The_Matrix_PosterThis morning’s Financial Times carried an article that was both fascinating and frightening and certainly futuristic, prompting one reader to inquire whether the article was a month early. Scientists, the article reported, trained rats in Durham, North Carolina, and Natal, Brazil, to work together to solve problems. Electrodes picked up the brain activity of the first rat, the ‘encoder’, as it solved a problem of some sort and fed it over the internet into the brain of its geographically distant partner, the ‘decoder’, facing the same problem and with no visual clues. The best decoder rats mimicked their encoder partners 70 per cent of the time. This was, in other words, telepathy. Frighteningly, one of the professors involved in the experiments said that the discovery could lead to ‘a biological computer – or ‘brain net’ – linking multiple brains; we cannot even predict what kinds of emergent properties would appear when animals begin interacting as part of a ‘brain-net’. In theory, you could imagine that a combination of brains could provide solutions that individual brains cannot achieve by themselves. One animal might even incorporate another’s sense of self.’ Certainly, the decoder rats in the experiment began to represent the encoders’ whiskers as well as their own in their tactile cortex: ‘The rat created a representation of a second body on top of its own,’ said the Professor (Miguel Nicolelis, of Duke University). As science fiction film fans will recall, the existence of such a neural network (of human brains) is the basic plot device in The Matrix film series. The future is upon us.