Tag Archives: biology

Natural Contraceptive App Blamed For Unplanned Pregnancies (As Expected)

Pregnant woman standing outside on a sunny day

There’s no question that advances in contraception have had a profound impact on our society. Some applaud it. Some resent it. Either way, there’s no uninventing it. Contraception, be it male or female, is a big part of our society and further advances promise to have an even bigger impact.

I’ve talked about the future of contraception before, as well as the potential impacts of those advances. There are a lot of things in development, as I write this, that men and women alike should get excited about. Between better IUDs and more birth control options for men, we’re quickly entering an age where we have unprecedented control over our fertility.

It’s for that very reason that it’s necessary to take a step back and remind ourselves of the existing flaws we have with the current state of contraception. There’s a reason why those advances I mentioned are in development to begin with. What we have now is pretty good, relative to older, more archaic forms of birth control. However, there are a few shortcomings that tend to lead to dramatic, albeit predictable failures.

One of those shortcomings/failures made the news recently and left several dozen women very disappointed, to say the least. According to a story from TheVerge, a recently-developed contraceptive app called Natural Cycles is being blamed for 37 unwanted pregnancies. Anyone who knows anything about pregnancy, female biology, and nature in general probably isn’t surprised.

That’s because the app in question basically made something like this inevitable. According to the article, the Natural Cycles app is supposed to help women who rely on more natural family planning methods. In terms of the actual process, these are the basics:

The app uses an algorithm and measures factors like temperature to determine the period when a woman may be fertile. It’s a popular alternative to hormonal contraceptives like the pill because it lacks side effects.

It’s pretty basic, but the principle makes sense on paper and isn’t based on radically new ideas. The concept of a woman tracking her fertility to determine the times of month when she’s most likely to conceive a child is fairly well-known. It’s most commonly called the “Rhythm Method” and according to the Mayo Clinic, it takes a lot of preparation.

To use this method, a woman needs actively track her menstrual cycle, accurately determine the parts of that cycle where she’s most fertile, and plan her sexual activity around those time-frames. It takes a great deal of physical awareness, as well as a certain measure of discipline, which some people are better at than others.

The Natural Cycles app is supposed to supplement those principles by aiding in that tracking process. It even tries to provide the woman with more data so that she has a better understanding of her body while tracking her cycle. In theory, having perfect knowledge of her biology will ensure a woman knows when she is or isn’t fertile.

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It’s that exact theory, however, that makes this news about a surge in unplanned pregnancies so unsurprising. There’s a good reason why this sort of approach to contraception is rarely practiced by anyone other than committed couples and is often discouraged as a general form of contraception.

As with so many other theories, the actual practice of the method doesn’t always work in the real world. That’s because the real world is a lot more chaotic, varied, and unpredictable than concepts on a piece of paper. That applies even more to human biology, male and female.

Now, the appeal of natural family planning like the one Natural Cycles promotes is undeniable. You don’t need to take a pill. You don’t need to have something inserted into your body. Plus, it gives you a chance to really know and understand the workings of your body. For both sexual health and general health, that’s has many benefits.

Unfortunately, the human body is not known for being that transparent. It does not come equipped with a USB port or a wireless interface that provides us with accurate, real-time data about our insides, although that’s one advancement science is working on. Absent that data, natural family planning, even with the aid of Natural Cycles, is going to be either incomplete or flawed.

I don’t doubt that the use of Natural Cycles helps in the process, but there’s a good reason why the same Mayo Clinic that so thoroughly lays out the process of natural family planning also identifies it as one of the least reliable forms of contraception. This is what they had to say about the risks associated with this method.

Using the rhythm method as a form of birth control doesn’t pose any direct risks. However, it’s considered one of the least effective forms of birth control. How well the rhythm method works varies between couples. In general, as many as 24 out of 100 women who use natural family planning for birth control become pregnant the first year. Also, the rhythm method doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections.

Given this information, the fact that some of those using the Natural Cycles app ended up pregnant should surprise no one. The shortcomings of natural family planning are well known and, for the moment, no app is capable of circumventing those shortcomings.

It’s not just that even the most basic activities of the human body are so difficult to quantify and track. Doing so and trying to plan around it assumes all those involved behave with perfect discipline. While I still believe that most human beings are inherently good at heart, I don’t doubt that human beings can also be erratic, irrational, and just plain stupid at times.

There will be moments when a woman misjudges or mistimes her fertility over the course of her cycle. There will also be moments when the passions between a woman and her lover will override whatever discipline they had promised to exercise during that time of the month. Even when people aren’t stupid, they can be overwhelmed by a moment.

That’s the ultimate flaw of natural planning and apps like Natural Cycles. It’s not just prone to human error. It relies on the absence of human error in order to work perfectly. That’s not just flaw. Those are unreasonable expectations that no population of healthy human beings can hope to meet.

It’s sad that several dozen women had to learn this the hard way, even if the outcome was fairly predictable. If nothing else, it should remind us just how much work we need to do on improving contraception, women’s health, and our overall understanding of our biology.

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The (Uncomfortable) Questions We’ll Have To Answer With Human Enhancement

In general, I tend to be optimistic about the future. I know that seems crazy, given our current political climate, but I try to look beyond the petty grievance’s and focus on the bigger picture. By so many measures, the world is getting better. The human race is on an unprecedented winning streak and we’re only getting better.

A great deal of this improvement is due, largely, to our ability to make increasingly amazing tools. As I type this, countless people who are far smarter than I’ll ever be are working on advances that will keep us healthier, make us smarter, and help us transcend our physical and mental limits by orders of magnitude.

This is all exciting stuff. We should all look forward to a future where we never get sick, we never age, and we have the physical and sexual prowess of an Olympic athlete on meth. The aspiring erotica/romance writer in me is giddy with excitement over the sexy possibilities.

Like all advancements, though, there will be a cost. Even the greatest advancements mankind has ever made in science, technology, and sex have come at a cost. It’s just the nature of the chaotic world we live in. Nothing is ever smooth and easy when there are so many chaotic forces that we can’t always make sense of.

That’s why for some of these advancements, such as CRISPR, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence, we have to be extra proactive. We’re not just talking about tools that makes it easier to defend ourselves against a hungry lion. These are tools that will fundamentally change what it means to be human.

They’ll take the caveman logic and tribalism that has guided the human race for its entire existence and throw it out the window. They’ll completely rewrite the rules of human nature, crossing lines and redrawing them in ways that even a kinky mind like mine can’t imagine. It won’t just be an overwhelming transition. For some, it’ll be downright traumatic.

Given that there are over seven billion humans on this planet, there will be a lot of moving parts to this transformation. Before we can even think about taking the first steps in that process, we need to ask ourselves some serious, unsexy questions. As much an optimist as I am, I cannot deny the need for caution here.

That’s why I’ll take a step back, keep my pants out, and ask some of these unsexy questions. I understand this won’t exactly get everyone in the mood, but given the rate at which our technology is advancing, we need to be extra proactive. That way, we can get through the hardest parts of the process and get to the sexy parts.


Uncomfortable Question #1: Who (Or What) Gets To Decide How Much We Enhance Ourselves?

This will probably be the most pressing question once the technology becomes refined enough for the commercial market. Most technology goes through a progression. We saw it with the development of cell phones. At first, only business tycoons and drug lords could afford to use them or even have a use for them, to begin with.

That model might have worked for cell phones. It’s not going to work for something like CRISPR or smart blood. That’s because, unlike cell phones, the poorest and the impoverished are the ones most in need of these tools. They’re also the ones that stand to benefit most, in terms of quality of life.

Historically speaking, though, the government has not treated the poor and impoverished very well. Use the same approach with cell phones and the rich and well-connected will be the only ones to benefit. They’ll also further widen the gap, so much so that they might be even less inclined to share.

That’s why the default answer to this question can’t just be the government or rich business interests. I’m not going to pretend to know who the authority will be or how they’ll even go about distributing these advances to people in a fair and just manner. I just know that our current method will not be sufficient.


Uncomfortable Question #2: How Do We Stop Certain Human Enhancements When They Go Wrong?

When your computer freezes, you reboot it. When the sound on your speakers starts making noises, you turn it off. It’s a beautiful, but underrated thing, having an off-switch. I’m sure we’ve all had people in our lives whom we wish had an off-switch. It’s a necessary fail-safe for a chaotic world that we can’t always manage.

Putting an off-switch on dangerous technology, especially something like artificial intelligence, is just common sense. It would’ve made “The Terminator” a lot shorter and a lot less confusing. With other advancements, especially those involving CRISPR and biotechnology, it’s not as easy as just installing an extra switch.

How do you turn off something that literally rewrites our DNA? How do you stop someone who has grown used to having superhuman abilities, by our standards? That’s akin to asking someone to make themselves sick or hack off a limb because the technology has some side-effects. That’s going to be a tough sell.

Again, I am not smart enough to imagine how a fail-safe for that sort of thing would work. It can’t just rely on blind faith, magical thinking, or whatever other tactic that used car salesmen exploit. It has to be in place and up to speed as soon as this technology goes live.


Uncomfortable Question #3: How Independent/Dependent Will Human Enhancement Make Us?

Smartphones, running water, and free internet porn are great. However, they do require infrastructure. People today are at the mercy of whoever pays their cell phone bill, whoever knows the wifi password, and whoever can stop their toilets from overflowing with shit. To some extent, we all depend on certain institutions to keep our lives and our society going.

In a future of enhanced humans, who have been imbued with traits and abilities that way beyond the scope of our current infrastructure, how dependent or independent can they be in the grand scheme of things?

If they rely on a regular injection of nanobots or need to recharge every other day, then they’re going to have to rely on some form of infrastructure. That may help keep enhanced humans from becoming super-powered Biff Tannens, but it will also give a lot of power to whoever or whatever is supplying those resources.

In a sense, it can’t be one or the other. If enhanced humans are too independent, then they have no reason to interact or aid one another. If they’re too dependent on certain resources, then those controlling those resources become too powerful. There needs to be a healthy balance, is what I’m saying. There will be costs, but we have to make sure that the benefits far outweigh those costs.


Uncomfortable Question #4: How Much Of Our Humanity Do We Keep?

Let’s not lie to ourselves. There’s a lot about the human condition we wish we could change or drop altogether. Personally, I would love to never have to go to the dentist, never have to clip my toe nails, and never have to sleep, which is an advancement that’s closer than you think.

Humanity has has a lot of flaws, which is a big part of what drives the development of these tools. However, there are certain parts about humanity that are worth preserving and I’m not just talking about the health benefits of orgasms. Change too much about our bodies, our minds, and everything in between and we cease to become human. At that point, why even care about other humans?

Maintaining a sense of humanity is what will separate enhanced humans from overpriced machines. Our sense of humanity is a big part of what drives us to live, love, explore, and understand. If we lose that, then we’re basically a very smart rock that’s only interested in maintaining its status as a rock.

To really expand our horizons, we need to preserve the best of humanity. Humans do amazing things all the time that reminds us why humanity is worth preserving. When we start enhancing ourselves, we need to save those traits, no matter what we become.


Uncomfortable Question #5: How Will Society Function In A World Of Enhanced Humans?

We’ve built a good chunk of our society around our inherent flaws, as humans. We form tribes to cooperate and survive in ways we can’t do on our own. We seek leaders who are capable of guiding us to functional, stable society. Granted, sometimes those efforts fail miserably, but the goal is the same.

With human enhancement, the rules aren’t just different. They’re obsolete. So much of our society is built around the idea that we’re still a bunch of cavemen with fancier tools that we really don’t have a concept of how we’ll function beyond that context. We have nation states, national identities, and various tribes to which we bind ourselves.

Those are all still products of our inherent drive towards tribalism. That’s still our default setting, as a species. What happens when we start tweaking those settings? Will things like nation states, government, and social circles even exist? When society is made up of a bunch of superhuman beings who can live forever and never need a sick day, how do we even go about functioning?

This is well-beyond my expertise, as an aspiring erotica/romance writer. It may be one of those things we can’t contemplate until after some of these advances take hold. At the very least, we need to put this question at the top of our to-do list when that time comes.


Uncomfortable Question #6: How Will Human Enhancement Affect Our Understanding Of Family And Love?

This is probably the most pressing question for me, as an aspiring erotica/romance writer. I’ve already highlighted some of the flaws in our understanding of love. Once humanity starts enhancing itself, it may either subvert those flaws or render them obsolete. In the process, though, it may create an entirely new class of flaws to deal with.

What happens to a marriage when the people involved live forever and don’t age? That whole “death do us part” suddenly becomes an issue. What happens when having children is essentially uncoupled from romance, through tools like artificial wombs? What will love even feel like once we start enhancing our brains along with our genitals?

Since all love and passion still starts in the brain, which we’re already trying to enhance, any level of human enhancement will necessarily affect love, marriage, and family. Chances are it’ll take on a very different meaning in a world where marriage is less about tax benefits and more about new forms of social dynamics.

Human enhancement will change a lot about our bodies, our minds, and our genitals. It’ll effect so much more, including how we go about love and family. It’s still impossible to grasp since we’re all still stuck with our caveman brains. However, once that changes, this is just one of many issues we should contemplate if we’re to make the future better, sexier, and more passionate.

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Neuralink: How Brain Enhancement Will Make Us Sexier (And More Loving)

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At the beginning of every year, millions people stand in front of the mirror, look at all the weight they’ve gained since Christmas, and promise to themselves that they’ll eat healthier and exercise more for the coming year. It’s an entirely noble promise, seeking greater health. It’s also a promise that most are destined to break.

Any effort to better ourselves, no matter how healthy or noble, is an uphill battle. That’s why the vast majority of diets do not work on a long-term basis. You can lose a little weight here and there, but it almost always comes back. Then, you hate yourself a little more, look for excuses, and go back to drowning your sorrows in a tub of ice cream.

However, it’s not entirely your fault that you broke that promise to yourself at the beginning of the year. It’s not even the fault of bullying, the media, or even food companies that insist on making unhealthy food that tastes too damn good. No, it’s the fault of one organ in your body. No, I’m not talking about your stomach either. It’s your brain.

Yes, your brain is the reason why you can’t keep your promises and stay health. Your brain is the reason why you can’t keep the weight off when you diet. Your brain is the reason why your body is shackled to unhealthy habits that keep our bodies flooded with greasy, sugary food and on the couch.

Naturally, this does affect our sex lives, our love lives, and everything in between. When we’re unhealthy, it makes it damn hard to get in the mood, sustain the mood, and make that mood meaningful. How can we when we’re craving sugar cookies, beer, and Netflix? Again, it’s our brains. It’s the reason why we can’t live healthier, sexier lives.

That brings me back to Neuralink. Yes, I’m not quite ready to shut up about it yet. There’s just so much to talk about and so many implications, some sexier than others. I’ve been talking largely about the big picture and the pragmatics of brain implants and brain enhancement so far. Now, I’d like to get to the sexy stuff.

Last year, I talked a bit about how I essentially shamed myself into adopting a healthier lifestyle. I went from a cookie-eating, soda-drinking couch potato to a guy who exercises almost every day and tries not to gorge on donuts every day. It shows in my health and my sex appeal. I can take my shirt off at the beach and be fairly certain that the women who see me won’t be disgusted.

That process of getting healthier was hard. My brain was my biggest enemy in that it fought me every step of the way. That’s because the human brain isn’t necessarily wired for a healthy lifestyle in an era where there are no famines and no hungry bears trying to eat us. It’s wired to basically do what makes it and the body happy.

Unfortunately, that often means eating copious amounts of the fattening sugar that used to be such a rarity in the natural world before modern sugar processing. Again, you can blame big corporations as much as the kale-eating hippies of the world, but the issue isn’t capitalism. It’s our faulty brain wiring that hasn’t been updated in 200,000 years.

Our brain is wired to value sugary, tasty foods that give us a quick dopamine rush. It’s also wired to maintain existing habits and mentalities over creating new ones because change is a stressful process. Being the crude piece of hardware that it is, the brain generally tries to avoid stress.

Naturally, this unhealthy brain wiring affects our sex lives as well. While we are a very social species, our brain often struggles between selfish and affectionate tendencies. That means that once the brain gets its dopamine rush from the sex and love we make, it’s generally pretty selfish about it.

That’s why we have men who will do a few casual humps, blow their load, and then look for an excuse to turn on Sportscenter. That’s why we have women who will just lie there, bark orders, and expect their partner to do all the work. That’s why we find ourselves in relationships where two lovers just aren’t on the same page, get bored with each other, and look for the next dopamine rush, whether it’s the pool guy or the babysitter.

It’s a sad and unpleasant byproduct of a brain that has been stuck on the same settings since the stone age and is at the mercy of crude, unguided chemistry. There are those who can overcome it to lose a lot of weight and form marriages that last more than half-a-century. Unfortunately, that’s the exception and not the norm.

That’s where Neuralink comes in. It’s doing what no diet pill, self-help book, or talk show host ever dared to do. It’s getting right to the root of these problems, which is in our brains. Tweak the wiring and suddenly, every weight loss guru is out of a job.

How would that work? Well, keep in mind that Neuralink‘s stated goal is to integrate computer technology directly into our brains to improve various brain functions. Well, that improvement part isn’t just limited to basic math and keeping up with the latest season of Scandal.

Picture the brain of someone who is insanely fit, like the Rock or Kate Hudson. How is their brain wired? How do they get themselves to do what they do? Well, we already know how to scan brains. It wouldn’t be easy to decipher the particulars of that wiring, but it’s not impossible. A neural implant would simply mimic that wiring, setting our brains up so that we have the right mindset for being healthy.

It goes even farther than that though. A neural implant means we’re not restricted to the brain’s traditional limits. That means it could, in theory, wire our brain in a way that makes us less hungry. We would no longer succumb to that powerful impulse to buy a dozen donuts every time we walk by a Krispe Kreme.

Beyond mitigating hunger, an implant could also wire our brains in a way that makes us feel an extra rush of dopamine when we exercise. Remember that so-called “coregasm” I mentioned when I talked about different kinds of orgasms? Well what if doing 100 sit-ups or 100 push ups gave us the kind of orgasm usually reserved for three-ways with cheerleaders and Hugh Jackman? You’d become a fitness junkie overnight.

The same extends to food. One of the reasons why we can’t stop eating all the unhealthy shit we eat is because it tastes so damn good. It tastes good because our brains make us believe it tastes good. Well what if a neural implant could make it so a bowl of kale tastes like a slice of chocolate cake dipped in bacon grease? Suddenly, eating healthy isn’t just practical. It’s a goddamn party.

So a neural implant can wire your brain in a way that makes you eat better, exercise more, and feel healthier. That’s all well and good, but looks alone aren’t going to make you sexier. You can look like an Olympic athlete, but if you’re an amateur once the panties come off, then you might as well be Al Bundy.

A neural implant with just the right settings can change that. Ladies, have you ever had a man just hump you for a few minutes, blow his load, and then roll over and fall asleep before you even had a chance to get wet? Well, it’s not entirely his fault. He’s still an inconsiderate asshole, but there is a biological reason for it.

In the brain, there’s this chemical called prolactin. It has a lot of complex impacts on the brain, but it’s what keeps a man from going more than a few rounds between the sheets. When his brain is full of this chemical, his soldier will not be saluting you for a while. Add the shot of endorphins that comes with a typical male orgasm and he might as well have a tranquilizer dart in his head.

Now tweak that brain chemistry a bit. Make it so a man’s brain isn’t wired so he’s “one and done,” so to speak. Ladies, you now have a lover who can hang in there for multiple rounds, keep the mood sexy, and ensure you that special trip to O-Town you crave. That’s what a neural implant could do.

It’s not just for the men either. Guys, have you ever had one of those ladies who, despite your best efforts, can’t seem to make it all the way to O-Town? Well, there are any number of reasons why that could be and not all of them are your fault. Many, in fact, are in the woman’s brain.

Using the same approach, adjusting the wiring for female settings, a neural implant could install the mental equivalent of an express lane to O-Town. That means that men can feel like Brad Pitt on crack when they’re making love, sharing multiple round-trip vacations to that special place of sensual bliss. How much better would your sex life be if your brains were wired like that?

Go even farther than that. Go beyond having the kind of hot sex that sets bed sheets ablaze. Get a little romantic and suddenly, brain implants become the most romantic thing that doesn’t involve diamonds and Hugh Grant.

It’s true. Love also has a powerful basis in the brain. There even this chemical called Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone.” It’s basically your brain’s way of creating bonds and enhancing intimacy. It’s what helps mothers bond with children, husbands bond with wives, and children with dolls. It is basically the chocolate frosting of brain chemicals.

Normally, hormones like oxytocin are secreted erratically and chaotically in the brain. It’ll emerge whether you’re making love to your spouse on your anniversary or banging your tennis instructor. Nature is just too crude and too immature to wire the brain in a way that really makes those lasting bonds stick.

Add a neural implant to the mix and suddenly, you can channel oxytocin like a biological smart bomb. You want to be more intimate with your partner? Well, you don’t need to go on vacation or buy an expensive diamond. Just adjust the settings of your implant and just like that, you’ve got more love in your heart than every Barry White song ever made.

Are you excited/horny yet about Neuralink‘s full potential? Does the idea of getting a neural implant now feel like the equivalent of a VIP pass to the Playboy Mansion? I think I’ve done enough to pain a very rosy, very sexy picture of the future. Now there will be risks, as there are with all new technologies, but I honestly can’t think of a risk that’s more worth it.

If we have a way to fix our inherently flawed brains, then we won’t just be healthier and happier. We’ll be able to love, make love, and share love on a level that no human has ever experienced before. Sure, it’s still a ways off, but with Elon Musk at the helm and Neuralink providing the platform, that future is within our grasp. I say it’s worth embracing.

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Neuralink: Elon Musk’s Latest Business And Why It’s The Most Important Venture In History

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There are a number of things I belabor on this blog. However, there’s one thing I tend to belabor more than most and for a good, wholly relevant reason. I’ll say it again and I’ll keep saying it for as long as it remains painfully relevant. Our collective brains are painfully limited.

For the past 10,000 years, we’ve been stuck in caveman mode. So much of our society and world has changed. Unfortunately, our brains might as well be stone tablets trying to compete against a top-of-the-line smartphone.

There are a lot of problems in this world that can be chalked up to the faulty wiring in our brain. Everything from the failures of democracy, the prevalence of religious dogma, and the rise of the Kardashians can be attributed to the inherent flaws in our brains.

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We’re just not wired for the civilization we’ve created. Our brains evolved on the plains of the African savanna. They’re optimized to function in small bands of closely-knit hunter/gatherer societies, wired to prioritize survival and reproduction over knowing our multiplication tables. Remember that the next time a math teacher gets snippy with you.

That method of operation worked damn well for thousands of years, but conditions have changed. We humans needed to grow, create cities, and build civilizations to survive. Unfortunately, our brains stayed stuck in hunter/gatherer mode. It’s like being stuck with the earliest version of Windows and never being able to update.

It’s frustrating to think about. It’s even tragic, knowing that all these problems have a basis in the wiring of our brains. We can do a lot to work around it, but we can never seem to avoid it and that’s a problem. If we can’t get around the base programming of our biology, what hope do we have? Are we doomed to a future of reality TV, professional trolls, and fake news?

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Well, we can’t do anything about it at the moment. However, I’d like to offer a ray of hope. It’s actually part of a story that slipped under the radar in recent weeks, most likely due to everyone still processing how Bill O’Reilly got away with so much sexual harassment over the course of 13 years. That might be for the best because it’s impossible to understate the implications.

It has to do with a guy named Elon Musk. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He’s a businessman, engineer, investor, and inventor. He created PayPal, founded Tesla Motors, is the CEO of SpaceX, and is worth an estimated $13.9 billion. He’s the closest thing the real world has to Tony Stark from Iron Man. In 2016, Forbes voted him the 21st most powerful person on the planet.

Some people like to dream about the future. This guy is actively creating it and making himself exceedingly rich in the process. He’s a perfect cross between Warren Buffet, Albert Einstein, and Nikola Tesla is what I’m saying. If that’s not superhuman, I don’t know what is and that’s coming from an admitted comic book fan.

Well, as accomplished as Musk is, the man just has to overachieve in the most obscene way possible. Creating awesome cars, space ships, and pollution-free power just isn’t enough for this guy. He just has to find new ways to make us all feel like losers. However, his latest venture may end up being the most important venture in human history.

No, that’s not a typo. That’s not me talking in hyperbole either. I mean it. What Musk plans to do with this venture may very well be the most important thing any human being has ever done since the invention of fire, electricity, and internet porn. It may actually hold the key to our survival, both as a society and as a species

It’s called Neuralink. Late last month, Musk announced the creation of this company in Dubai. It has a simple, but monumentally ambitious mission. According to the Walls Street Journal, that mission is as follows:

The company, which is still in the earliest stages of existence and has no public presence whatsoever, is centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices.

No, it’s not a rejected side-plot from the Matrix. This is happening in the real world. If it sounds like something that only Star Trek fans would talk about in between arguments about whether Captain Kirk could kick Captain Picard’s ass, then resist the urge to roll your eyes for just a few minutes. This really is that important.

A while back, I speculated on ways in which we could improve the wiring on our caveman brains. That was just a thought experiment though, not unlike my regular speculations on the prospects of human enhancement. I explore these issues with the understanding that they’re just ideas. There’s no time table in place for this sort of futuristic stuff to actually happen.

Well, now there is and Elon Musk, a man with an established track-record at making technology his bitch, is setting the stage for the kind of future that only once existed in the twisted thoughts of aspiring erotica/romance writers. It’s not some fancy experiment among sci-fi geeks. It’s an actual business enterprise by a man who knows how to use technology to make a fuckton of money.

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What makes Neuralink such a big deal is that it’s not just giving human beings another fancy tool for our caveman brains to use. It’s actually bypassing the caveman part and looking to hack the wiring that’s so badly in need of an upgrade. Beyond that, he wants to do that in a way that’ll turn a profit.

Make no mistake. There is money to be made here. Musk wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about it if it weren’t. The biotech industry is already a $157 billion industry, but it doesn’t have that high a profile because it lacks a “killer app,” so to speak. The industry is very much akin to the smartphone industry back in the early 2000s. It’s growing, but there’s no iPhone yet to really kick it into high gear.

Well, Elon Musk looks to do for biotech what Steve Jobs did for smartphones. Brain implants, like smartphones, do exist. They’re just very limited right now. It’s a very nascent technology, but the science is there. It is possible to put some type of computer hardware into the brain and have it effect the brain in some way.

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At the moment, those effects are limited, just as smartphones were in 2002. With Musk leading the charge, those effects will definitely expand. Musk isn’t just looking to create implants that will treat stroke victims or mental illness. He’s serious about enhancing the human brain as a means of keeping pace with technology.

We know he’s serious because back in 2015, he signed an open letter with Stephen Hawking and a dozen other men who are way smarter than most of us will ever be expressing concern about the growth of artificial intelligence. Musk isn’t among those who thinks we’ll ever have to fight off actual Terminators, but he does see artificial intelligence as a potential existential threat to the human race.

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He’s not wrong either. He and many others understand that we humans are still cavemen running around with clubs trying to make sense of all the crazy things we experience. Our intelligence is severely limited by those caveman settings. A sufficiently intelligent machine really wouldn’t need to do much to outsmart us. It would just need to convince us that it had a video of Kim Kardashian going down on Justin Bieber.

Practically speaking, the only way we humans stand a chance at co-existing and thriving alongside artificial intelligence is to augment our own intelligence. To do that, we need to effectively hack and enhance the brains that struggle to determine whether Alex Jones is a credible news source.

It won’t happen over night. According to Musk, the first few products from Neuralink will specialize in treating stroke victims and those who have sustained brain damage. However, that’s just a step in a much larger process. Once we have products that can treat damaged brains, then we can make products that enhance healthy brains.

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It used to be we only needed cell phones for emergencies and drug lords. Now, we they have so many uses that enhance our lives. What kind of enhancements can we expect from something that actually affects our brains directly in ways that hypnotists and subliminal advertising can only dream of?

That is a very interesting and very sexy question. I hope to explore some of these questions in future posts, but I think it’s important to highlight just how huge Neuralink could be for the future.

Ford helped usher in the era of cars. Apple helped usher in the era of personal computing. Neuralink could usher in an era that will fundamentally change what it means to be human. It’ll also probably make Elon Musk another fuckton of money, but if it means saving the future of our species, I’d say he’s earned it.

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Excuse Banking: What It Is, How It Effects Us, And Why It Matters

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If you thought I was done talking about reasons and excuses, I’m sad to report that you’re very wrong. If you thought there’s no other way to make funny, sexy, or relevant, then I’m not so sad to report that I’m eager to prove that wrong as well. Trust me. This is a huge topic, one with many implications for writing novels and so much more.

A big part of what inspired me to explore this topic is a new book I’m reading called “Think Like A Freak.” It’s a book by Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the two authors behind the best-selling “Freakanomics” books that I’ve enjoyed so much in the past.

There’s a lot to digest in this book and I’m still not done reading it yet, but the primary takeaway is fairly simple. It teaches you to step back from a situation, look at all the complex incentives and motivations surrounding it, and think in new, unorthodox ways to further your understanding. These posts on reasons and excuses are an exercise, of sorts, in understanding things from a new perspective.

I’ve already explored the basics of reasons and excuses. Now, I’d like to expand on those basics and create a new concept of sorts, one not unlike the idea of “caveman logic,” which I’ve cited so often on this blog. Please don’t mistake this for a real scientific concept. I’m as much a scientist as I am an astronaut ninja. This is just me, an aspiring erotica/romance writer, creating a term to encompass a larger concept.

With that said, ladies, gentlemen, and those of unspecified gender, I introduce to you the concept of “Excuse Banking.” It’s not in a dictionary. You won’t find it in any textbooks or erotica/romance stories yet, but it’s an idea that has affected us all to some extent.

Again, this is a term I’m inventing right now with no expertise and nothing but a blog to explore it. I understand that’s like a hobo walking into MIT and trying to build a star ship, but I want use this term to explore the more intimate aspect of reasons and excuses. As anyone who has read my books knows, I’m all for more intimacy.

First off, here’s a quick and dirty definition of what excuse banking is:

  • A form of rationalizing one’s actions by using one or more justifications that have been remembered, accepted, and understood as something of personal value;
  • A series of actions meant to mitigate or eliminate the emotional or mental stress of a decision or action that may occur in the future; and
  • The process of shaping ideas, beliefs, and morals in a manner that facilitates difficult ethical decisions.

In reading over these definitions, it should be easy to recall situations where excuse banking applies to you or someone you know on some level. Have you ever loaned someone money? Have you ever helped them with a chore? Have you ever done a favor and asked for nothing in return?

Well, in doing so, you’re effectively making deposits into the excuse bank that you can use as currency, so to speak. Sometimes those deposits gain interest over time. Sometimes they depreciate. In either case, we use this currency to either garner favors through reciprocity or mitigate stressful, demanding situations we may have at a later time.

Much like caveman logic, the idea of excuse banking reflects the understanding that our brains are wired a certain way. That wiring, unfortunately, is akin to an operating system that never gets upgraded. As far as our brain wiring is concerned, we’re still cavemen living in hunter/gatherer tribes in the African savanna.

That wiring, regardless of whether you believe it’s a product of nature or supernatural deities, is the guiding force behind everything from our social behavior to our sexual fantasies. For this particular topic, I’ll focus on the social behavior and save the sexual fantasies for my novels.

Like every other cognitive function, our social behavior does have a basis in neurobiology. That behavior helps guide what we do and why we do it. The behavior, and the wiring behind it, have two primary imperatives that take priority over pretty much everything else. Those priorities are, once again, survival and reproduction.

Nature may be blunt, imperfect, and messy at times, but you can never accuse it of misplacing priorities. When it comes to helping a species thrive, survival and reproduction have to be major priorities. Whether it involves surviving a bear attack or successfully making love to one hundred beautiful cavewomen, those priorities guide a significant part of our thoughts and actions.

It’s for that reason, as I stated in a previous post, that our process for making decisions is so different compared to what we believe. We like to think we’re rational creatures, assessing a situation logically like Spock or Dr. House, and then acting in accord with the utmost reason and morality. That’s the ideal and the basis of multiple superheroes, TV doctors, and scientists.

However, due to that pesky biological wiring that hasn’t been upgraded since the stone age, we do it ass-backwards. We first make a decision, often based on emotion and instinct, and then look for ways to justify it. It’s a good way to ensure we survive bear attacks long enough to get laid. It’s not a good way to promote rational decisions, much to the chagrin of Dr. House.

This is the domain in which excuse banking manifests. Regardless of whether or not we believe that this is how we make our decisions, excuse banking ensures we have a way to justify our actions and decisions, especially if they cause us physical or emotional distress.

We do this because there’s a 100-percent chance that at some point in our lives, we’re going to face a difficult decision. Maybe we have to decide whether to lie to a girl to get her attention. Maybe we have to decide whether or not we should trust the guy who claims to be a Nigerian prince wanting to help us collect an unclaimed lottery place. At some point, we will confront these decisions. It’s an inevitable fact of life.

Excuse banking is a way of hedging our bets, so to speak. It encompasses the actions, beliefs, and social connections we make prior to these decisions. We may have different reasons for seeking these connections, but they have the same secondary function. They help deposit excuses that we might be able to use in future situations.

The process of banking excuses is almost always secondary, in that sense. Nobody goes out of their way to do or believe something because they want an excuse to justify their actions. Nobody overtly think, “I’m going to work at this soup kitchen and provide medicine to sick orphans so I don’t feel as guilty when I strangle puppies with my bare hands.” Those that do are probably sociopaths or reality TV hosts.

Like real banking, sometimes the excuses we bank generate interest. This is especially true when actions involve forming a strong social network of people who support you, even when you screw up. They act as a safety net and over time, that net can become reinforced.

Also, like real banking, banked excuses require fees of sorts. You have to pay a price in order to bank a certain excuse. It can be the time and energy we put into crafting social networks. It can be the resources we expend to join a group, mold an identity, or sell our skills. Some fees are small. Some are much larger, but tend to be more flexible.

That’s where excuse banking starts to diverge from actual banking. Unlike hard currency, excuses can be malleable to a certain extent. You can turn past favors, past charity work, and all that money you gave to PETA into excuses you can use in multiple situations.

This is especially true of excuses built around beliefs. Since beliefs are intangible, unmeasurable, and unverifiable, they are extremely malleable. Take circumcision, a topic I’ve covered before, sometimes to an exceedingly personal degree. Absent a tangible medical condition, there’s no logical reason as to why we would cut off part of an infant’s penis.

However, if you inject a sincerely held belief that your particular religion has a tradition regarding circumcision, then that requires a hefty withdraw from the excuse bank. That excuse better be malleable and low cost as well. When it comes to beliefs, though, the cost is usually close to zero and it’s hard to beat that.

Now that’s not to disparage anyone’s sincerely held religious beliefs. I’m not saying that all religions exist as systematic forms of excuse banking. Human beings just aren’t that simple. If they were, then erotica/romance writers like me would have little to work with. Excuse banking is just one of those understated, unseen processes that emerges from our faulty brain wiring.

When put into a proper context, excuse banking can help make sense of an inherently irrational world populated by very crazy people, some of which have their own radio shows. At a time like this, when the concept of “alternative facts” is a thing, we need every tool we can get.

This is just one from an aspiring erotica/romance writer. I don’t know how useful it will be or if it’ll make anyone horny, but we can only hope.

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