READ MORE: ‘How Neuroscience Will Shape the Metaverse’ (Joshua Sariñana)
In the near future, the metaverse will create an immersive barrier between the user and the natural world by mimicking and extracting content from the brain’s spatial memory networks.
That’s a problem, if you believe neuroscientist Joshua Sariñana, who argues that our brains are being hacked by corporations like Meta who want to continue to exert mind control on our behavior in the 3D internet.
Seems far-fetched? Sariñana says this is already happening now and you don’t need Elon Musk’s Neuralink system, a physical brain-computer interface, to do it either.
READ MORE: Neuralink Is Impressive Tech, Wrapped in Musk Hype (Wired)
It’s tactic that’s been massively successful when used against the dopamine reward system.
Dopamine, explains the Harvard Review, can provide an intense feeling of reward. Sex, shopping, smelling cookies baking in the oven — all these things can trigger dopamine release, or a “dopamine rush.”
As does our need to collect likes and followers on social media, Sariñana argues in an essay posted to Medium.
This feel-good neurotransmitter is also involved in reinforcement. That’s why, once we try one of those cookies, we might come back for another one (or two, or three).
As the Harvard Review points out, the darker side of dopamine is the intense feeling of reward people feel when they take drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, which can lead to addiction.
READ MORE: Dopamine: The pathway to pleasure (Harvard Review)
Sariñana says big tech companies like Google and Meta long ago worked out that neuroscience-inspired algorithms that combine spatial memory and dopamine reward prediction may be the future of social media.
Think of Pavlov’s dog. Ring a bell and pair it with food; the dog will learn that food comes whenever they hear a bell. Humans are the same. When a cue, like a bell or a computer chime, predicts a reward, the brain learns to release dopamine to the cue rather than to the reward itself.
“It’s not hard to see how a person’s phone, app icon, or some notification (even being bored) gets you to habitually check your phone because there might be some unexpected comment, heart, or video.”
In fact, there’s a link between dopamine and social app use.
READ MORE: Striatal dopamine synthesis capacity reflects smartphone social activity (Cell)
Media technologies manipulate the brain’s dopaminergic system to get people to habitually respond to cues for engagement. Sariñana says researchers have validated that these Reinforcement Learning models are reflected in the behavior of social media users.
People strategize their posts to maximize their digital treats, that is, their likes, he says.
Now those researchers are training their energies on mapping the spatial awareness of the human brain to guide an AI that will prompt, guide and ultimately control what we see, experience, feel and interact with in the metaverse.
For example, a region of the brain called the hippocampus, builds our perception of context (e.g., the room you’re sitting in right now, the train you’re riding on, the queue you’re standing in) and is critical for our ability to generate spatial maps — a GPS of the mind, if you will.
“We navigate our contexts to build a mental map as we encounter new experiences. Through these processes, the hippocampus quickly integrates new information into its network and builds future models of the world (i.e., imagination).”
READ MORE: Beyond the Nobel: What Scientists Are Learning About How Your Brain Navigates (Wired)
Sariñana reports that Google’s DeepMind co-founder, Demis Hassabis, has written extensively on the need to combine neuroscience and AI. His company is actively researching the hippocampus, and using algorithms to figure out how it quickly pulls new information into its memory network.
READ MORE: DeepMind’s founder says to build better computer brains, we need to look at our own (The Verge)
READ MORE: How the Brain Combines Memories to Solve Problems (Neuroscience News)
They have trained their RL models to simulate virtual navigation, and have combined spatial memory and RL models to show how the hippocampus predicts the future.
READ MORE: DeepMind has trained an AI to unlock the mysteries of your brain (Wired)
READ MORE: DeepMind’s New Way to Think About the Brain Could Improve How AI Makes Plans (MIT Technology Review)
Figuring out where a person may want to navigate to, what they may engage with, and how they decide what to purchase is what marketers want to know when they pay Meta to align users’ attention and actions with their ads, Sariñana says.
And here’s where it gets sinister.
“The GPS of your mind will be turned inside-out and siphoned with other biometric data to support digital phenotyping.”
So-called Digital phenotyping uses sensor information from your smartphone and wearables to capture moment-to-moment behavior to train predictive algorithms. With this biometric data and electronic health records, AI technologies can predict mood and psychiatric states like depression, anxiety, psychosis, and mania.
“Already, facial expressions can accurately predict post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depressive symptoms can be pulled from your texting speed, and your brain wave data can be inferred from your smartphone use; all of this information will be sewn into the fabric of your everyday habits.”
READ MORE: Deep learning-based classification of posttraumatic stress disorder and depression following trauma utilizing visual and auditory markers of arousal and mood (Cambridge University Press)
READ MORE: Artificial neural network trained on smartphone behavior can trace epileptiform activity in epilepsy (Cell)
The net result is that by combining our spatial memory information, RL reward behavior, and extracted biometric data, these new AI algorithms “will all but drill into the user’s mind and go beyond symbiosis.”
Sariñana says, “The metaverse will act more like a parasite that trains its algorithms on user data, altering the path of human perception and imagination.”
Enjoy the future.
NAVIGATING THE METAVERSE:
The metaverse may be a wild frontier, but here at NAB Amplify we’ve got you covered! Hand-selected from our archives, here are some of the essential insights you’ll need to expand your knowledge base and confidently explore the new horizons ahead:
- The Metaverse Will Make $5 Trillion By 2030. That Sounds Awesome and… Wait, What Are We Talking About?
- Metaverse Expectations vs. Reality
- A Metacode of Conduct for the Metaverse
- Metaverse Interoperability: Utopian Dream, Privacy Nightmare
- Consumers Are Confused About the Metaverse, But Seriously, Can You Blame Them?