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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.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Jolting Your Neurons to Life: Is this Just About Frankenstein, or Something More?

A Mr. Farlops offered the following comment on this subject on Betterhumans...

I mentioned rTMS a few times on this site too.

The thing is, as I last recall, Dr. Snyder's results haven't yet been verified by other researchers (Please, if someone knows more about this, let me know.) and the effect is temporary.

It seems to effect narrow areas of human mental ability as well, improving our pattern recognition, short and medium term memory and verbal ability. It's as if rTMS temporarily throws us into an autistic savant state. I think what's happening here is not an enlarging of the brain's performance envelope but sacrifice of some abilities to favor others, a temporary optimization.

I replied...

Actually, I think you're right about the effect of rTMS, Mr. Farlops. Perhaps Dr. Snyder or another researcher will make that technique a little faster, easier and more effective, and without weakening other brain functions in the meantime. Or maybe not.

However, by including that particular phenomena under the generalized heading of "electrical currents that can enhance your brain," I may have distracted you from the main point of the post. The other methods -- using weak currents to enhance memory or verbal skills, or CES to effect various enhancements -- _do_ seem to be clearly positive interventions, and with further refinement could be used on a much more regular basis, with potentially a far greater synergistic, even snowballing impact.

I should also clarify -- I don't think these electro-magnetic manipulations are the only simple means by which human intelligence and/or specific cognitive skills can be enhanced to a significant degree. On the contrary, while I was aware of some of this research, I am actually surprised by how far it has come. But these various, independently developed technologies are symbolic of the much larger human augmentation field. There are many, many tools right now that can boost human minds, and while some have serious drawbacks -- for example, the most dangerous of "nootropic" drugs, such as Ritalin -- the question remains: If you can improve your recall by a twelfth, sharpen your verbal skills, become dramatically motivated by a dose of Modafinil, and so on, at what point do you become "superhuman" in your capabilities? At what point does your company or organization become vastly more productive and powerful, as even its most mediocre members become effective geniuses? If not better?

"Disclaimer": Yes, there are also a lot of potentially dangerous methods out there, like all the college students freebasing on Ritalin while cramming for tests. And there's a fair question whether some tools can seriously alter your personality -- like those folks who report being super-energized, focused and motivated by Modafinil... who also report losing interest in family and friends with no connection to their work. Even a "motivation pill" with no other side effects might be a bit too much for many people to swallow. But there's also quite a few things that seem to be relatively harmless and simple, and which could be quite readily combined.

Making the first transhuman may not require AI, nanotech, cybernetics or a multi-billion-dollar budget. It may simply require putting together enough of the puzzle pieces already scattered all around us.

Or to put it another way, you may not be waiting on the Singularity.

The Singularity may be waiting on you.

Bio, Noo, Mind, Soc, Self
Future Imperative


Anonymous Pace Arko said...

I was mostly objecting to the idea that rTMS would have a long lasting or permanent effect.

I was not objecting to the idea that human intelligence, in all its facets, can be augmented, even greatly augmented.

Pace Arko (AKA, the Guy Behind Mr. Farlops.)

February 09, 2007 3:39 AM  
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