My prognosis is based on the idea that you can partially observe another human being’s mind if you transmit information between the two brains using electronic implants. I consider this a possibility after looking at the case of Tatiana and Krista Hogan, conjoined twins who can share their experiences through a thalamic bridge. There are experiments where rats communicate “telepathically” through brain implants . Further, the case of Neil Harbisson, a man born with color blindness, who had an antenna implanted into his head to hear colors, proves that it is possible to create new qualia, providing the brain with new information.
So, let us imagine that in 2050, we already have created brain implants that transmit information between two brains.
This technology is still considered unethical and illegal in most parts of the world, but exceptions are occasionally made for treating people suffering from lock-in syndrome. A brain-net emerges to allow paralyzed patients to communicate with one another and live a full social live that way.
Some celebrities announce that they have willingly had brain-net transmitters implanted to share their experiences with their loved ones. This evokes broad public debate about marriage and personal borders, especially when a few of such marriages fall apart amid a lot of drama.
It becomes possible to modulate new qualia by interacting with the brain through this new technology. We still are not sure what makes red “feel” red on a fundamental level, or whether robots indeed feel anything, but we can now recreate at least some feelings, and this pushes the science of consciousness to a completely new level. Subjective is not subjective anymore.
Philosophers still argue about whether we truly observe others’ experiences through the brain-net or just recreate similar experiences as when communicating with words. It is believed that we can answer this question after we completely merge two consciousnesses into one, but one needs to be able to transmit significantly more information between two brains to achieve this effect.
The gaming industry invests a lot of money into making this technology non-invasive by using sound waves, but it is still far from a Matrix-like virtual reality. Most people do not have the money and are not psychologically prepared for plugging into the brain-net. They are more concerned about climate change and the shrinking job market, so they do not support any investment into consciousness research.
Unexpectedly, the technology may interest certain autocratic countries whose elites are willing to ensure the most loyal environment possible. They also may become attracted to the idea of virtual drugs that do not harm the body, yet still bring exotic pleasure. Only the most modernistic autocracies will start the race for understanding consciousness since many autocratic rulers tend to stick to a traditionalist worldview and reject innovation.