Tag Archives: neurobiology

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

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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.

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The Future Of Education (And The Demise Of Idiots)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The (Hopeful) Features Of My Future Brain Implant

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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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