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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Question -- Potency of the Image Streaming Technique? -- AL, CPS, Easy, Self

Regarding the all-purpose intelligence-enhancing and problem-solving technique Image Streaming (reviewed here) one reader asks...

"I would like to ask you for how long have you been in contact with image streaming, and if you think that it´s effects on intelligence are permanent."

Hmm. I've been in contact with Image Streaming since roughly the mid-90s, though I didn't discover the Imagestream discussion group until at least a year or two after picking up The Einstein Factor.

I believe that Image Streaming can have a profound positive impact on human intelligence, but I haven't practiced it enough and consistently enough to be sure how long its most dramatic effects can persist. What I do know is that I have come up with some impressive concepts for inventions as a side effect of regular Image Streaming over a relatively short period of time perhaps less than a week, in at least some cases).

I believe that at least some of the benefits of Image Streaming on the intellect are more or less permanent. However, one effect I've noticed from Image Streaming is a marked sharpening of my senses after at least a few days of solid practice. This enhancement of my senses appears to be a result of my keener awareness of the input from my senses, rather than an improvement in my sensory organs. I haven't retained the full measure of this improvement after any extended period of Image Streaming practice, though some carry over may have indeed occurred. But since the one time I felt this most powerfully I didn't maintain my Image Streaming for very long -- several weeks would have been a much better test, much less months -- I don't know if I would have retained it that way. Or if I'd gone for a few weeks and thrown in Dr. Wenger's "Head of the Careful Observer" protocol.

I would suggest trying Dr. Wenger's 10 by 10 challenge (or whatever it's called), where you practice Image Streaming with a recorder or live partner for just 10 minutes a day for ten days. If you find this technique to have expanded your perceptions and overall intelligence, try Dr. Wenger's Borrowed Genius, perhaps his problem-solving IS variant Over-the-Wall and/or his "speed reading" technique (the easiest of these), described here.

Trying out these different methods will enable you to combine basic Image Streaming with methods that can have a practical benefit other than self-improvement, such as enhanced skills, solving difficult problems or reading faster and with better comprehension. All of which may not only keep you interested in maintaining regular practice, but also enable you to expand "bottleneck" areas in your personal capabilities that otherwise would restrict you from achieving your full potential. For example, being unable to assess the written ideas of others in a timely fashion because reading simply takes you too long or you have too little time for it.

Future Imperative

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

And More on Accelerated Learning Versus Biotech -- AL, Bio, CPS, Mind, Noo, Soc

My thanks to "Rick" and to Jennifer Haggerty, who made the following comments in the Imagestream discussion group's discussion of the original article. I include my reply.

"I understand your point, however I'm kind of wary against any sort of human modification. The technology is risky, especially if it falls into the wrong hands. And since the techniques available here are already so very good and useful, I would say we should start by implementing them and see what the results are. With great power comes great responsibility. I don't believe the world in it's current state is ready for the power of genetic modification and other such techniques."

"Rick raises an excellent point.. And will we EVER be ready for that kind of power? Or SHOULD we? Why go looking to genetic modification when the current techniques have yet to be used to their fullest potential?"

I think you will both find Redesigning Humans: Choosing Our Children's Genes (formerly subtitled, Our Inevitable Genetic Future) by Gregory Stock to be revealing on this point. Stock argues that we are moving rapidly towards a revolution in biotech augmentation not because any particular group is actively pursuing this technology, but because breakthroughs in other areas having to do with fighting disease, improving fertility treatments and so forth are generating a host of dual-use innovations. (Alternatively, skim every post on my blog with the word "Bio" in its title. You'll get an overview. If a sketchy one. =) )

Stock insists that augmentation is the future we're moving towards given our present medical research priorities (which don't include human enhancement). Given the rush of augmentation breakthroughs we've had with rats and other test animals in recent years, I'm inclined to agree with him. How you may feel about biotech augmentation is another matter.

Having said all that, let me ask you a question, Jen. "Who's this 'we,' white man?" =) Or to put it another way, why are you asking whether or not "we" should be pursuing this technology? As I said before, this kind of research is not necessarily limited to the U.S., E.U. and G-7. There are many countries and corporations which could engage in such studies, and funding cuts and declarations of intent in other places and companies are not going to prevent such work from being done.

In other words, we're not making this decision in a vacuum. By that I don't just mean a political vacuum. We're also doing this in the context of other augmentation technologies and other threats. Do we block biotech developments and yield the field to cybernetic enhancements (externalized or invasive)? Or simply allow ourselves to be outmoded by the emergence of artificial intelligence?

And, quite frankly, there's the point that we face more than a few existential threats that don't involve human enhancement in any way whatsoever. Does Al Qaeda possess any superhuman intelligences? Apparently not. In fact, there's an open question as to whether or not someone possessed of broad based superhuman intelligence would be that aggressive or, if aggressive, whether they would pursue such crude strategies to achieve their goals. But regardless, an Al Qaeda without any transhuman warriors or inventors has managed to make itself a threat to major powers... and to become a greater threat, it does not require superhuman shock troops. Just a bit of Pakistani military technology.

There is an argument to be made that organizations which draw back from augmentation research not only lose the opportunity to insure that most such research will be carried out responsibly, but also lose the resources that could help deal with some very real threats, from existing issues of terrorism, environmental degradation, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and, in the future, potentially renegade transhumans or unfriendly artificial intelligences.

Before anyone asks, I'm presently working on mind enhancing techniques and disciplines, nootropic nutrients, and non-invasive "mindtech" such as self-hypnosis, photic/auditory stimulation, psychoactive sounds, ganzfelds, etc. But I repeat, the main point of my blog is not to blindly embrace or reject any class of technologies, but to encourage people to become fully informed about all of them.

Future Imperative

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

About those Cerebral Implants -- Accelerated Learning Versus Biotech. Or Not... -- AL, Bio, CPS, Mind, Noo, Soc

Someone on the Imagestream discussion group on Yahoo disputed the idea that a biotech augmentation would necessarily be as powerful as the intelligence-enhancing Image Streaming technique (reviewed here). I felt his remarks deserved a response...

Good points about the value of Image Streaming... Please note, the point of my site isn't to push a particular technology, but to help people become better informed about all aspects of human augmentation -- be it accelerated learning, gene therapy, creativity enhancement, germline engineering, mindtech devices, nootropic drugs and nutrients, and so forth. If there's a thesis behind Future Imperative, it's that the public needs to be informed of its options and of emerging technologies that may in fact change what it means to be human -- and change it far sooner than most people, even enthusiasts, believe possible.

As to your suggestion that Image Streaming might be cheaper and more efficient than any particular biotech enhancement, you may well be correct. But imagine the consequences if a modification such as the aforementioned protein dosing were bestowed upon a group of children who were also taught Image Streaming from an early age. And who also received powerful nootropic nutrients and drugs with no significant side effects. And who also made use of potent mindtech such as floatation tanks. And who were taught many specific ability and creativity-enhancing protocols, such as Borrowed Genius for skills, Beachhead for invention and Improvitaping for musical talent.

The point is that these breakthroughs are potentially so powerful they shouldn't be ignored. Whether or not a specific biotech measure turns its recipients into "superhumans," we can anticipate that augmentations will emerge capable of radically improving human intelligence. And that several of them will be able to work synergistically together, and with other enhancement resources.

Often we discuss each of these options in a vacuum in Western societies, assuming that the real question is just what our country chooses to pursue... or how the U.S. and the E.U. between them choose to react. Unfortunately, there are far more actors in the world capable of employing this research. Even ignoring the U.S., E.U. and G-7, you have South Korea, Taiwan, India, China, Russia, Israel, Pakistan, Singapore, Australia, Brazil, Switzerland, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. And a host of sizable corporations. And more than a few billionaires and near-billionaires. How long till one of them begins exploring these options? Or before I do? Or someone else on this list?

Remember, even an individual of relatively modest resources could develop this technology by using established augmentations to improve their intelligence and income, and reapplying those assets to acquiring yet further augmentations.

And despite the tendency of the human enhancement field to fragment into competing or self-consumed factions, someone will eventually recognize how many of these options exist, and that most can easily be combined. Poof! There goes the world as we know it. It was nice knowing ya.

Future Imperative

Master Races Versus the Demographics of Genius -- AL, CPS, Soc

A question: What if "superhuman" capabilities are the easily available birthright of every human, and we are simply training ourselves to be consistently less than we could be?

To put it another way, in the Golden Age of Greek philosophy, there were at least seven world class geniuses living in Athens at the same time: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Euripedes, Pericles and Phideas. And a number of lesser geniuses. Athens had a little over 100,000 citizens. Do you know what you get when you multiply seven great geniuses by 60,000 (the difference between over 100,000 and over 6,000,000,000, the world's present population)? 420,000.

So, given our tremendous advantage in resources and technology over ancient Athens, we should have at least 400,000 or so world class geniuses running around the planet. Oddly, we appear to have fallen considerably short of that target.

So my point is: Why shouldn't we be embracing every possible mental and personal advantage available to us? Why shouldn't we be living in a world that looks like ancient Athens writ large in the modern era? If not a world far better than that?

It's funny that science fiction often features imaginary master races or artifical intelligences seizing power of the common run of humanity. Whatever the potential of the beings featured in popular culture -- in movies such as Gattacca, The Matrix, X2, Terminator, etc -- we should remember what "normal humans" have already been capable of. If the world were doing half as well as golden age Athens with at least 200,000 great geniuses puttering around out there, they would have already stood the planet on its head.

An curious aspect of the above thesis is how much hostility the idea often receives among moderately well-educated citizens of advanced nations. Perhaps the idea is too shocking. Or perhaps some people feel that they have never been geniuses and (however erroneously) that they could never be geniuses.

Still, I have some comments on this observation from at least one earnest critic, so I thought I'd add his comments below, along with my response.

"If the world were doing half as well as golden age Athens with at least 200,000 great geniuses puttering around out there, they would have already stood the planet on its head."

Issue A: You can't meaningfully compare the average intelligence of the entire
world now against that of a single city, centuries ago. Geniuses aren't seeded
in an equidistant fashion.
Comment A: Perhaps not, but does that matter? If Phideas, the master architect of the Parthenon, made colossal strides in the development of architecture and engineering with its construction... does it really matter if the people of Athens actually had a lower average intelligence than we do here in the U.S.? Wouldn't that fact just make his accomplishments that much more impressive? (And I doubt they were all that dim, by any reasonable scale. There were also other, lesser geniuses in Athens at the time, making major breakthroughs in fields such as sculpture. And their educational methods were obviously pretty fruitful.)

More to the point, if the people of Athens were in some ways more enlightened than we are, and producing more geniuses, despite all our advantages in terms of wealth, knowledge and technology -- shouldn't we be trying to figure out how they did all that? And replicate it? If not improve on it? :)

Issue B: Being a genius ain't all it's cracked up to be.
While some great minds have certainly faced persecution or other trials in the past, our lads there in Athens seemed to enjoy their lifestyle well enough. And those are exactly the kinds of people who can contribute more to the welfare of society. Would it really hurt if the world contained, say, 400,000 world-class geniuses?

For an example of someone living who might fall into this category, Dr. Nakamatsu of Japan has created well over 1000 inventions (those may just be the ones he's patented). These include a number of minor innovations, such as the hard disc, the floppy disc and the disc drive.

Imagine what 400,000 people that productive, working for the interest of the entire world, could accomplish.

Or, in a more negative scenario, working hard to crush their rivals and dominate the globe. Perhaps because people of good will chose to ignore the opportunity to improve education for the good of all, and instead let people with a different agenda take the lead in this "super- education."

Which wouldn't be all that hard, mind you. The Socratic Method has been around for about 2300 years, but people haven't made much use of it since the decline of Athens. Throw in all the other methods for improving intelligence, learning and/or creativity than have been devised over the last couple millenia, and someone could do quite a job of manufacturing brilliance.

Future Imperative