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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.

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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.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Preventing the Sunset of the Mind

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The Washington Post has a fascinating article on the tremendous impact of mental exercise in preventing the decline of elderly minds. The Post notes:

Ten sessions of exercises to boost reasoning skills, memory and mental processing speed staved off mental decline in middle-aged and elderly people in the first definitive study to show that honing intellectual skills can bolster the mind in the same way that physical exercise protects and strengthens the body.

...Americans spend billions of dollars each year on their physical well-being, but there are no comparable efforts to keep people mentally agile and strong.

If anything, the study suggests, there is a bigger payoff to mental exercise, because the brief training sessions seemed to confer enormous benefits as many as five years later. That would be as if someone went to the gym Monday through Friday for the first two weeks of the new year, did no exercise for five years, and still saw significant physical benefits in 2012.

How many brilliant minds do we lose each year to Alzheimer's, senile dementia, creeping microstrokes and similar afflictions? How much talent, how many mentors, how many parents, colleagues and loved ones?

And here we find that a couple weeks of practice can be enormously helpful in preventing such decline as much as half a decade later.

Incidentally, the group which showed the most improvement was the one "given exercises to speed up mental processing -- being asked to identify an object flashed briefly on a computer screen while fighting off distractions." Bear that in mind if you try to do something like this with your friends and family. And read the linked article for further tips.

But consider, in the face of discoveries like this one and Kazahkstan's experience in boosting its overall IQ with iodized salt (and a resulting reduction in mental disorders), how many other simple yet dramatic methods could still be out there which could dramatically improve the intellectual capacities of entire nations. It's easy to dismiss such steps as trivial, until some country raises its average IQ by 10 points or so, or when a region starts to treat or even cure dementia in its elderly.

There are many impressive brain-building tools out there. But few are as impressive as a simple trick which can change the entire course of a life before it even begins, or save a life from a premature ending.

AL, Bio, Soc
Future Imperative

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