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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, August 21, 2006

Dying of Loneliness -- at Least in Your Neurons

New Scientist has published this intriguing article, New Brain Cells Die without a Job to Do. The article notes:
When it comes to brainpower they say you either use it or lose it. Now a study in mice suggests that the survival of newly formed adult brain cells depends on the amount of input they receive.

Fred Gage of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and his colleagues infected genetically engineered mice with a virus that stops new brain cells from producing NMDA receptors - proteins that sit on the surface of brain cells and help them communicate with each other. The virus used infects only newly generated cells, leaving other cells untouched.

Infected cells that lacked NMDA receptors died sooner than their normal counterparts, suggesting that communication is essential for survival (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature05028).

These results are an interesting warning to us about keeping our minds active and flexible lest they atrophy. But such findings also suggest that constantly testing the limits of our abilities may not only keep brain cells alive longer, but encourage the development of stronger, more extensive connections inter-cellular connections throughout the brain. Thus not only fending off a decline, but enabling us to get smarter as we exercise our faculties.

Self-evident? Yes. But taken to its logical extreme (which is, for once, a logical strategy) this information suggests that our talents could be tapped and developed far more extensively than they are now. Rather than the sporadic and often narrowly defined challenges we usually allow ourselves (to the extent that most people are challenged at all), we could be using vastly enhanced learning techniques to stretch a wide array of gifts -- from our inventive skills to our musical composition abilities to speed math techniques to athletic coordination.

If we actively employed so much more of our brains we would not only be smarter and more talented, we would presumably keep much more of our mental faculties intact in the years and decades to come. So why not do so? After all, what do we have to lose?

Future Imperative