Presence neurotechnology & technology-aided direct transmission

Some people have an amazingly positive energetic presence, such that you feel yourself better just being near them. Better as in happier, and better as in easier to be the person you wish to be. There are many different ‘flavors’ of this: I’ve noticed it’s easier to feel at peace around some friends, easier to have fun around others, easier to build around others. To some degree this is about subjective social chemistry, but there are definitely ‘objective outliers’ here: people who have a near-universal appeal, who reliably make everyone around them feel safe and at peace and alive, in a very wholesome way.

What do these people know? How do they do it? Where is the magic hidden? Can we make more of them? To ground the question: could we distill what’s going on with the right science, and recreate it with the right technology? 

Let’s say it’s 50 years in the future and we have all sorts of advanced neurotech. Instead of listening to music to relax, it’s popular to choose and download a felt-sense presence. You literally ask your neurotech to recreate the felt sense of being around someone. This could be someone you know and love (e.g. your wife when you’re away for business), someone famous (Arnold Schwarzenegger), someone with a distinctly powerful mental vibe (Albert Einstein) or distinctly vivid somatic vibe (Marylin Monroe), or someone who has particularly beautiful inner life (Shinzen, the Dalai Lama). Once you’re chosen the vibe, you feel like this person is in the room with you — or maybe the next room over. You can’t see them, but you can ‘feel their energy’. You can choose to focus attention on this vibe, or just leave it going in the background.

How does this tech work? What principles does it use? What would you have to measure about someone and where on their body would you measure it, to ‘quantify their vibe’ well enough to recreate it, and what’s the minimum tech necessary for recreating it?

I don’t know for sure, but to concretize this we can imagine a scenario where we measure Shinzen’s heart rhythms, with as many datapoints and modalities as possible (high definition electrode arrays & all the new “better than fMRI” neuroimaging tech). We infer Shinzen’s heart connectome and build a computer model that matches its observed characteristic dynamics. Then, we build some technological mechanism that takes this model and projects it onto two physical domains: vibration and electromagnetic waves. I.e. just as Shinzen’s heart gives off characteristic EM waves and physical vibrations, we build a little device that gives off EM waves and physical vibrations with similar ‘Shinzen motifs’. (Ideally, this device would react to *your* motifs, but let’s save that for later.) We miniaturize this mechanism, put it on a necklace, and wear it. What happens?

There’s lots of ways to get this process wrong, produce something that doesn’t do anything interesting. But I also think there’s a way to get this process right, such that *some version of this could be built* that would create a feeling meaningfully similar to being near Shinzen, would make it easier to recall his teachings, to meditate, to feel not-alone and connect with our hearts, to have compassion for ourselves and others, and perhaps in some slight but non-trivial way help lean on Shinzen’s wisdom, kindness, and attainments while working through thorny emotional situations.

It’s a big, big claim. But I think the aesthetic is ‘directionally correct’ for neurotech: we should be exploring paradigms for amplifying the best patterns of humanity, and in particular novel (+gentle) topologies for connecting peoples’ nervous systems — and asymmetric dynamics where the good doesn’t get diluted or dragged down as it interacts with the imperfect.

I’d call this general class of thing presence neurotech, and the specific subtype as “crystallized, distilled, narrow-context”. Its goal would be to recreate a felt-sense presence of another nervous system. 

We could also consider the other pole, a “realtime, raw, wide-context” subtype whose goal would be to very directly transmit signatures of attainments. I.e. something that doesn’t so much aim to distill, package, and reinstantiate characteristic somatic dynamics, but rather set up an ongoing high-bandwidth broadcast dynamic from a nervous system with particularly wholesome capacities. The thesis: if you broadcast the nervous system signatures of attainments in sufficiently high fidelity, they may reconstitute in listeners.

There are countless stories from the Pali cannon about people reaching enlightenment from a few words from Buddha, or a touch, or simply being in his presence. This is a modernization of that.

The basic scenario here would be something like: Shinzen is leading a meditation, and has a bunch of neurotech implants that listen to all his major ganglia, and the moment-by-moment dynamics within each ganglion are digitized and broadcast over Bluetooth. Any student that wants to (and has the proper neurotech implants) can point their neurotech systems at this signal, and “listen in on the characteristic motifs within Shinzen’s chakras” as well as his words, so to speak. Your heart listens to his heart, your kidneys to his kidneys, your stomach to his stomach, etc. It feels reasonable to say emotional attainments are partly embodied in various micro-motifs of reactivity & release (and which I strongly believe are vasomuscular — more on this later), which are spread throughout the nervous system. These motifs may take years to build, but perhaps could be transmitted and imprinted on in ~weeks given the right bridge topology and attentive listening.

Done right I think this could radically improve the world. Done wrong it could lead to strange new techno-cults. We probably need a better theory of attainments and interiority to navigate this.



Harmonic brain modes: a unifying framework for linking space and time in brain dynamics, Atasoy et al. 2016

Resonance as a Design Strategy for AI and Social Robots, Lomas et al. 2022

Towards solving the hard problem of consciousness: The varieties of brain resonances and the conscious experiences that they support, Grossberg 2016

Shared Intentionality Modulation at the Cell Level: Low-Frequency Oscillations for Temporal Coordination in Bioengineering Systems, Danilov 2023 (thanks to Nima for the reference)