MIND MEDIA REVIEW No. 12
|The earliest company to
harness the earliest PCs, Macs,
Commodores and Apples in the early `Eighties was Human Edge --
founded by Dr. James Johnson, a former psychology professor
from the University of Minnesota and a salesman for IBM.
Johnson's company developed a program called Mind Prober, still
the most successful mind-related software ever sold with an
amazing one-quarter million sold in the world of 1985, when there
were only perhaps only four million PC's in the entire world. This
would be the equivalent of selling five million programs in today.
Mind Prober was and is simply a computerized personality profile.
It's the descendent of tests like those you probably took in school
but never got to see the results - or the MMPI test that is used to
classify people with mental disorders. What is so remarkable about
Mind Prober and its descendents is that with the answering of a
short questionnaire, they reveal so much about your own
personality of the personality of someone you've known for only a
short while. This is because they are based on one of the most solid
parts of the mostly unsystematic study called psychology -
Psychometrics is the basis of personality testing, and can measure
and describe personality by comparing answers to the test on paper
or, in this case, in the computer program with groups of people
with known personality attributes. The unique way that specific
personality type answers certain questions gives the personality
test program uncanny insight into what seem to be hidden
dimensions of an individual.
These early psychological programs were text-based CGA graphic
programs. But both programs proved fascinating to many people
with psychological curiosity including a graduate student named
Bruce Ehrlich, who was just about to complete a Ph.D. in
psychology and who had collected a series of programs he called
Ehrlich published his first collection of mind software in the
Spring 1988 Mindware catalog. It probably is no accident that two
of the most popular programs in that catalog were a modern
version of Eliza for the PC (the first ones only ran on mainframes),
and Mindviewer, an upgrade to Mind Prober. Another popular
program was Calmpute! manufactured by Thought Technology of
Toronto, Canada - a biofeedback program that measured galvanic
skin response. A special mouse measured your GSR and displayed
the results on a computer screen. By discovering what kind of
things you did to make the display graph change, you could learn
to control your levels of stress and relaxation.
The Mindware catalog continued in its print version from 1988
until 1993 when it reached a circulation of a half million catalogs..
Programs became increasingly sophisticated and diverse. Among
the most noteworthy of the new offerings in the catalog were:
* Overcoming Depression -- A program by computer-assisted
therapy expert Professor Thomas Colby, based on his research at
Stanford and UCLA.
* IQ Builder --A program developed by Russian-born
programmer Vladimer Asinovsky which measures 53 components
of human intelligence and trains people in developing these
abilities in incremental levels (Note: Mind Media now publishes this
* Insight -- a psychometric testing program that was the first to
take advantage of increases in computer graphics. The program
used the Kahler Process Model first developed by Dr. Tabi Kahler
for NASA to provide deep psychological insight. Unfortunately,
the company that developed the program over a four-year period -
Three-Sixty, Inc. of San Jose -- was forced to take the program off
the market when Dr.Kahler's wife, who had won control of the test
in divorce, blocked continued sales.
* Dream Analyzer - a test which allowed people to analyze the
contents of their dreams developed by Dr. James Johnson (Note: Mind
Media publishes this program and it is included in Mind Prober 3.0)
* PC Therapist - a program by Joseph Weintraub which did
Eliza one better, winning the Loebner award by beating the
famous Touring Test, in which a British cybernetics expert
in the 'Fifties suggested a test for machine intelligence
which consisted of the ability to fool people into believing
they were talking to a real human over a teletype devise.
* Idea Generator Plus - a program developed by Roy
Nierenberg, founder of Experience-In-Software
. The Program is based on
Gerard Nierenberg's (the founder's father), book The Art of
Creative Thinking and presents an interactive process based on
exercises from the book, for developing new ideas on the user
project of choice.
Mind Software Today
In 1994, Ehrlich moved the Mindware catalog to the World Wide
Web and began to focus on publishing some of his best sellers
from the Mindware catalog as the Mental Edge software series and
creating a web site which has evolved into the Mind Media Life-
Enhancement Network. Ehrlich
plans to develop this site into the central source for products and
information about the mind software technology on the Web.
Ehrlich's Mindware catalog was the first direct mail catalog to
offer CD-ROM players and CD-ROMs to the public by direct mail.
Ehrlich understood that the greater amounts of multimedia
information held by CD-ROMs would contribute to mind software
that was both more effective and that would provide users a richer,
|Another area that has taken
great leaps forward since the early
Mindware catalog days is the area of computers and biofeedback.
Biofeedback first became popular in the `Sixties. Biofeedback was
invented by Professor Joe Kamiya, who first discovered that the
brain could actually control processes in the body and brain
previously thought only to be under control of the autonomic
nervous system, which was considered to be completely
unavailable to consciousness. By feeding back signals from
various body and brain processes, people could learn to control
how they felt and thought!
The earliest devices were simple ones that measured GSR or EEG
and gave a simple noise like a tone so that the user could learn to
control these body and brain functions. Because they were rather
boring to use and because they looked at only one modality of the
particular process they monitored, these biofeedback systems
quickly lost their popularity.
However biofeedback clinics continued to operate and help people
with a variety of tasks including stress reduction and control of
migraine headaches and even blood pressure control. With the
invention and increasing sophistication of the PC however, these
tools have made remarkable progress.
A number of biofeedback systems that interact with the personal
computer have been developed. These include such sophisticated
new products as the IBVA system, which includes a biofeedback
system that will read EEG or brainwaves, rather than the more
simple GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) systems which simply
measured the skin's ability to conduct electricity and allows for
comparisons between the brain's left and right hemisphere. The
screen shows a three-dimensional graph while speakers let you
hear the sound of your brain waves rise and fall. There are even a
number of CD-ROM programs that allow you to use the IBVA
system in new and more useful ways.
There are several other computer based biofeedback systems
including the Neuolink developed by NLP expert Robert Dilts, the
Stress Saver Systems biofeedback system with mind games, and
the WaveRider Pro Biofeedback System with WaveWare 2.0
software. As you can see, we have come a long way since the first
Mindware catalog offered Calmpute!.
The Near Future
Bruce Ehrlich of Mind Media has plans for his Mind Media Life
Enhancement Network which give us an idea about where the field
of mind software may be heading in the next few years.
Ehrlich plans to begin broadcasting seminars with popular self-
improvement leaders and self-help writers using streaming audio
and video technology. This technology is already being
successfully used by companies like NetSeminar
to successfully broadcast educational
seminars on a variety of topics. You can actually interact with the
seminar leaders online, making it more than the passive experience
presented by audio or video tapes or reading a self-help book.
|Ehrlich is also developing
a new kind of CD-ROM seminar that
uses "hybrid" CD-ROM technology. This would allow for
continuous updates of content on CD-ROMS from the Mind Media
web site -- allowing the user for example to get additional sessions
and information from seminar leaders whose CD-ROM they had
The use of on-line programs written in Java will make available
on-line pay-per-use versions of popular mind software. This pay-
per-use model is already being done on the BrainTainment Center
Web site at. The whole genre of mind
software for creativity, problem solving, psychotherapy etc. will.
be available on-line anytime.
The Far Realms of Computers and the Mind
In 1990, Simon and Shuster published Would the Buddha Wear a
Walkman? by Judith Hooper and Dick Terisi, both editors at Omni
magazine at the time and co-authors of the best selling book, The
In the chapter, "Using Your Computer to Expand Your Mind", they
The computer is more than a number crunching word processing,
artificial brain. In the right hands it's also a mind-expanding,
creativity-boosting, even mind-altering tool. We have already
accepted the microcomputer as a machine that can assume some of
our tedious menial chores. But it has a potential as a mind-
enhancing device as well. And the key is the software.
We have divided the field into five categories: smartware (which
makes you smarter, more organized, a better writer, a better
negotiator), psychological software (such as Eliza), stressware
(aimed at reducing anxiety), games/head trips (trips into alternative
realities) and spiritual software (intended to make you deeper).
Thus far we have looked at some of the kinds of software programs
the authors predicted. But as the technology of the compute leaps
forward and our understanding of the mind become increasingly
better, some of these other more far-out mind/computer software
programs will become possible.
Ehrlich, in the above-mentioned book, is written about as "The
Mindware Man: Bruce Ehrlich and Digital Psychology." In this
section, they write:
Ehrlich predicts that such software [mind software] will eventually
transform computer-human interactions. "The computer," he says,"
will become a friend." He foresees a dramatic growth in future
years in what he calls "electronic Buddhas." This is a program
designed to enhance the users spirituality. Another growth area is
How can a computer become a wise Buddha or guide? Or become
psychoactive. Here are some of my wild-eyed guesses.
One of the most important theoretical areas in computer science
concerns artificial intelligence. One area of AI is expert systems.
For example, a computer is trained to emulate a medical doctor in
diagnosing a disease. These programs already exist, and have
shown to be superior to human doctors in many cases in