Mind training is based on the idea that two opposite mental factors cannot happen at the same time. You could go from love to hate, but you cannot at the same time, toward the same object, the same person, want to harm and want to do good. You cannot in the same gesture shake a hand, and give a blow. So there are natural antidotes to emotion that are destructive to our inner well-being.
If we grant that this is possible, the only real debate is when. 10 years? 15? 50? 100? The gears of capitalism and human nature ensure that it'll come, sooner or later. And I think the only way this won't end in certain disaster is to develop, formalize, and enforce a new social contract regarding human enhancement.
My suggestion? If you want to use biotechnology to make yourself smarter, you also have to use it to make yourself nicer.
If we don't make this the accepted contract, I fear we'll ping-pong between two unpalatable scenarios: either open things up to an enhancement free-for-all (and there's likely a strong correlation between people who most want to be cognitively enhanced and people for whom it's not in society's best interests to grant a competitive advantage), or criminalize enhancement (and if we outlaw enhancement, only outlaws will be enhanced).
In 1848, an explosion drives a steel tamping bar through the skull of a twenty-five-year-old railroad foreman named Phineas Gage, obliterating a portion of his frontal lobes. He recovers, and seems to possess all his earlier faculties, with one exception: The formerly mild-mannered Gage is now something of a hellion, an impulsive shit-starter. Ipso facto, the frontal lobes must play some function in regulating and restraining our more animalistic instincts.
In 1861, a French neurosurgeon named Pierre-Paul Broca announces that he has found the root of speech articulation in the brain. He bases his discovery on a patient of his, a man with damage to the left hemisphere of his inferior frontal lobe. The man comes to be known as "Monsieur Tan," because, though he can understand what people say, "tan" is the only syllable he is capable of pronouncing.
Thirteen years later, Carl Wernicke, a German neurologist, describes a patient with damage to his posterior left temporal lobe, a man who speaks fluently but completely nonsensically, unable to form a logical sentence or understand the sentences of others. If "Broca's area," as the damaged part of Monsieur Tan's brain came to be known, was responsible for speech articulation, then "Wernicke's area" must be responsible for language comprehension.
And so it goes. The broken illuminate the unbroken.
Edit, 5-25-11: There's been some interesting research on using brain stimulation to aid learning: essentially using tiny amounts of electricity to induce changes in rats' brains that makethem better learners. After the current is shut off, the rats' brains go back to normal but they keep their learned skills. We don't know what the specific trade-offs may be, but between this approach and approaches which could mimic developmental neuroplasticity triggers, we may have the basis for a very desirable form of cognitive enhancement.
Here's "Scienceblog" on the a theory on how the brain picks which of its neural networks to use for a new skill:
Edit, 7-28-11: Scientists have traced the recall of a specific memory and found it partially activates other memories from around the same time. Unsurprising, given it's common to experience memories as strongly linked, but still good science, and perhaps it supports the viewpoint that all memory is ultimately episodic in some real sense.
Researchers have long known that the brain links all kinds of new facts, related or not, when they are learned about the same time. Just as the taste of a cookie and tea can start a cascade of childhood memories, as in Proust, so a recalled bit of history homework can bring to mind a math problem — or a new dessert — from that same night.
For the first time, scientists have recorded traces in the brain of that kind of contextual memory, the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of thoughts and emotions that surrounds every piece of newly learned information. The recordings, taken from the brains of people awaiting surgery for epilepsy, suggest that new memories of even abstract facts — an Italian verb, for example — are encoded in a brain-cell firing sequence that also contains information about what else was happening during and just before the memory was formed, whether a tropical daydream or frustration with the Mets.
The new study suggests that memory is like a streaming video that is bookmarked, both consciously and subconsciously, by facts, scenes, characters and thoughts.
...“When you activate one memory, you are reactivating a little bit of what was happening around the time the memory was formed,” Dr. Kahana said[.]
Cross-species data analysis strongly suggests that most age-associated disease and death is due to "antagonistic pleiotropy" -- destructive interference between adaptations specialized for different age ranges. The result is that death rate increases through old age, and then stabilizes at a high constant rate in late life.
different types of BCIs-- one way vs two way (open or closed loop)- invasiveness (non, partial, very) (influences bandwidth)- spacial scale (topology, degrees of freedom)- temporal scale (precision)levels of organization- where to interact with the brain?- neuron- cortical column- nuclei- functional networks- cortical regionsafferent BCIs (inject a signal)- map the network- choose 'connection' site- inject a signal (MUST contain information)- "neuroplasticity" helps interprets over time- performance = f (information quality, accessibility, bandwidth…)efferent BCIs (find signal, take it out)- map the network- find a recording site- transduce a signal- algorithms 'interpret'- 'neuroplasticity' (but you get less help from the brain going out than going in)- performance=f (resolution, signal quality, algorithms, information)major challenges in BCIs:data dimensionalitydata rates- up to 25 bits/min in 2000 (almost double now)biocompatabilitytissue/electrode interfacemapping circuits for meaningful injection/extraction pointsstate of the art for electrodes is bad…12 million neurons gets represented by 1 electrode. Likewise, electrodes don't measure the same neurons during different experiments.
- computational - defining goals of the system (e.g., Opencog)- algorithmic - how the brain does things - the representations and algorithms (this guy)- implementation - the medium - the physical realization of the system (e.g., Blue Brain, SyNAPSE)