WHEN IT COMES to black boxes, there is none more black than the human brain. Our gray matter is so complex, scientists lament, that it can’t quite understand itself.

But if we can’t grok our own brains, maybe the machines can do it for us. In the latest issue of Nature Communications, researchers led by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Michael Kahana show that machine learning algorithms—notoriously inscrutable systems themselves—can be used to decode and then enhance human memory. How? By triggering the delivery of precisely timed pulses of electricity to the brain.

Researchers, in other words, can use one black box to unlock the potential of another. Which on one hand sounds like a rather elegant solution to an absurdly difficult problem, and on the other sounds like the beginning of a techno-pocalypse horror flick.

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