with his perfectly calculated plans. A joint project with the Sackler Centre for Subconsciousness Science is underway to use math and electrical brain stimulation to casually influence people to be more predictable.
(Click on the picture of the touchy macaque to read the original story.)