(From left) Emotiv Lifesciences CEO & Founder Tan Le and neuroscientist and behavior change expert Olivier Oullier demonstrate to Wikipedia Founder and CEO Jimmy Wales portable Emotiv EPOC EEG and portable eye-tracking by SMI.
EMOTIV CEO and Founder Tan Le (left) demonstrates brain-wearable devices to Wikipedia founder and CEO Jimmy Wales (right). Credit: Courtesy / Emotiv Facebook

Emerging technologies and how they impact upon our consciousness is the theme for the Mind Science Foundation‘s Plugged In conference Oct. 5 at the Pearl Stable. The international meeting will feature seven neuroscience researchers who will share the latest research on the intersection of technology and human consciousness.

Mind Science Foundation Scientific Advisor David Eagleman. Credit: Courtesy / Mind Science Foundation

David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University and chief scientific advisor for the San Antonio-based foundation, will kick off the conference with a free lecture Oct. 4 at Laurie Auditorium on the campus of Trinity University. He will discuss his latest book, The Runaway Species, co-authored with composer Anthony Brandt on the underlying strategies behind creativity. The lecture begins at 7:30 p.m., followed by a book signing.

The conference program includes lectures from neuroscientists and other researchers on topics such as brain-wearable devices, the future of consciousness, and neuroprosthetics. One of the speakers, Moran Cerf, returns after his May lecture at the Pearl Stable to speak in detail about how neuroscientists have discovered the ability to “hack your dreams.”

“Many people may not have a firm grasp on the tidal wave of change that’s coming in how humans perceive and experience the world,” said Meriam Good, the Mind Science Foundation’s executive director.

“These researchers will be able to tell you about how these technologies can and should be used for humankind’s benefits and made available to everybody. Advances like the overlay of augmented reality available on your smartphone are only the beginning of the many inspirational possibilities that are going to be a part of everyone’s lives.”

Talking about how emerging technologies impact upon our consciousness may be “extremely new and sounds futuristic to many people,” said Erica Warp, vice president of EMOTIV, a bioinformatics company that develops brain-wearable devices.

EMOTIV Vice President Erica Warp. Credit: Courtesy / Erica Warp

“The brain is at the center of everything we do as humans,” she said. “What we are doing is developing affordable hardware devices and ways to measure brain activity that can help democratize access to one’s brain data.”

Such portable, wireless devices function much like fitness trackers, except these measure brain activity, as captured by electronic monitoring devices that measure and record electrical activity in the brain. Electroencephalogram-based brain-wearable devices that monitor the brain’s electrical activity are worn like a headset. They can be taken outside of the medical and research setting and developed with therapeutic applications for education and health, for example. 

Eagleman spoke with the Rivard Report about the conference, creativity, and what makes the human brain so special.

Rivard Report: Why organize this conference?

David Eagleman: I’ve been involved [with the Mind Science Foundation] for many years now, and it’s the only organization I know that addresses head-on what is the relationship between the brain and the mind – How does the first give rise to the second?

The foundation gives grants to scientists and brings speakers to San Antonio, so we’ve been talking about doing this for a while – to bring the top people in the field globally to have a full day of in-depth discussion on understanding the state of the science in this field of consciousness.

This is the caliber of conference that San Francisco would be lucky to have, so to have this in San Antonio is a real treat.

RR: What can people expect to learn from your lecture at Laurie Auditorium?

DE: The book explores what is special about the human brain that enables us to innovate. It will be a deep dive into the creative mind.

The book’s narrative is filled with tips on how to produce successful ideas: Practice, experiment, have many ideas, and let most die. Do not commit to the first solution. Always generate options. These processes are the cornerstone of the creative process.

RR: What will your presentation focus on for the conference?

DE: My lectures on the book and for the panel the next day at the conference will be very different. The creativity talk at Laurie Auditorium is meant to be inspiring for people to go out and do things to change the world. As we come to understand better the strategies that allow brains to be more creative, it [the book] allows people to understand better how to bring that into their own lives.

For the conference, the focus will be on answering why we are the only species that builds civilizations, goes to the moon, creates a Silicon Valley. It has to do with the subtle changes in our brains, as opposed to the brains of other species who are close neighbors.

Creativity is an inherent part of what human brains do; everybody is creative. Most of what we do is autonomize – we tend to go on automatic pilot and almost act like robots. So we tell the story about what is special about human brains and how people can maximize creativity.

If you are the owner of a brain, this is the chance to understand what is “under the hood” at a level that is cutting edge right here in San Antonio.

General admission tickets for the event are $199, and student tickets are $149. To register for tickets to the all-day conference, click here.

Iris Gonzalez writes about technology, life science and veteran affairs.