Primal Numbers – All in Your Head

As scary as the prom scene in Carrie was, lots of people were intrigued by something else in Stephen King’s famous novel: the idea of telekinesis, or moving objects with the power of your mind. we’re not there yet, but science has brought us one step closer with a new app that lets you control Google Glass with your thoughts. The idea has huge potential?and might just bring attention spans back into style.

The app is called MindRDR, and It’s the creative project of a company called This Place. According to the developer’s website, it allows you to “create content and socialise it using the power of your mind.” Unlike real telekinesis (if it even exists), MindRDR is an interface between your brain and Google Glass. To make Google Glass do your bidding, such as taking a photo and posting it to social media sites, you’ll also need the special headset that lets the app read your brain waves.

Right now, the combination of headset and Google Glass is probably a little bulkier than the average person would wear. But for those with limited movement, such as quadriplegia or severe multiple sclerosis, the headset is probably a minor inconvenience compared to the benefits it might bring.

And those benefits could be huge. As this Wired article notes, the app “has been launched on GitHub in the hope that the open source tool will be further investigated and developed.” Someday, the MindRDR app could let us harness our thoughts to drive cars, open doors, or use the smart appliances in our homes.

But there’s one other thing the app needs to fulfill all that promise, and It’s something the developers can’t provide. It’s the ability to focus?an ability that, paradoxically, is becoming a rare thing thanks to the very types of digital technology that make MindRDR possible.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the concern over short, fractured attention spans will come to nothing. Instead, the race of the future might go to the swift?those who know how to access information quickly, rather than those who know how to remember or ponder.

Then again, a 2012 report from Elon University and the Pew Research Center makes a case for working the muscles of your attention span. In one future scenario, the report notes that part of the new division of labor might be “specialists who retain the skills of focused, deep thinking.”

If the shallow-thinking, Internet-surfing workers are a dime a dozen, the biggest rewards could go to the few who can perform the tasks no one else can. The type of tasks that require the sustained focus to let you control your environment with your mind.

In an interesting twist, this could mean that older workers who grew up with a need for focus (say, to memorize schoolwork) would find it easier to sharpen that skill, while today’s toddlers of the Internet age, who never had it, could find it impossible to cultivate. If tools like MindRDR become the way of the future, it could have surprising results for the workforce.

So if you’ve ever wondered if It’s truly possible to control things with your mind, you might not have to wonder much longer. And, unlike the plot of a horror novel, it won’t just all be in your head.

S.D. Livingston is the author and creator of the Madeline M. Mystery Series for kids, as well as several books for older readers. Visit her website for information on her writing.