The new paradigm of learning that has nothing to do with methods of learning

Remember how learning was easier when you were younger, language, mathematics, and science fell before you like a weakened foe. As you age memory starts to lose its edge, retaining new information is harder. This is due, mostly, to a brain process called neuroplasticity: the ability of neurons to form new links. Since memory and learning are based on these links, having flexible neurons means a higher learning and memory capacity. There have been studies of children who grow up in multilingual households, children who can learn 3 or 4 complete languages based on hearing their parents and their friends speak in incomplete language fragments. Complete languages rather than partial ones, the brain, is an incredible organ.

What if we could tap into that learning ability we start to lose as we age; it’s down to a base level by around the age of 25-30 depending on gender and genetics. What if you never lost the ability to learn as a child? A great phrase I heard some time ago “A human in the modern society has to learn more on a day to day basis than their paleolithic ancestors did in their entire lifetime.” It’s probably overstated but if you stop to think just how many deliberate decisions you have to make, sure we run on autopilot a lot of the time, but we have information presented to us in a maelstrom of ideas and concepts.

If you could take a pill and be at your intellectual maximum for your entire life? Shit yes, imagine the changes we could make. No more would age be an impediment to career success, you would always be as mentally flexible as you were as a child.

Of course there are risks, with any human augmentation it could simply make things worse, create an overclass of hyper-intelligent oligarchs, but the idea, the places it takes to the imagination, imagine what we could change if we thought like children forever?

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Excuse me while I plug my memory in

Wearable technology is in vogue at the moment (God I hate that word, Vogue). Google Glass makes you look a bit silly, so sales haven’t been great, but earpieces are popular, people never leave their phone behind, and competition for the latest trend is fierce.

Technologies exist that enhance the human experience without countering a deficit. This is huge; this is the very definition of human augmentation. But the dream of wetware (cybernetic implants) is falling by the wayside, most futurists, previously obsessed with human augmentation via hardware, are now trending to the same goal, but with biology. Sure the military will always experiment with harnesses and exo-suits to improve a soldier, and technology will get better at replacing lost limbs and tissues, but it’s the biological adaptions that will have the more significant effect.

What if we could have perfect memory? Take a pill, and for the duration of the pill you will remember anything you read, smell, see, touch, so much so that you would need to study in an isolation tank. Imagine if we could have perfect healing, like Wolverine (well maybe not so fast, or, you know… bullets), but no lifelong damage to the body from childhood accidents. We could solve obesity (that’s even closer, science is on the way to treating obesity by altering the brain’s response to insulin), genetic disease and birth defects could be repaired in-utero. Stress could be managed medically, allergies, intolerances, and auto-immune diseases could be finally figured out, and effectively treated.

But more than this I want to fly, I want to see the stars and touch another world. I want to feel the sand beneath my feet on alien worlds with alien life. I want to explore places no human can survive; I want to experience the perception of true time, of the universe. I want to escape controlling emotions and crippling fears that have no place in our society. I want to live to see the bright future hope keeps promising me.

But none of this will happen unless the human condition is altered, and… upgraded.

We have come out of the wilderness and created a society replete with artifice that makes little sense, philosophies that are damaging to the psyche of society and demagogues thoroughly entrenched in ideas that are wrong or make no sense. Politicians and corporations that don’t care about people only ideologies, making profits for no good reason other than that’s what we’ve always done.

The human condition has to change, now.

GREAT SCOTT!!!

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

So apparently people get really upset when a movie shows them hoverboards and they don’t get one.

FUCKING MOBILE PHONES PEOPLE!!

If you hadn’t already guessed this is my “Back to the Future: Parts 1-3” post.

An awful lot of commentary has gone on about futurism, expectations, and predictions about BacktothefutureDay. A lot of it is really inane BS.

So you didn’t get flying cars or a hoverboard? Does the general public not understand what the ramifications would be if our civilisations invented room temperature superconductors and micro-fusion reactors?

Jesus smartphones and the internet didn’t exist in 1985, well not really, and today they run EVERYTHING. Any information in the world is at your fingertips; a human today learns more information in a single day than his paleolithic ancestors learned in their entire lifetime.

Mostly though it’s used to play candy crush saga. I suspect the reason people are disappointed in the future being now is that we are all still the same. Same goals, same motivations, same venal or greedy desires, same flaws in our psychology, same everything. Fashion and technology have changed, the world has gotten a lot more cynical, and a lot darker, climate change looms, and we are just more… tired.

Everything looks different, but it isn’t, it’s still the same drudgery and pain and grief. We keep hoping for a bright future but forget that we are all still the same humans trying for the same ends.

We aren’t going to change the future until we change ourselves, and we have to start soon before we doom ourselves. In another 30 years Hill Valley might be completely underwater.

What if Prometheus took fire to the skies?

In mythology, the Titan Prometheus stole fire from Mount Olympus and delivered it to humans. To warm and sustain them, for he took pity on their plight. Zeus punished Prometheus and sentenced him to be chained to a boulder, and for an eagle to eat his organs (which would regrow at night) for all eternity.

Older myths don’t use the word fire to mean heat, the word fire means inspiration. Prometheus took fire from the gods and gave intellect, passion, and curiosity to humanity.

What if we had a second Prometheus, what if we gave ourselves the power to see everything, to feel more, to experience the universe as a part of us. The power of transhumanism, of making ourselves more, used to fill in the blanks that evolution left behind.

The singularity is on the horizon, and experts all around the world have warned about the emergence of artificial intelligence, and the introduction of an electronic God into our society.

In the last ten years, we have learned more about the brain and human body than the previous 50, we are on the cusp of paradigm shifting breakthroughs, enough to begin the process of true human augmentation.

Information, perspective, scale, time, space, relationships, emotions, health, lifespan, connectivity, individuality, all are set to be influenced within and without.

We are becoming more, but still… Trending Human.

Quantum reality

Please do not be confused that I refer to this concept, in the same way, that new-age ideologues do. That is a rather significant level of batshit crazy that assumes we control the universe. It is a gross oversimplification of understood elements of quantum physics and weird shit that we don’t get, and the lack of analogy of those events in our day to day lives.

The quantum realm deals with the smallest participants of the universe, it breaks the rules, it does insane thing, it goes up and down at the same time, it breaks causality, and our knowledge is scarily accurate.

It is so strange, so counter-intuitive to the way we perceive the universe that the languages of our species don’t have words or situations to describe them using suitable analogies. Scientists often do their best to explain quantum action, but the analogy usually falls short of actual understanding. Most often the mechanics can only be understood mathematically by those few who can read it.

Oh and it defines the reality of the physical universe we live it, and we cannot in any meaningful way perceive its actions. We have evolved outside of it, our senses and brain have no mechanism (that we know of, maybe we do) to process or even detect quantum action.

Time doesn’t work the way you think it does, or the way we perceive it. Time, as a sequence of moments may not be how reality functions, it could be that there is no such thing as the past, and our recollection of the past is a video collection in our memories. Even moment to moment you may think hang on, we are having a conversation, my conversation is longer than a moment so how is there no past. Well, it could be that’s just your phenomenal pattern matching organ we call a brain stitching up moments using sensory input to make a coherent picture. It already does it with your vision, and sound, and smell, and touch, why not time.

The reverse might be true, that there is the past but no future, and we are creating it from moment to moment in linear fashion, with previous moments lining up behind us in a path to every conceivable future. In that instance, your brain is using all accumulated information from your entire life to make predictions and assertions about future events.

Nothing is just the way we see it, and nothing exists just for humans. We and most of the life on our planet exist in a particular suite of evolved adaptions that fit the environment of earth on the macro scale. There are parts of reality we are just not equipped to experience.

Next time: What if we were?

Information P2

well?

How can you tell?

The world lies to you, as stated before our cognitive processes ignore vast parts of reality in favour of what we want or need. You think that because you receive information from the world around you that is it the truth of things.

It really isn’t, or at the very least is a tiny part of the whole picture.

Your eyes take advantage of the middle wavelengths of the EM band. Visible light is a relatively low energy, simple wavelength light, and eyes evolved to use this, less turbulent, and incredibly abundant section of the EM band to determine their surroundings. If you had eyes 100m wide, you could see radio waves and sense the energy output of distant objects. If you could handle the sheer energetic reactions without melting your brain you could see neutrinos and gamma radiation, watch sheets of energy the size of star systems wash across the universe and interact with nothing, see the universe in ways completely foreign to language and mere words.

That’s just sight; there are other examples. One of the underpinnings of how we view the world is perspective, when we become mired in situations or thought we lose our objectivity and perspective, and even in our healthy peaceful state our perspective is driven by evolved desires from half a million years ago. Imagine if humans could fly, and had always been able to fly. Your perspective would naturally be a birds eye view, we would think in terms of objectives and hazards from above.

If could fly, not with machines or technology but by ourself, would that change our perspective with each successive generation?

Scale is also the underpinning of your cognitive processes, you automatically regard or disregard input information based on its scale. A train crash is not a danger if you are not on a train, but it is worrying if you are near a train, more so if you are on a train, extremely so if you are on the crashing train. If you were an ant or a giant, these concerns would be largely moot. To the ant, there are so many more things to worry about first, to the giant, not so much. Again, our brain automatically categorises sensory input, and you receive it as a decision not to be concerned, but you have not made any decision.

What we perceive as reality is only a tiny part, and reliant totally on our brain for pattern recognition. You have a blind spot right in the centre of your vision; there are no reception sites in the eye where the optic nerve meets the back of your eye. It’s a blank, you can’t receive information from that spot, but you don’t notice it? Your brain literally, LITERALLY, makes up what to put there from what is around it. Your brain has just photoshopped your reality and you had no choice in the matter, and may not have even known it happened.

What else are we missing? Any human augmentation has to include brain process, and information is, well, everything. Next we will look at what Einstein called spooky action at a distance

Information P1

The sky is blue, but the weather is not warm

The train is moving dangerously fast, but I am far enough away

I have a cough, but It feels more like irritation

I want the doughnut, but I really shouldn’t

I hate my life; I wish I were different

The world is information. Near to all of them we regard, process, and dismiss or react to without being aware of cognitive events going on. Everything that we perceive is a piece of information, and sometimes, it is a lie.

If I told you that there is no systematic way to prove that the entire world you are perceiving does not exist solely in your mind, would that bother you?

If I told you that there is no discernable way to determine if the entirety of reality is a simulation would that change things?

Probably not

Information that our brain receives is mostly broken down into two categories. Firstly: “That can’t hurt/chase/provide/need/desire/aroused/eat us or them”, in this scenario information that doesn’t directly bother us is deemed irrelevant. Secondly is information that catches our attention, stimulating our arousal (not necessarily sexual), appetite, needs or desires. The above information is a criminal oversimplification of brain processes, but it’ll do for us here.

The concept that reality might not exist is so irrelevant to the unconscious process of our brain that it takes a significant act of will to become cognizant of the fact. The above information is not used to demonstrate how unequipped we are to judge the nature of reality but to show that we disregard most of the information presented to us.

As stated before, memory doesn’t work in isolation, to remember something clearly there needs to be context and connection. While he brain retains basically everything, and some people with perfect memories can recall everything, we don’t notice, well, almost everything.

Go to the supermarket, watch people stand in front of the chocolate and struggle to decide, then quietly laugh a little bit. It’s insane; the brain makes its decision within a fragment of a second of being presented with options, but to avoid feeling like they made the wrong choice, people will stand for some time making sure they aren’t screwing themselves over. To the point where they leave, and have made a decision they didn’t want to. Now this dips in a lot with choice theory that we will look at a bit later on, but the cognitive processes involved with information gathering are largely automatic. Sure we can pay attention when we choose to, but that is quite frankly, rare for most people. We live in a world of unthinking, automatic behaviour, but it’s nobodies fault, we are geared that way.

Now imagine if you can change it

Life

Humans as a species have become adept at moving life around, especially our own.

It’s funny, when I was thinking of what aspect of human augmentation to write about under the heading life, I wasn’t sure what to write about. There have been posts on death and immortality so I enjoyed the symmetry. I was going to talk about how we change ourselves to survive in any environment, but I want to talk about another aspect of life.

The one we live in

Our days are spent working, sleeping, nourishing our body, taking care of self or culturally imposed responsibilities, and a small period of time nourishing our minds. In a 40 hour week, there is startlingly little time for self-learning, self-care, and enjoying the passionate things in life. If you sacrifice income for more time, you probably can have more of things that make you feel alive, but at a reduced capacity. If that capacity is not reduced, fantastic, but for most of us, the concept of choosing life over money is not one we have been raised to do.

We are all similar beings with evolved traits passed on by our ancestors, but our personalities are unique. In the infinite variety of the human spectrum can we find a way to balance work and life for an entire city, culture, or nation? What about all of us? Has there been a culture before us that worked it out? In the immense time of human civilisation (and prior) has there been a combination that worked? Maybe the opposite is true, all the other times in the world were better and we have created a yoke for ourselves called modern society.

Can we dream anymore? Is there any hope? “All men lead lives of quiet desperation”, rings true enough, however without being able to share my consciousness I have no idea if that rings true for everyone.

Science tells us that there is a maximum amount of people you can have in your brain as friends before you stop being close to any of them. 147 I believe, which, perhaps ironically, is around the same size that a human community becomes most content at. More efficient communities, more close human connection, more flexible social conditions. Is the ideal social enhancement to take a step backwards?

How can we advance the human condition if our natural social state is the same as it was in the feudal era? What hope for a type I civilisation when our psychology is limited so?

Again though, if we make ourselves more adept at higher level social interactions do we compromise our humanity?

Eternity

Could we become immortal?

Assume that a scientist has developed a vaccine for ageing. No horrible side effects, no terrible conditions, simply a vaccine to never die.

The first thought naturally is: “WHOAH FUCK OVERPOPULATION DUDE.”

Well maybe not that but close.

Yeah, huge problem, resource depletion, overcrowding, crime, and that’s just the stuff that happens in the first generation. In a few more we have no movement of wealth or assets or home. No new places to work, no new places to live, no new surplus to take up. All the world’s resources are being consumed by those who have been alive for 100 years. Immortal, Infinite, oligarchs or presidents, priests, or authors. An unchanging world that violently protects what it has.

Social implications aside, maybe we might go insane. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast because all my mornings are the same. Memory is based on connections, both emotional and physical, and the more something is the same, the more we are less likely to remember it.

After a thousand years how many faces, emotions, places, people, events, are all going to be so similar you will never distinguish one from another.

Might even be that the brain has a storage capacity, because as much as our memory is crap, our brain retains everything we sense and think, you can’t remember it because it has no corollary. Could be at 437 years old your brain starts forgetting the fine motor skills you picked up on the first day of your life. You have to relearn your whole psychology, every quirk of nature or act of motion. Maybe that would mean there is a hard cap to the length of life an individual can have, after that they become a new person. Could even be that after a few hundred years of watching everything you love die, the humanity is kicked out of you. Immortal, inhuman, selfish, posthuman

Maybe we can’t stay human and be immortal. Maybe endings are so intrinsically linked to our lives that without them, we can’t BE human.

Changing death

Change death? Or change our reaction to it?

Let’s leave immortality for the moment and look at the social mechanisms that would be affected if we altered our perception of death.

Controversies stem from differing opinion. Nothing bifurcates a society like trying to conceptualise, and cope with death.

If we cannot remove death, then the only option is to change our understanding or reaction to it.

First, reaction. Removing our response to death would be monumentally wrong, fear of mortality suppresses an awful lot of behaviour in humans, so let us aim for specificity. Can we make it so that when someone we love dies, can we turn off, or repair, the emotional damage that follows? Emotion is a tricky subject; I would imagine some people would both fear, or love, the idea of being able to alter our emotions at will.

I suspect, and this is with no research, that this would not be ideal. Connection is an impossible task in the modern era, the complexities of social interaction, emotional interaction, and life, are so impossibly intricate as to be beyond the ability for this blog to deal with it.

Ask anyone in the street to remember ten bad things, and then ten good things. The bad things will be faster, our memory works more effectively with pain than with joy.

The social underpinnings of our society are well entrenched with our perceptions about death. If we minimised death would that reduce the fervour of our lives? Reduce us to be even more addicted to input than we are now. However, maybe, just maybe, it would free us. If you didn’t care about death, you might not care as much about the negative interactions of your community, to be the person you want to be, do the things that make you feel alive. All without worrying about the herd mentality.

Perhaps it would be real freedom.

This ties into changing our understanding of death. If we didn’t fear it, if it didn’t have a hold over us, if we didn’t spend a moment thinking we were going to die. Apart from a society acting like 22-year-old, social structures may begin to fall apart.

Who knows