Tag Archives: the human brain

Boredom Vs. A Lack Of Belonging: Which Drives Outrage Culture More?

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Here’s a quick non-rhetorical question. Which is worse, crippling boredom or social isolation? There’s no right answer, but every answer has distressing implications. More than anything else, those answers reinforce why solitary confinement is rightly considered torture.

I ask that question because I had an interesting conversation with someone on Reddit about what drives certain people to be constantly outraged about whatever happens to be controversial that day. I’ve talked a bit about outrage culture before and how professional trolls exploit them, but I haven’t really dug into the mechanisms behind it. Given how new controversies seem to trend every day, I think it’s worth scrutinizing.

In the discussion, I singled out boredom as a possibly underrated factor. Having highlighted the power of crippling boredom, I felt qualified to make the case that boredom may very well be an understated, under-appreciated cause. I still feel there’s a case to be made.

In the grand scheme of things, humanity is in uncharted territory when it comes to boredom. For most of human history, we had to live our lives under the constant threat of plague, famine, war, and natural disasters. Whether we were hunter/gatherers or subsistence farmers, life was chaotic and unpredictable.

Say what you will about those harsh, pre-modern eras, but they weren’t boring. They couldn’t be. There was always work to do. Given the lack of effective birth control, there were children to raise. Even if social media had existed 100 years ago, who would have the time or energy to even be outraged about a man wearing a sexist shirt.

Fast forward to the 21st century and things like war, famine, disease, and crippling poverty are all in decline. This is objectively good on so many ways, but for some people, especially in well-to-do middle class people, it leaves a large void that quickly becomes boring if not filled with something. Sometimes, it can get so bad that it can lead to outright murder.

When I made this argument, I think more than a few people took it seriously on Reddit. It was easy to see how someone whose life is so affluent and devoid of heart-pounding conflict that they will latch onto petty outrages just so they can feel something. Like someone stuck in solitary confinement, they’ll do anything for some sort of stimulation beyond counting the tiles on the floor.

Given how our brains can’t always discern the source of arousal, sometimes it’ll settle for whatever adrenaline rush we get from righteous outraged. Some go so far as to call the rush we get from outrage an addiction and it’s not a wholly inaccurate idea.

However, one person in that discussion pointed another element that also relies on that part of the brain that can’t always discern what gets it aroused. Instead of combating boredom, though, this issue deals with our inherent need to join a group and become part of a larger movement.

It’s very much an extension of tribalism and, like seeking stimulation when there is none, human beings are well-equipped by evolutionary biology to form groups. Whether we’re a small band of hunter/gatherers or a group of Taylor Swift fans, it doesn’t take much for us to form those groups and our brains reward us greatly.

Being part of a group feels good. Being part of something gives us a rush. It’s a major reason why peer pressure works and why tribalism often overrules reason. That solidarity we feel when we’re part of a group isn’t just intoxicating. It’s a fundamental component of any highly social species, which includes humans.

What this means for those constantly outrage isn’t that far off from the implications relating to boredom. Like boredom, our current society is pretty unprecedented in terms of how easy it is to form a close-nit group and share in that solidarity that has been driving our species since the hunter/gatherer days.

Thanks to social media and mass communication, it’s possible for people to do more than just share their opinions, no matter how outrageous they might be. It’s also possible to connect with those who either share in those opinions or despise them. In terms of forming a tribe, it’s a two-for-one-deal because it creates both a sense of “us” while revealing a “them” to rally against.

For anyone who has spent any amount of time on social media, it doesn’t take much to see the whole us versus them mentality to take shape. If any amount of disagreement goes on long enough, Godwin’s Law usually takes over and the battle lines are set.

On top of this, the social issues in 2018 aren’t quite nearly as clear-cut as they were in decades past. In the past, there were some pretty egregious injustices surrounding civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights that required major social movements to combat. By and large, society has done a lot to improve the state for these marginalized groups.

There’s no question that being part of such righteous movements is laudable. We, as a society, rightly praise civil rights leaders who stand for such righteous causes. Naturally, some people seek to emulate that. Whether by ego or altruism, it’s only natural that they want to experience that kind of accomplishment.

Thanks to the sheer breadth of human progress, though, there causes on the levels faced by Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi. However, because that drive to be part of a movement is just that strong, those same people will settle for pettier movements that protest sexy women in video games or bemoan the lack of diversity in old TV shows like “Friends.”

Make no mistake. Those outrages are petty and asinine when compared to the real injustices that past social movements have fought, but the brains of the outraged can’t tell the difference. From their perspective, their movement is every bit as righteous as every other civil rights movement in history. The outrage they express and the solidarity they feel is every bit as fulfilling as something that alleviates boredom.

Even if these causes are petty and the outrage is shallow, it’s important to note the alternative here. If these same people who protest the lack of diversity in the tech industry didn’t have this sort of thing to drive them, then what would happen to the group they’d formed?

Absent that outrage and protest, the group has nothing to rally behind. The person has nothing provoking arousal, be it anger or excitement. Without this dynamic, they don’t belong to something bigger anymore. They’re not the ones marching alongside famous civil rights leaders of the past. They’re just alone, by themselves, contributing nothing of value.

For many people, that’s just untenable. I would go so far as to say it’s almost as untenable as crippling boredom. Even self-proclaimed introverts and ardent individualists, we seek an identity and a constant source of stimulation. When we lack one or both, we lack a core element of any social species. In the same way we’re driven to meet the rest of our basic needs, we’ll be driven to find that somewhere, no matter how misguided.

In the past, we might have found that sense of belonging and purpose through our small communities or organized religion. Today, the world is much bigger and more diverse, thanks to technology and civilization. Organized religion is also not effective anymore due to factors too numerous to list. People are still going to seek belonging.

It’s somewhat ironic that civilization has advanced to such a degree that there aren’t as many clear-cut, good versus evil movements to be part of anymore. However, there’s still this longing to be the hero of our own story and be part of something greater, even if it means actually going out of their way to feel outraged.

Getting back to the initial question I posed, I think the influence of boredom and belonging are inherently linked. We agonize over escaping boredom and over having a sense of belonging. We can’t get that same rush our ancestors felt when surviving bear attacks and hunger so we’ll settle for whining about protests during football games. It’s still annoyingly petty, but distressingly understandable.

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, Reasons and Excuses, War on Boredom

How We’ll (Have To) Manage Love In A World Of Brain Hacking

Picture the following scenario. If you’ve ever been to a fairy tale wedding or if you’ve been part of some big romantic ceremony, you won’t need much imagination. You’ll just need to have been sober at the time that moment played out. Even if you haven’t, it should still be easy to picture.

It’s a beautiful moment. Two people are standing at an altar together, proclaiming their love for each other in front of friends, family, and whatever deities they happen to prefer. It all goes so well. There are tears of joy, heartfelt gestures, and powerful moments that will last a lifetime.

That all happens in this scenario. It plays out. It’s every bit as beautiful as I just described, and then some. Hold onto that sentiment because now I’d like to complicate it, but not in the way you think.

I already painted a similar scenario when I talked about the possibility of hacking the human brain to induce love and ensure two people only ever love each other. This is someone similar, but one that factors in the bigger picture that tends to dilute all romantic moments. Again, it’s not quite as unsexy as you think, but it’s close.

Go back to that scenario. It’s still every bit as happy and sincere as any non-arranged, non-shotgun marriage could possibly be. Then, just before the chosen holy man declares two people spouses, a state-licensed lawyer enters the room. Yes, I understand that already seriously undermines the moment. Bear with me. It’s about to get weirder and less sexy.

The lawyer isn’t there to ruin the moment. He or she is actually there because the law requires him to be there. They have a very simple, but very necessary job. Before two people can be declared spouses, complete with all the tax benefits and insurance perks that come with it, the lawyer has to make sure that nobody’s brain was hacked to crate false, insincere feelings of love.

I’ll give everyone a moment to scoff, roll their eyes, or just stare blankly in confusion. I understand completely. What I just described sounds like something out of a Matrix-themed wedding that went horribly wrong. I wish I could say it was just another one of my not-so-sexy thought experiments. Unfortunately, this scenario reflects a serious issue that we may have to confront.

Think about what that lawyer had to do in that situation. Beyond the innate anxiety that comes along whenever a lawyer gets involved in a situation, especially if you’ve been skimping on your taxes, they’re tasked with the legal equivalent of making sure a Disney-style spell isn’t at work here. They have to, for the sake of the law and basic human dignity, that the love someone professes isn’t false.

Why would they even have to do that in the first place? Well, if you’ve been following along on this blog, you’ve noticed I’ve been talking a lot about the sincerity of love and how false perceptions may impact those powerful emotions. Even before that, I’ve talked about the prospect of enhancing the human brain and using those advances to make us sexier and more romantic.

These kinds of enhancements have so much potential to change the way we love, make love, and forge romantic commitments to one another. It may very well change the kinds of love stories we tell. For me, a guy trying to make his career in the erotica/romance industry, it’s kind of important that I follow these advances.

With every advance, however, comes various legal, ethical, and morally ambiguous headaches that quickly turn into migraines when you consider the implications. In that context, few advances have more implications than brain enhancement.

Considering how easy our brains are to fool, it makes sense to enhance this organ over all others. Yes, that means our genitals too, even though they’re already getting their share of enhancements. Every romantic and sexy feeling we’ve ever had or experience starts in our brain. Enhance that and everything we know about sex, love, and marriage goes out the window and into an incinerator.

A person with a brain implant is inherently capable of love, passion, and sex appeal that exceeds anything our natural biology can match. If you’d don’t believe me, then ask a woman about the efficiency of her vibrator compared to that of her lover. It’s not a fair comparison, to say the least.

Like any tool humans have ever made, we’ll use brain implants and brain enhancement to improve our lives. That includes are sex lives as well. There’s a reason why it’s a huge chunk of the pharmaceutical industry’s profits. That’s where the legal issues come into play, but not in the way you might think.

The second someone puts anything in their brain that resembles a computer, it inherently becomes subject to hacking. It’s an inescapable and often underreported pitfall of the digital age in which we all so eagerly partake. If it has a computer in it, then it can be hacked. Chances are, it has been hacked at one point, probably far more than you’d want to know.

That kind of hacking is hard enough to deal with. Once the computers go in our brains, though, then the stakes go up considerably. It’s one thing to hack a website and plaster it with gay porn or dead kittens. It’s quite another to hack someone’s brain and affect the way they think, feel, and behave.

I don’t doubt for a second that those behind the brain implant industry, such as Neuralink, will do everything they can to prevent this. I also don’t doubt that there will be other, less ethical individuals will work just as hard to frustrate those people. I’m sure Elon Musk has nightmares about the kind of horrors hackers will unleash with brain implants. It makes his desire to go to Mars almost seem logical.

As such, we’re going to need new laws on the books to govern the use and impact of brain implants. That tends to happen with every major advancement. From cars to computers, a civilized society needs some mechanism for governing new technology. With brain implants, though, that mechanism may get unusually personal.

Think back to that scenario I described earlier. Now, imagine one of the individuals getting married was that bitter ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend from high school. I’m talking about the kind of person who will set fire to a car and send dead animals in the mail to someone who refuses to reciprocate or affirm their emotions.

Imagine that kind of person knowing it was possible to induce false emotions in someone. Like the evil prince or witch in every Disney movie, they have a mechanism for casting a real, non-magical love spell on someone to make them feel exactly what they want them to feel. Unlike the world of Disney, though, it won’t be undone by kissing a toad.

Given the insane lengths to which people will go for love, it’s entirely plausible that someone would use a brain implant to create fake emotions in people who refuse to love them willingly. It’s also plausible that those same people will push that kind of brain hacking to insane degrees.

It means someone could effectively rewire their spouse’s brain so that they act as a slave. Their entire sense of identity, will, and autonomy is subverted. Their entire lives are effectively stolen and controlled by the hacker. While they would not realize this until their brain was un-hacked, assuming that was possible, it would be the most coercive, manipulative act it’s possible to do to another person.

Granted, there may be some societies that wouldn’t mind this sort of thing. I’m sure there are sociopathic dictators in the world who would love to hack the brain of every citizen into loving them without question. For most ordinary people who aren’t in charge of their own countries, though, it’s a terrifying thought.

That means it will probably be necessary for both industries like Neuralink and major governments to deal with this possibility. It’s hard to know what form that will take. Perhaps every brain implant will require some sort of kill-switch. Perhaps certain functions need to be sanctioned and re-sanctioned by a doctor or official.

It’s hard to say and I’m certainly not smart enough to figure it out. I imagine men like Elon Musk and Bill Gates have already given it way more thought than I ever will. Whatever form it takes, though, it will force us to change our understanding of love, sex, and how we relate to each other.

The stakes our high, but the situation is simple. If we’re going to love each other and make love to each other in enhanced ways, then we had damn well better be sure those feelings are ours and not those of some asshole hacker.

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Filed under Marriage and Relationships, Sexy Future

On Football, CTE, And Its (Not So) Bleak Future

When you love something a lot, you’ll make any excuse possible to keep loving it, no matter how unhealthy it may be. Whether it’s a toxic relationship or skydiving naked over the arctic, our desire to love and preserve such love knows no bounds. It’s a testament to the power of excuses and our capacity for excuse banking.

We’ve all loved something that may or may not be unhealthy, if not downright toxic, at some point in our lives. We may know in the back of our heads that it’s unhealthy. We may even admit it to someone. That still doesn’t stop us from loving it. We’ll still try to find a way to make that love work. Like an alcoholic or a heavy smoker in denial, we don’t want to admit its a problem. In the long run, it often comes back to hurt us.

I say all this because in recent years, there are a growing number of voices calling American football the new tobacco. Apparently, getting hit in the head by a bunch of 200-pound athletes is just as dangerous as inhaling smoke. In the same way smoking contributes to dreaded diseases like lung cancer, football contributes to a new dreaded disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

CTE has become the most dreaded three-letter acronym to football players since ACL. It is a new kind of disease, one that ravages the brain of former athletes. It causes all sorts of horrors such as headaches, memory loss, erratic behavior, dementia, tremors, vertigo, and suicidal tendencies. These are symptoms that can’t get more terrifying without involving explosive diarrhea.

It has already rocked the sport, so much so that it inspired a crappy Will Smith movie called “Concussion.” Sure, it tanked, but it helped raise awareness to the issue for fans and players alike. In wake of the deaths of several high-profile football players, including Hall of Famers like Ken Stabler and Junior Seau, it’s taken on a tragic element that cannot be ignored.

Then, just this past week, a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association published a report that probably has everyone at NFL offices banging their heads against the wall, if only to provide a sense of irony. Of the 111 brains of former football players they studied, 110 showed signs of CTE. In terms of sheer math, you literally can’t get a correlation that more precise without being paid for by oil companies.

This has led many to speculate that football’s days are numbered. Never mind the fact that it’s still, by a wide margin, the most popular sport in America. Never mind the fact that it generates billions in revenue and has some of the most passionate fans of any sport. An issue like this is just too damaging. A disease as awful as CTE is bound to drive people away from this sport, right?

Okay, I’m going to stop with the dire doom-saying rhetoric and call a timeout on the whole conversation. I do so while freely admitting, and admitting proudly, that I love NFL football and football in general. It is my favorite sport. I build my entire Sundays around watching NFL games.

I acknowledge that it’s a violent sport, one that leads to major injuries for various players. I make no excuses in my love for that kind of gladiator-style violence. I’m as human as anyone else reading this blog. Violent sports appeal to the primal parts of our brains. Like admitting you love an extra orgasm every now and then, there’s nothing wrong with admitting you love contact sports.

Does that make fans and team owners bad people for promoting a sport that leads to such a terrible health ailment like CTE? The answer is no. It doesn’t, not unless you’re willing to say car companies and car buyers are terrible people for promoting a product that killed over 32,000 people in the United States alone in 2015.

However, football fans and the NFL can take comfort in the knowledge that car companies have already created a model for addressing issues like CTE. There was no getting around it, even during the days of Henry Ford. Cars could be very dangerous to those who drove them and drove them poorly. Early cars were basically steel death traps.

Since killing customers is never a good business practice, car companies invested heavily in new safety features. They developed now-standard features such as air bags, seat-belts, and even on-board computers that stop your car for you. Cars today are safer than they’ve ever been before.

So how does this help football? A car is different from a human brain by orders of magnitude. The sheer complexity of the human brain ensures that a helmet or an airbag just isn’t going to cut it in terms of protection. We barely understand how the damn thing works. How can we hope to protect it?

Well, keep in mind that people once said the same thing about mapping the human genome. The human brain isn’t some magical object that runs on wizard spells and unicorn farts. It’s a hunk of biomatter no bigger than a football, ironically enough. It operates on the basic rules of chemistry and biology. It’s not some rough-cut diamond wherein one single flaw means it can never be fixed.

The brain can and does heal itself. It has to in a chaotic world that most people struggle to process. Sure, the damage endured by football players is greater than most. You can say that about anyone who spends four hours out of the week putting a target on their head and inviting others to hit it. What you can’t say, however, is that the problem of damaged brains in contact sports is insurmountable.

We’re not talking about teaching quantum physics to a hamster, here. We’re talking about a physical problem with the human body. As flawed as the human body may be, it’s also fairly malleable. The brain is no exception.

Back in 2013, a kid in North Carolina had half his brain cut out to alleviate his debilitating seizures. There’s no amount of head trauma any football player could endure that’s akin to having half a brain cut out. However, the kid recovered and his brain was able to effectively rewire itself so he could live a fairly normal life. That’s because of a little thing called neuroplasticity.

That’s just a fancy technical way of saying the brain can rewire and repair itself. Given how humans adapted in an environment full of giant predators and coconuts falling from trees, we kind of need our brains to do that sort of thing. The only issue is we still don’t understand it. However, we do understand the horrific damage done by diseases like CTE.

Therein lies the flaw in debate surrounding the future of football. It deals with something with which we don’t have a clear understanding. Even those who participated in the CTE study clearly admitted that it had its flaws. One of the researchers said:

“Families don’t donate brains of their loved ones unless they’re concerned about the person. So all the players in this study, on some level, were symptomatic. That leaves you with a very skewed population.”

That’s entirely understandable and a common problem within the realm of science. However, that will do little to alleviate the fear and dread among football players and football fans. We’re already seeing some players retire early due to concerns about concussions. Who can blame them, though? It’s a scary thought, the idea that playing a sport you love will destroy your brain.

However, fear often obscures the lens of reality. Add doom-saying, such as those who think a multi-billion dollar industry like the NFL is going to die, and you can expect reality to disappear from the conversation. The truth, in a sense, is not something you’ll find in a Will Smith movie. It also gives football fans and football players reason to hope.

Since the problem of CTE is a physical health problem, then that means there is a medical solution. Sure, there’s a lot we don’t understand about the human brain or healing it, but you could’ve made that same argument back in the 80s when AIDS was first discovered. For a while, that was a true death sentence. Now, we have treatments that make the disease manageable.

Keep in mind, though, that diseases like AIDS didn’t have a multi-billion dollar industry like the NFL with huge incentives to develop such treatments. When there’s a problem to be solved and there’s a multi-billion dollar industry with an incentive to solve it, you can probably assume said industry will invest billions in treating that problem.

That means if you’re a brain researcher and you develop a treatment for concussions, you can expect a lot of money from the NFL and various sports organizations to support you. Hell, Jerry Jones from the Dallas Cowboys will probably fly you to a resort and have the Dallas Cheerleaders give you unlimited massages.

CTE is a major issue, but it’s a solvable issue. On top of preventative measures like better helmets, medical science can help. That same science is what cured Small Pox, Polio, and is on the verge of eliminating many diseases with tools like CRISPR. It’s more than up to the challenge to tackle something like CTE.

Now that awareness of the disease is growing, you can expect the NFL and medical science to start pressuring it. That’s why football is going to be okay. This isn’t like smoking. This isn’t like human sacrifice. This is a problem that can only be solved with better tools. Say what you will about the flaws in humanity. We’re still exceptionally good at certain things and making tools is one of them.

For the players playing now, it’s definitely scary. However, that’s only because there’s still plenty we don’t know. It’s not an insurmountable challenge though. It is possible to defy the odds. If anyone knows that better than most, it’s NFL players. Just ask the 2007 New York Giants.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

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 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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How To Manage Your Excuse Bank (Within Reason)

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When I did my first post on reasons versus excuses, I challenged readers to take a closer look at their actions and decisions. Why did they end up doing what they did? Was there a reason for it? Was that reason actually an excuse? Did that reason or excuse end with you getting laid, fired, or slapped in the face?

Given how many actions and decisions unfold on a day-to-day basis in the massive doughnut shop that is life, it’s hard to make sense of them all. I’m sure those without OCD or a personality disorder was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of reasons and excuses they came up with for their behaviors. Don’t worry and put down the vodka. That’s entirely normal.

We’re all human. We’re all bound to make bad decisions or bad reasons and/or lousy excuses. That’s part of life. The key is learning from those bad decisions and improving the skills that help us better our loves, help those around us, and even get us laid from time to time. Since I’m an erotica/romance writer, that last one was worth adding.

It’s also worth offering whatever help I can to others in developing those skills. Again, I need to remind everyone that I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer. I’m not a scientist, a therapist, a psychologist, or doctor. I may write about people in those occupations getting involved in sexy situations, but I’m not at all qualified to offer the kind of substantive advice, complete with technical charts and an hourly bill.

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However, in dealing with plenty of colorful personalities throughout my life and writing various personalities in my novels, I do feel like I can at least offer some insight that can help people use my colorful ramblings in pragmatic ways. I can’t guarantee they’ll work, get you laid, or make you rich. This is just me trying to make my words both sexy and useful.

In discussing reasons versus excuses, I brought up the concept of excuse banking. It’s almost exactly what it sounds like. It’s the process of acting, believing, and learning in a way that effectively pockets an excuse to use to justify decisions later on. Since our brains are wired to decide first and then justify those decisions, excuse banking is very much a pragmatic manifestation of our collective psyche.

It’s not inherently good or bad. It can certainly get pretty darn bad, as I pointed out when I tied excessive excuse banking to political and religious extremism. Most people, though, don’t operate in extremes and if they do, it’s usually out of fear and survival, which are among the most valid reasons we can have for doing something. For the purposes of providing useful advice in excuse banking, I’d like to focus on the good.

In that spirit, I’d like to offer a quick rundown of tips and tricks for managing your excuse bank effectively. We’re all going to make excuses at some point. We’re all going to bank those excuses in some form or another. We might as well figure out how to do it in a way that improves our lives and gets us laid.


Tip #1: Maintain A Balance, But Avoid Hoarding

Like any useful bank account or credit card, it’s important to maintain a balance. You always want to have some reserves, just in case it’s an emergency and you need a valid excuse to explain why your pants are in the refrigerator. You don’t want to be stuck relying on reasons that may or may not apply. That’s just going to make you look stupid, incompetent, and decidedly unsexy.

Unlike a traditional bank account, though, you don’t want to let your excuse bank get too bloated. That’s because excuses aren’t hard assets. They’re intangible, malleable, and much easier to abuse. You may be able to use a dollar bill to snort a line of blow, but with an big enough excuse you can justify snorting blow off a stripper’s tits.

That’s why you should not hoard your excuses the same way I hoard comic books. As I noted in my post on extremism, having too many excuses that are too malleable creates all sorts of nasty temptations. Having those excuses is like having a loaded AK-47 in a traffic jam. Even if you can resist the temptation, the potential is still there and the danger of that potential can be pretty vast. Just ask any experienced traffic cop.


Tip #2: Invest With Other Peoples Whenever Possible

This part of excuse banking also highlights one of the key differences from other types of banking. In a sense, excuse banking is almost always a joint effort. It’s not enough to just have an excuse. You also need other people to believe them in order for them to be useful.

An excuse with a random stranger and an excuse with a close family member is not going to have the same value. At the same time, an excuse you bank on your own isn’t going to be as valuable as one you bank with other people. Human beings are very social creatures. When you forge close social bonds, be they with family or lovers, your excuses carry more weight and so do those of others.

In a sense, it’s a win-win investment. By banking excuses within a social group, you develop a sense of trust and understanding. That makes deposits and withdraws from your bank easier and less likely to blow up in your face. Just watch any Ben Stiller movie to see why that’s so important.


Tip #3: Know Which Investments Grow And Which Are Toxic

It’s true. Excuse banking sometimes deals in toxic assets. I’m not just talking about bad mortgages or too much stock in Enron either. When your excuse bank has toxic assets in it, you’re in big trouble.

A toxic asset in an excuse bank is often one we don’t realize is toxic. Sometimes, we even refuse to realize it. That’s what often happens with dictators, religious zealots, and child actors. Their excuse bank is so full of toxic assets that they don’t know how bad their excuses are and if someone tries to tell them, they don’t listen. That often leads to the kind of tragic self-destruction that becomes an A&E documentary.

That’s why it’s so important to identify these toxic assets before they poison you. Those assets will undermine your ability to work with others and gain their trust, two things everybody needs to survive in a functioning society. So how do you know if an asset is really toxic? Just follow these simple steps:

  • Step One: Ask yourself, “Would this excuse allow me to punch someone in the face and make them apologize for hurting my hand?”
  • Step Two: If you answered yes to the following question, then the excuse is toxic.

Tip #4: Understand An Investment’s Potential, But Don’t Ignore The Risks

Like any investment, there are risks and rewards that you have to weigh. Sometimes the risks are minimal. When you fake sick just a couple times and don’t announce to the world on FaceBook that you’re running a marathon, the risks are pretty minimal. Those risks escalate when you let them pile up, so much so that your girlfriend won’t believe you when you say you need to perform brain surgery on the President.

This is especially important for anyone in a position in power, be they the despot of a country or a manager at Walmart. Having power offers a lot of potential because it creates both excuses and reasons for people to do what you tell them. However, the risks are much greater, especially if you want to use that power competently.

It’s easy to lose yourself in power. Anyone who used cheat codes in old Mario games understands that. That’s what makes it so dangerous because it prompts us to ignore the risks. When we do that, we’re less likely to realize when our excuses become toxic. People don’t trust us and look for ways to get us out of the way. No matter how much power you have, you won’t be able to use it effectively if your excuses are toxic.


Tip #5: Avoid Banking Excuses As A Means To Improve Past Investments

This tip is directly tied to a little something called the sunk cost fallacy. Anyone who has ever had a gambling problem or knows someone who would bet their shirt at a blackjack table knows it well. It’s this annoying quirk in our psyche that compels us to keep throwing resources into a game we’ve already lost to justify past investments.

In a sense, it’s an excuse to justify stupid risks that didn’t pay off. It’s a way to alleviate the mental stress of knowing just how badly we’ve lost. In the context of excuse banking, it applies to more than just a bad run of luck at a casino.

Like trying to win back what you’ve lost, banking excuses to improve toxic assets rarely works out. When an excuse has become toxic, it usually stays that way. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. Even if the wolf does come once in a while, there isn’t much you can do to improve the utility of the excuse.

Excuses, like fresh fruit, can perish quickly. They can be finite and applicable only to specific circumstances. Once those circumstances pass, trying to cling to those excuses is like trying to make spoiled milk taste good. It just can’t be done.


Tip #6: Long Term Investments Usually Pay More Than Short Term Investments

This is where we kind of have to battle our inner caveman here. As I’ve covered before, caveman logic compels us to think primarily in the short-term. We prioritize the potential for avoiding tigers and mating with fertile partners. Those short-term investments worked well in the caveman days, but they work less well in more complex societies.

The key purpose of excuse banking is to ensure you can justify your decisions to others. If you can’t do that, then other people aren’t going to trust you, work with you, or want to have sex with you. Now there’s a time and place for short-term investments, but they’re usually very specific and rare.

Long-term excuse banking involves crafting excuses that build trust and understanding with others. Ideally, they have some amount of reason to support them, if only in part. Bank enough long-term excuses and you’ll find people who are eager to work with you, ready to trust you, and eager to take their clothes off with you.

That kind of investment usually takes a lot more time and effort, but the payoffs can be pretty damn awesome.


These are just a few tips to start out. If I come up with others or learn from someone else, I’ll share them in another post or list. If anyone else has investment advice in the world of excuse banking, please share it.

Excuses may be one of the most important investments we can make. It’s one of the few currencies that is valid in every country, culture, and society. Sure, we can’t use them to tip strippers, but they’ll help us in negotiating our lap dance.

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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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