I ran a panel titled “Engineering the Brain” at Technology Review’s EmTech conference yesterday. One of the speakers was Ed Boyden, a new professor at the MIT Media Lab and one of last year’s TR35. He never ceases to astound with the broad range of projects he’s working on–everything from a molecular light switch that controls neurons to a new device to noninvasively stimulate the brain. (See “A Light Switch for the Brain.”) One of Boyden’s latest endeavors is a computer-based hypnosis program that is personalized to the user.
While most people think of hypnosis as an entertaining parlor trick or a dubious way to quit smoking, a smattering of scientific studies suggest that the trance-like state could have medical benefits in calming anxiety and managing pain during medical procedures. According to Boyden, the problem with bringing hypnosis into clinical practice is that it’s something of an art. Standardized scripts for inducing hypnosis don’t allow the practitioner to adapt his or her approach to the patient. When researching the field, Boyden said that he noticed that hypnosis scripts tend to resemble computer programs. So he and his students designed a computer program that uses a quick personality survey to identify what the user finds relaxing; it then generates a customized set of suggestions to induce him or her into a state of hypnotic relaxation. Stay tuned for an online demo now in development!
DeepMind’s cofounder: Generative AI is just a phase. What’s next is interactive AI.
“This is a profound moment in the history of technology,” says Mustafa Suleyman.
What to know about this autumn’s covid vaccines
New variants will pose a challenge, but early signs suggest the shots will still boost antibody responses.
Human-plus-AI solutions mitigate security threats
With the right human oversight, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence can help keep business and customer data secure
Next slide, please: A brief history of the corporate presentation
From million-dollar slide shows to Steve Jobs’s introduction of the iPhone, a bit of show business never hurt plain old business.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.