Tag Archives: neurobiology

Addiction, Religion, And The Striking Similarities

1df129fb-3296-485a-8010-1e7989560ad7-large16x9_photo

Battling addiction is a serious issue. Even if you haven’t struggled with it at some point in your life, there’s a good chance that you know someone who has. I’ve known more than a few. I’ve seen how damaging it can be to people and their families.

That makes the process for treating addiction just as critical. Unlike the flu or a nasty headache, it’s not as easy as simply getting a prescription and taking a few pills. Oftentimes, there are powerful psychological factors at work to go along with the equally-powerful biological factors. Finding an effective treatment is exceedingly difficult, especially in the midst of a deadly opioid crisis.

One of the greatest challenges for finding such treatments is ensuring that someone doesn’t just exchange one bad addiction for another. Even if some addictions aren’t as damaging as another, going from heroin to methadone is only a marginal improvement for many. There is, however, one secondary addiction that adds even more complications to the mix and it’s not a pill or a substance. It’s religion.

As always, I’m going to try and be careful with my words here. I know discussions involving religion tend to bring out a lot of high emotions. I’m also aware that whenever I discuss religion, I don’t portray it in a positive light. I make it a point to disclose that religion can be a positive force for many people and I have many devoutly religious people in my family who I love dearly.

That disclaimer aside, the forces surrounding organized religion are powerful and they can be misused. The history of such misuse is well-documented. It’s impact on treating addiction is less known, but does manifest. There have been more than a few celebrities who have become religious after a battle with addiction. Some are genuinely better because of it. However, that does raise a few questions.

Did their religion actually help them overcome their addiction?

Did their religion help them address the underlying factors behind their addiction?

Did their religion just become a replacement for whatever they’d been addicted to?

These questions may come off as cynical, but they have serious implications. Religion is a powerful force on some people. Whether you’re a true believer or an ardent atheist, it’s hard to deny the impact of such a force. Religious experiences have been documented to have measurable effects on the human brain. Some of those effects are comparable to addictive drugs.

That’s not to say that going to church and going to a heroin dealer are the same thing. Addiction is complex and so is brain function. At the same time, the human brain is prone to plenty of flaws. It can be easily tricked and people can even trick themselves. When it comes to addictions, you can’t expect your brain the know the difference between heroin and a religious experience.

There is even some research that demonstrates this to some extent. For people who once built their lives around their addiction, religion is a pretty effective replacement. It demands a great deal of money, time, and energy. It surrounds you with people who reinforce and reaffirm your beliefs and behavior. It can even give some people a very specific high.

That high just becomes the new addiction. That intense feeling that religion gives people suddenly becomes the feeling that addicts are so driven to pursue. It may not feel the same as an addict’s previous addiction, which is why they may not see it as such. That doesn’t matter, though. What matters is that it fills the proverbial void that the previous addiction once filled.

That’s why it shouldn’t be too surprising to find out that some famous addiction treatment programs have deeply religious roots. It also shouldn’t be that surprising when those who find religion after dealing with addiction tend to be quite passionate about their faith, compared to those who found religion through a different path.

Even if these programs help people, it still doesn’t answer the relevant questions surrounding their addiction. Exchanging one disease for another doesn’t constitute a cure, but people make an exception for religion. The idea of someone being addicted to a religion isn’t as easy to imagine as someone being addicted to cigarettes, gambling, or porn. To them, a religious addict is just someone who goes to church more often.

Some see that as a good thing. Compared to robbing gas stations for drug money, it is an improvement. However, it still leaves the underlying cause of the addiction untreated. Whatever is making someone an addict is still present. While I don’t doubt religious organizations are happy to accept their adherence, it doesn’t fundamentally change an addict’s condition.

That can be damaging and dangerous to people who are already vulnerable. In the worst case scenario, finding religion can only create the illusion that the addict has been cured. Society didn’t approve of them being a junkie on the street, but it does approve of them being a devout religious zealot who rails against the evils of their former vice.

That sends the message that society is selective when it comes to treating addicts. As long as their addiction is productive for society, in that it benefits established institutions, it’ll treat that as a cure. It doesn’t matter if it never helps someone get to the root of their problems. As long as it makes them productive, that’s good enough.

Again, I’m not claiming that most religious organizations actively exploit people struggling with addiction. Some definitely do and a few are quite famous for it. However, it’s somewhat telling that we ascribe finding religion to overcoming an addiction when, on many levels, it’s just exchanging one source of addictive behavior for another.

At its best, religion inspires people to do great things for all the right reasons. At its worst, it can exploit someone to such an extent that it can make people who are genuinely sick feel like they’re healed. Addiction, like many other disease, is something that can only get worse if left untreated.

Whether it’s religion or crack, the brain of an addict will do what it takes to sustain its addictive state. There are effective, legitimate treatments for addiction that actually attempt to confront the source of the issues within an addict. Many aren’t as easy or overwhelming as finding religion, but they make a concerted effort at treating the addict rather than simply guiding them to a more socially-acceptable addiction.

Leave a comment

Filed under extremism, human nature, psychology, religion

How Humanity Will Cure Death

immortality

When it comes to pushing the limits of technology, every goal once started as a fantasy. In the 19th century, the smartest minds of the time thought heavier-than-air flying machines were infeasible at best and impossible at worst. In the early 20th century, other people with legitimate scientific credentials said the same thing about a manned mission to the moon.

While it seems absurd today, at the time it made sense. The people of that era just couldn’t imagine technology advancing to a point where humanity regularly achieved feats that had once been relegated to science fiction. It’s easy it mock them with the benefit of hindsight, but there are plenty of smart people today who have made claims that will be mocked 50 years from now.

One claim that most individuals, including those who work at the forefront of science and research, is that we will never cure death. Science is certainly capable of doing a great deal, but death is one of those immutable barriers that it can never overcome.

We may be able to cure all infectious disease through biotechnology and genetic engineering. We may one day have technology that allows our bodies to become so durable that from the perspective of people alive today, they’ll be superhuman. They may even live for centuries, but never age past 30. Nothing other than a freak accident could kill them. I’ve already noted the potential issues with that.

However, even these highly-enhanced humans will eventually die at some point. That seems like a given. Efforts to avoid it are often subject to heavy criticism, especially approaches like cryonics or uploading your mind into a computer. While some of those criticisms are valid, they’re also short-sighted. They work under the same assumption as those who claimed humans would never walk on the moon.

Technology has limits, but humans have a bad track record with respect to understanding those limits. With respect to curing death, even the most advanced fields of emerging technology seem limited in their ability to help people escape such a fate. That doesn’t mean the concept is flawed. It doesn’t even mean that the technology is beyond the laws of physics.

Personally, I believe death can be cured, but not with approaches like cryonics or bodily enhancements. While those technologies may ultimately extend our lives, being able to transcend death requires another approach. Specifically, it requires a mechanism for preserving, transforming, and transferring the contents of our brains.

Medically speaking, the official definition of death is the irreparable cessation of all brain activity. Your body can be damaged. Every other organ could fail. Your brain is the last link in that chain. It contains your memories, your emotions, your personality, and your capacity to experience the world. To cure death, we simply need to preserve the brain and all its functions.

That’s much harder than it sounds, but it’s not physically impossible. The human brain is not made up of some mythical, exotic material. It’s made up of specialized cells and tissues, like any other organ. While we don’t entirely understand the workings of the brain, it operates using physical matter that is bound by the laws of physics and biology.

Those limits are the key and the mechanism for preserving that complex clump of biomatter already exists, both as a concept and in a very unrefined form. That technology involves nanobots and if there’s one technology that has the potential to make humans truly immortal, it’s this.

The concept of nanobots is already a common staple of science fiction, but it’s primarily used as the technological equivalent of a wizard’s spell. If you need something or someone to do the impossible without resorting to magic, just throw nanobots or nanites, as they’re often called, into the story and let the impossible seem mundane.

While it’s doubtful that nanobots can do everything that science fiction claims, there’s a good chance that they’ll come pretty close. It’s impossible to overstate the potential of nanorobotics. From mass-producing any kind of good to curing humans of all infectious disease, nanobots have the potential to literally and figuratively change our lives, our bodies, and our world.

At the moment, we only have crude prototypes. In time, though, nanobots could become something akin to programmable matter and, by default, programmable flesh. Technically speaking, a nanobot could be programmed to do whatever a typical brain cell does, but more efficiently.

In the late 90s, scientists like Robert Freitas Jr. envisioned nanobots called respirocytes, which functioned like artificial blood cells. In theory, these would be far more effective at getting air and nutrients to the rest of your body, so much so that you could hold your breath for hours or sprint indefinitely.

That’s all well and good for deep sea diving and Olympic sprinters, but for curing death, the concept needs to go even further. That means creating nanobots that mimic the same function as a neuron, but with more efficiency and durability. Create enough of those and you’ve got the exact same hardware and functionality as the brain, but with the utility of a machine.

Once we have that technology refined and perfected, we have everything we need to effectively cure death. Doing so means gradually replacing every neuron in our skulls with a more efficient, more durable nanobot that does everything that neuron did, and then some. The most important additional feature these nanobots would have is a measure of intelligence that could be programmed.

By being programmable, the nanobots in our skulls would be more plastic. It would be less an organ and more a synthetic substrate, of sorts. It could be drained into a container, implanted into a robot specifically designed to contain it, or just preserved indefinitely in the event that there are no bodies available, not unlike the systems used in, “Altered Carbon.”

To some, this still doesn’t count because it requires that every cell in our brains be replaced with something. Technically, that brain wouldn’t be yours and you might not even be use, as a result. I respectfully disagree with this criticism, primarily because it ignores the whole Ship of Theseus argument.

If you’re not familiar with this concept, it’s pretty simple, but the implications are profound. It starts with a real, actual ship used by the mythical hero, Theseus. If, at one point, you replace a piece of wood in that ship, it’s still the same ship. However, the more pieces you replace, the less of the original ship you have. Eventually, if you replace all pieces, is it the same ship?

The human brain, or any organ in your body, is an extreme version of that thought experiment. The brain cells can replicate, but it’s a slower process compared to most cells and the configurations are always changing. The way your brain is wired now is changing as you read this sentence. A cluster of nanobots doing the same thing won’t be any different.

Like the Ship of Theseus, it wouldn’t happen all at once. In principle, the brain cell doesn’t even get destroyed. It just gets subsumed by the mechanizations of the nanobot. How it goes about this is hard to determine, but there’s nothing in the laws of physics that prohibit it. At the molecular level, it’s just one set of atoms replacing another.

Once in place, though, the limits of biology go out the window. With programmable nanobots, a person doesn’t just have the same functionality as a biological brain. It’s has other functions that allow for easier programming. We could, in theory, supplement the nanobots with additional material, sort of like cloud computing. It could even create a neurobiological backup of your brain that could be kept in stasis.

At that point, death is effectively cured. Once your brain becomes a substrate of nanobots, you can just transfer it into a body, a robot, or some other containment vessel that allows it to experience the world in any way desired. If, by chance, that body and the substrate are destroyed or damaged, then the backup kicks in and it’ll be like you just jumped from one place to another.

Some of this relies on an improved understanding of how consciousness works and assumes that it could be somehow transferred, expanded, or transmitted in some way. That may very well be flawed. It may turn out to be the case that, even if you turn your brain into a glob of nanobots, you can’t transmit your consciousness beyond it. If it gets destroyed, you die.

There’s a lot we currently don’t understand about the mechanisms of consciousness, let alone our ability to manipulate those mechanisms. However, a lack of understanding doesn’t negate the possibilities. Our previous inability to understand disease didn’t prevent our ancestors’ ability to treat it to some extent.

If it is the case that we cannot transmit consciousness from our brains, then we can still craft a functional cure for death. It just requires that we put our brains in protective vats from which carry out our existence in a simulated world. Those vats could be protected in a massive artificial planet that’s powered by a black hole or neutron star. In theory, our brains would be preserved until the heat death of the universe.

Whatever the limitations, the technology and the concepts are already in place, if only on paper. It’s difficult to know whether anyone alive today will live long enough to see an advancement like this. Then again, the children alive in 1900 probably didn’t think they would live to see a man walk on the moon.

2 Comments

Filed under Artificial Intelligence, futurism, Sexy Future, technology

Prison Or Brain Hacking? A Choice That May Shape Our Future

fajb_brain_hacking_01_sep2012

How does a civilized society deal with its least civilized individuals? This is a question that every society has had to answer, going back to the hunter/gatherer era. We live in an imperfect world full of imperfect individuals. Some are more imperfect than others, so much so that it’s not always possible to reform them into functional members of society.

Most people who commit crimes are not monsters, nor are they sadists who get their joy by torturing the innocent. A vast majority are just people who find themselves in bad situations where they make wrong decisions, exercise poor judgment, or lack impulse control. For these people, fines and brief imprisonment are usually sufficient.

For those who become career criminals, neither respecting the law nor seeking to abide by it, the current system is woefully inadequate. It’s part of the reason why criminal justice reform has become a hot topic. We’re finally learning that throwing people into prisons where they’re dehumanized, degraded, and tortured doesn’t help them become productive members of society. Go figure.

There’s plenty of room for improvement. Some countries have demonstrated that there are more effective, more humane ways to treat criminals. However, even those systems have their limits. As long as human beings remain an imperfect species, we’ll still have to deal with these deviant, violent, and inherently dangerous individuals.

For the moment, our options for dealing with these people are few. It primarily involves incarceration or intense therapy, often coupled with drug therapy. While this can be helpful to some, there are severe limitations. Some individuals don’t even want treatment and even those who are caught don’t always respond.

With that in mind, allow me to present a not-quite-hypothetical scenario. What if, instead of prison or therapy, we gave offending criminals an option to undergo an invasive treatment that affects the primary source of their deviant behavior in the brain? Jail is still an option for those who aren’t keen on messing with their brain wiring, but for certain people, an alternative is an alternative.

What I just described is one of those concepts in which the science is there, but the technology and the courts haven’t caught up to it. I know whenever I talk about emerging technology, be it sex robots or artificial wombs, I venture pretty far into speculation territory. Some of these advances rely on science and tools that don’t yet exist. This isn’t one of those cases.

In July 2018, the Journal of Neuroscience published a study revealing that targeted stimulation of the prefrontal cortex reduced aggressive tendencies in test subjects. Before you start getting fever dreams of mad scientists strapping people to gurneys and sticking wires in their ears, you can rest easy. This isn’t the kind of electroshock treatment that find their way into one too many horror movies.

These treatments have ground-breaking implications. They prove that it’s possible to temper or mitigate certain behaviors in people. The study doesn’t specify the limits of the effects or if it can be applied to something other than aggressive behaviors. It’s still a proof of concept and one that could compound the impact of other emerging technologies.

We already have tools like CRISPR that allow us to tweak our genes. We also have companies like Neuralink that are actively working on implants that could fix, augment, or expand our brain capacity. While men like Elon Musk and Ray Kurzweil often discuss these advances within the context of keeping humanity on pace with artificial intelligence, there will likely be some interim uses for these technologies.

Tempering violent behavior in people with significant cognitive impairments is just one possible use, but one that has the potential to change how we think about crime and punishment. Think back to those people I mentioned earlier who just inherently violent. They can’t manage their emotions or control their anger. They don’t think before they act and some don’t even feel guilty about what they do.

Like it or not, these people exist. I’ve known people in my life who have terrible impulse control and fly into a rage over the smallest things. Some of those people have had issues with the law and I often see in them a sense of never-ending frustration. Many don’t like that they have these issues. A few have tried to get help, but it doesn’t always work.

I suspect that if some of those people were given a chance to treat their tendencies with targeted shock therapy or a brain implant, they would jump at the chance. Deviant tendencies aside, they seek some level of function in their lives. If tweaking their brain is the difference between prison and freedom, then they’ll take that risk.

Turning people who might have been unrepentant psychopaths into productive, non-violent members of society is an objective good. The technology to do just that is not that far off and more study could help us refine the process, so much so that prison might be less necessary in certain cases. Given how expensive it is to imprison people, it’s an alternative worth pursuing.

Along with that undeniable good, however, there are plenty of potential dangers. Anyone who has ever seen one too many psychological thrillers or just read “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” can easily imagine how this kind of technology could be abused.

Tempering someone’s violent behaviors is all well and good, but why would it stop there? The brain is capable of all sorts of behaviors, deviant and otherwise. Say a society determines that other non-violent behaviors, be it sexual promiscuity or binge-watching Netflix for too many hours, are not socially desirable. What’s to stop them from imposing this on their citizens?

Some countries probably already fantasize about technologies that enable them to directly pacify their citizens, rendering them weak, passive, and easily manipulated. In his famous novel, “1984,” George Orwell called these people proles. However, in the book, the deviants had to be tortured and re-educated. If Big Brother had access to this technology, it would be a simple medical procedure.

That has plenty of terrifying possibilities for abuse. What if someone uses brain stimulation to prevent people from having homosexual urges? What if someone uses it to treat those who identify as transgender? There’s no evidence that the techniques in the study would work on that, but there’s no evidence to say it’s impossible.

Its use will definitely be controversial. That much, I’m certain of. It’s not advanced enough to become a legitimate treatment for anything. At the moment, direct brain stimulation is utilized for a specified set of conditions and it’s often a last resort. Using it on healthy people who just want to cull their violent urges is uncharted territory.

Whether it enters the picture for criminal justice reform is anyone’s guess, but if the process works, someone who has dealt with one too many repeat offenders will try to use it. From there, the precedent will be set. It’s hard to say what form it’ll take, but it’ll take society into uncharted territory with respect to controlling our minds.

Perhaps, at first, the process would be voluntary and only be presented in conjunction with jail or some other treatment. It’s also possible that the courts will determine a strict set of criteria for when the state could force this treatment onto someone. There are probably a few repressive governments who would try to use this on an industrial scale. I won’t say they’re names, but most people know who they are.

Like any emerging technology, there are risks and rewards worth considering. We stand to benefit greatly by having a society with as few violent individuals as possible. We also stand to lose a great deal if we allow misguided authority figures to determine how we use this technology.

I’m not qualified to determine whether or not someone should have their brain hacked. I don’t know that anyone is. However, I also don’t deny that the human brain, as magnificent as it is, has plenty of flaws. We should go about fixing those flaws, especially in people who are disproportionately impacted by them. We just have to be very careful about how we manage it.

Leave a comment

Filed under futurism, human nature, psychology, sex in society, Sexy Future, Thought Experiment

The Future Of Education (And The Demise Of Idiots)

Image result for accelerated learning

In his seminal book, “Outliers: The Story Of Success,” Malcolm Gladwell explored the factors behind some of the world’s most successful individuals. In that exploration, he stated that it took approximately 10,000 hours of correct, focused practice to master a skill. It’s an often-repeated rule espoused by athletes, artists, and YouTube stars.

It’s also somewhat debatable. If that figure really were accurate, then I should’ve mastered writing three years ago. I don’t think I have. I still find new ways to improve with every book and every blog post. I get the message of Gladwell’s rule. To get really good at anything, you do need to practice and practice well.

Image result for training hard

Then, we see movies like “The Matrix,” where Neo mastered every martial art ever created in the span of a day. Even though it was a work of fiction, it presented a scenario where practicing a skill was for suckers. Neo didn’t have to practice anything. He just sat in a chair, plugged a gizmo into the back of his neck, and just like that he knew Kung Fu.

That scenario may have been pretty extreme at the time. Keep in mind, though, that the Matrix came out in 1999. Back then, a flip phone was still considered cutting-edge technology. A lot has happened since then and I’m not just talking about our ability to watch porn on the bus.

Image result for Cell phones in 1999

The ability to upload knowledge directly into our brains, effectively learning a skill in an instant, is one of the most underrated technologies in science fiction. It’s never more than an afterthought or plot convenience at most. In terms of its utility and impact on human society, though, it’s right up there with flying cars and sex robots.

I’ve talked about the ongoing deficiencies of our education system and the human brain’s limitations when it comes to learning critical thinking skills. Now, I’d like to stop spitting on my own species and give everyone some reason for hope. I do believe that our species will one day make idiots, as we know them, a relic of the past, much like circumcision and the orgasm gap.

That’s because our species, despite its many limitations, is really good at one particular skill. That’s the ability to build tools. As we speak, the fine folks at DARPA, also known as the United State’s Military’s “mad science” division, is working on a form of accelerated learning that would make Neo proud, albeit unimpressed.

Related image

It’s not the same as uploading a skill the same way we upload files to our phones. They call it Targeted Neuroplasticity Training, which is a fancy way of saying it seeks to directly stimulate the human nervous system to facilitate the learning of an advanced skill.

From a pragmatic standpoint, it makes sense for DARPA and the military to want something like this. A lot of time and money goes into training soldiers, pilots, officers, and operatives into mastering a specialized skill, be it flying a plane or interrogating a suspected terrorist. Not every military recruit has the skill or sex appeal of James Bond. Most have to work at it.

This new form of training will cut down on the amount of time soldiers and recruits need to learn various skills. Like many other advances that got their start in the military, it may only be a matter of time before this sort of technology finds its way into classrooms.

Image result for The classroom of the future

There’s already a potential business opportunity, thanks to Elon Musk’s new company, Neuralink. I’ve already talked about the potential of how brain interfaces will make us smarter and sexier. The current research with DARPA will provide a viable method for using that interface to improve learning.

Once this technology matures, and there are plenty of financial and pragmatic incentives behind it, then we’ll have to completely rethink how we educate ourselves and our kids. Old methods like catchy nursery rhymes or standardized tests, which have a limited effectiveness at best, would instantly be obsolete.

The school of the future may not involve big, bulky buildings full of lockers, overpriced textbooks, and wedgies. It may just be a simple office building where an individual, be it a kid or an adult, sits down and links their brain implant to a computer. Then, through a mix of direct neural stimulation and machine interface, we learn the kinds of skills that used to take decades to master.

Image result for mastering a skill

That means every kid, from the age of five, can learn the kind of critical thinking skills usually reserved for college grad students and NPR talk shows. It also means learning technical skills like how to operate a computer, fix a car, build a birdhouse, or paint like Bob Ross are as easy as downloading an app to our phones.

Make no mistake. There are people working on the technology to download knowledge directly into the human brain. The incentives are just too strong and I’m not just talking about the military. Between big business and professional sports teams looking for an edge, the idea of just downloading a skill into a person has too many potential uses.

The impact this will have on society cannot be understated. It’s an impact that few, especially an aspiring erotica/romance writer, are equipped to imagine. Education is one of the few policies cited as a major tool against poverty. Also, a society of fewer idiots is a healthier society by nearly every measure.

Related image

While education is, on orders of magnitude, much better today than it was 100 years ago, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. There are just so many practical and logistic issues that come with educating over seven billion people from different backgrounds, cultures, languages, and what not.

The ability to download knowledge and stimulate the brain directly could be the key to finally closing what remains of the education gap. That gap is still pretty wide and a huge factor in many unresolved issues, from job opportunities to sexual education. There are huge swaths of the population that still don’t know how condoms work.

As this technology improves, the barriers that keep entire swaths of people from knowing and understanding the world critically will crumble. That has major implications for the multi-trillion dollar education market, as well political parties that rely too much on idiots voting.

Image result for idiots voting

It also has major implication for our love lives, our sex lives, and everything in between. Whenever I’ve talked about human enhancement, I’ve pointed out how smart people tend to make better decisions in both their love lives and their sex lives. In matters of intimacy, it makes sense to know how your partner’s genitals work. That’s just common sense.

The extent to which accelerated learning would affect our personal and professional lives is still hard to quantify. As society becomes more and more educated, we’ve had to rethink and re-imagine what it means to be in love or make love with someone.

Like Morpheus pointed out in “The Matrix,” though, our system of education is still governed by a set of rules and limitations. Our brains and bodies are still stuck on the same settings they were during our caveman days. We’re only beginning to unlock and rewire those settings.

Image result for neo from the matrix

That means there may indeed come a day where won’t just be able to circumvent the 10,000 hours of practice that Gladwell espoused. We won’t even need practice in the first place. When that day comes, we’ll all be Neo.

3 Comments

Filed under Sexy Future, Uncategorized

The (Hopeful) Features Of My Future Brain Implant

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/YGZujb9TDpU/maxresdefault.jpg

In talking so much about the possibilities and implications of brain implants, like the ones Elon Musk wants to build with his new company, Neuralink, I’ve strained my own brain trying to grasp the bigger picture. I don’t know if that counts as irony, but it feels oddly appropriate.

It’s an exciting topic to write about and discuss. The idea that we may one day think beyond the limits of our crude, error-prone caveman brains is so intriguing. So many of the problems we face today, both as individuals and as a society, can be attributed in some way to our collective brain workings. What will happen to us an those around us when those workings are tweaked?

It’s hard, if not impossible, for us to know for certain. I’m sure someone like Elon Musk knows more than an aspiring erotica/romance writer like me. I’m sure he sees the same societal conflicts we all do and understands that his company, Neuralink, will be the first step towards transcending them.

https://i2.wp.com/www.conspiracyschool.com/sites/default/files/styles/content_width/public/blogimages/transhumanism.jpg

Having contemplated the bigger picture and all the implications that come with it, I thought I’d take a step back and try a different mental exercise. Hopefully, it’s one in which other regular readers of this blog can participate. It involves a much simpler, less mind-bending thought experiment. If you can make a Christmas list, you can participate.

It involves a simple question. If you could create your own advanced neural implant to tweak/enhance your brain, what kinds of features would it have? Take yourself 30 years into the future. Put yourself in a Neuralink clinic. Someone has kindly paid for the best, most customization neural implant on the market. What would you want it to do?

There are so many aspects of our lives that our brain controls. Everything from our attitudes, our competence, our happiness, and even our capacity to love others begins in our brains. Every skill we have or want to have requires some aid from the brain. Any effort to tweak or enhance that is going to affect all of those features.

https://i0.wp.com/www.bioethics.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/transhumanism.jpg

To get things started, I’ll share my own personal wish list. It will likely be different than everyone else’s to some extent, but I’m sure there will be some similarities to. So here’s Jack Fisher’s top features for his future neural implant. I hope Elon Musk is taking notes.

  • The ability to remember, recall, and comprehend anything on demand, ensuring nothing is forgotten.

  • The ability to do advanced math in my head so I can calculate complex financial decisions on the spot and/or check the claims made by others.

  • The ability to read over vast quantities of text, be it a novel or a user agreement, and retain the information at greater speeds.

  • The ability to revise and edit large quantities of text quickly and efficiently.

  • The ability to process emotions faster and read the emotional queues of others with far greater efficiency.

  • The ability to focus on a given task and not be easily distracted.

  • The ability to learn or download new languages on demand to facilitate communication with others.

  • The ability to learn or download new mental or physical skills on demand.

  • The removal of any prejudicial inclinations or irrational assumptions when encountering a new person or situation.

  • The ability to minimize the need for sleep and improving the quality of sleep.

  • The improvement and enhancement of sexual function, including the ability to perform and sustain sexual arousal, as well as the ability to experience more intimate sensations.

  • The ability to communicate directly with the minds of others with a similar neural implant in order to share experiences, thoughts, and emotions.

  • The ability to search the internet for new information with only thoughts.

  • The ability to link my mind with a computer and turn my thoughts into text or images.

I know this is a long list of reasons, some of which are more feasible than others. I’m sure features like memory and math skills will be among the first major features of neural implants. I imagine features that improve sexual function will be next. If any technology can improve sex, then that’s going to have priority. That’s just an inescapable fact.

Other features like downloading knowledge and skills will probably be trickier. I imagine we won’t have that ability for decades. However, there are still plenty of smaller, more subtler abilities that would definitely enhance our everyday lives. Just being able to focus better without the aid of dangerous ADHD drugs is a pretty big deal.

https://jackfisherbooks.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/22f74-transhuman_001.png

That’s just my list though. What about everyone else? What would you want your advanced brain implant to do? How would you improve the functioning of your caveman brain? Please share your wish list in the comments. If you want to open up this discussion even more, let me know. I’ll be happy to expand it because it’s just that interesting/sexy.

1 Comment

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

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

https://i2.wp.com/images.bwog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/shutterstock_128387714.jpg

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.

15 Comments

Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

Neuralink: How A Brain Enhancement Will Make Us Smarter (And More Romantic)

https://i2.wp.com/cdn-media-2.lifehack.org/wp-content/files/2012/07/shutterstock_74158666.jpg

It’s a sad/annoying fact of life. Most of us don’t have photographic memories. Unfortunately, most of our public schools and every major testing system they use works under the assumption that we are capable of retaining vast amounts of semi-trivial information and spitting it out on demand. Then, the people who run these schools are shocked when students complain.

Think back to the class you hated most in school. How much memorization did that class require? Unless you have a really good, semi-photographic memory, chances are you were expected to be half-machine to succeed. You had to spend no less than two hours of your day with flash cards, forcing your brain remember things it doesn’t want to remember. In the grand scheme of things, how productive was that time?

For me, the class I hated most was my Spanish class. I had one of those teachers that basically expected us to memorize a Spanish dictionary. Unless you actually grew up in Spain, it was about as pleasant as getting a rectal exam with boxing glove. Needless to say, I don’t speak a lick of Spanish anymore.

https://i2.wp.com/guardianlv.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Forgetful-It-Could-Be-Genetic.jpg

Now I do have a fairly good memory. Ask me anything about a particular comic book character and chances are, I’ll tell you everything about that character, who they’ve hooked up with, and how many times they’ve been killed off and brought back to life. Ask me to translate a paragraph in Spanish on the spot and you’re bound to be disappointed.

This spotty memory that plagues high school students, adults, and people who just can’t keep track of their keys is an unavoidable part of modern life. It can even hinder our love lives. How many men have been denied some tender lovemaking because they forgot their lover’s anniversary, birthday, or favorite pizza topping? It’s downright tragic.

These limitations aren’t just the byproduct of stupidity. There’s a very good reason why we all don’t have photographic memories. There was no evolutionary need for them until very recently. Our bodies and brains evolved to prioritize survival, reproduction, social cohesion, and spacial awareness. The fact there are over 7 billion of us on this planet now shows that those priorities were not misplaced.

https://thebreakthrough.org/images/main_image/green_city.jpg

However, the world is getting more complicated. Society is becoming more complex than our caveman brains can make sense of. That’s why we have entire populations that are still woefully uneducated, which effectively guarantees that they will be left behind and impoverished.

It’s a sad situation because education is difficult when you’re dealing with caveman brains. It takes considerable resources to teach people and those resources are often finite, even in the era of the internet. Even resources like Khan Academy can only go so far.

So how do we fix this situation? A society that has a large population of impoverished, uneducated people is not a stable one, as the 2016 Presidential Election proved. Well, a solution is already in the works and it has even larger implications for our personal lives.

https://i2.wp.com/www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/men/2016/08/19/95575366_A_Donald_Trump_supporter_flexes_his_muscles_with_the_words_Build_The_Wall_written_on_them_a-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwe-AwJq9UWZxn9PUEcU-59k.jpg

Enter Neuralink again. Yes, I know I dedicated an entire article explaining why it’s the most important venture in the history of the human race. However, there’s no way I could explore the implications in just a single post. There are so many aspects about this venture with amazing possibilities that I need multiple posts to do it justice.

In case you’ve forgotten, which is entirely appropriate given the context of this post, Neuralink is a new company by tech mogul/Tony Stark wannabe, Elon Musk. The goal of the company is to create a line of neural implants that will go directly into peoples’ brains and fix or enhance their function. It’s a market that doesn’t exist yet, but one that is as untapped as a diamond mine on Mars.

Neural implants are not entirely new, but much like the electric car before Musk, they’re not well-developed. At the moment, most of the research is going into creating implants for people whose brain has suffered damage from an injury or stroke.

That’s an entirely noble use of technology, but let’s face it. We humans, especially billionaire businessmen like Musk, aren’t satisfied with just healing the sick. We also want to enhance the healthy. That’s where the potential of neural implants gets really exciting and even a little sexy.

https://i0.wp.com/simone-photography.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Naughty_3_forweb.jpg

Think back to that class you hated so much in high school. Now imagine, if you can, that you just got the latest implant from Neuralink. The implant basically acts as an upgrade to your memory, taking it from caveman mode to one that’s actually useful in the 21st century.

That doesn’t just mean you now have a photographic memory. It also means that your brain can make connections and process concepts faster. It’s one thing to just spit out a Spanish translation of a passage from Shakespeare. To actually comprehend it and be able to analyze it faster is where the real benefits set in.

Suddenly, you don’t need expensive schooling or teachers with PHDs from Ivy League schools to effectively learn a concept. You can read a certain book or watch a few videos from Khan Academy and just like that, you know it. You can learn six grade levels worth of math in just under a year. Sure, you’ll probably be an annoying smart-ass, but you’ll have a wholly valid reason.

https://quotecatalog.imgix.net/posts/BWzHyBCI3Ah1.jpg

Economically speaking, it would be a diamond mine on top a gold mine on top an oil well. Even if the neural implant costs around $10,000, that’s still less than it cost to educate one American student for a single year. Just like that, education doesn’t just get cheaper. It becomes as easy and efficient as watching a few YouTube videos, something our current generation already is very good at.

With Neuralink, education becomes so much easier and so much more efficient because now it doesn’t have to circumvent our exceedingly flawed caveman brains that only want to survive, reproduce, and avoid hungry bears. Beyond the education, there’s also an even greater implications.

Just being able to memorize facts, equations, and Taylor Swift songs is all well and good, but there are other forms of intelligence that a neural implant could affect. Our brains are also the mechanism through which we process emotions. That’s a skill that schools struggle to teach even more than calculus. Emotional intelligence is a thing and it plays a huge role in how we get along as a society.

https://i1.wp.com/youmatter.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/bigstock-Woman-hiding-under-the-happy-m-110513.jpg

Think back to a time when someone had an emotional breakdown in a very public place. If you’ve been around teenagers in any capacity, chances are you’ve seen more than one. What you saw was a clunky human brain that struggled to process a vast array of emotions. With a neural implant, those kinds of breakdowns become less likely.

So what happens when you combine emotional intelligence with a robust education? That’s where the erotica/romance writer in me gets really excited because that’s a perfect foundation on which to build love. That’s not some coy way to add sex appeal to this exciting technology. That’s a real impact and one with plenty of inherent sex appeal.

According to research by Pew, couples who are both college educated are much more likely to have strong, lasting marriages. That should surprise no one. When you’re smart and educated, you’re better-able to forge a lasting, loving partnership with someone. Being uneducated means more chances for stupidity and stupidity tends to kill romance faster than a clogged toilet.

Now, imagine further enhancing that education and that ability to process emotions. Put it in the brains of two people seeking love, lust, and everything in between. How much depth and passion would emerge in such a romance? What kind of sex life would a couple like that have when they know both the breadth of their emotions and the intricate workings of each others’ anatomy?

https://i1.wp.com/cache.cosmopolitan.fr/data/fichiers/4m/couple-harmonie-large.jpg

Imagine a society that has these kinds of brains fueling this kind of romance. How much sexier would that society be? In that sense, Elon Musk will have ushered in a new era of love and passion, while probably making himself a few more billions. It’s a promising, romantic, inherently sexy future to contemplate.

I do hope I live long enough to see it manifest. I also hope to craft a few sexy novels along the way. Hopefully, Musk reads one of them and gets a few other sexy ideas. I say that any future that involves enhancing our ability to love one another and make love is one that’s worth pursuing.

17 Comments

Filed under Sexy Sunday Thoughts