Is the human brain a magnificent, near-miraculous organ? Or a flawed, forgetful, feeble-minded, under-achieving blob? My POV is the latter. Brain 1.0 is laughably dysfunctional, teeming with weaknesses even in our finest specimens. Memories are dust in a hurricane, logic is lunatic, empathy thinner than the neocortex on a sociopathic toddler. I want Brain 2.0. Are you with me? Eager for an upgrade?
I believe far-reaching ambition should be applied to the acquisition of superlative mental strength, i.e., “god-like” cognitive powers. Humungous intellectual improvement would enable humanity to invent wondrous devices, solve global risk concerns, and enable every person to more thoroughly understand and enjoy the complex universe in which we dwell.
Below I’ve listed seven skill-sets of our 146 brain regions. Our present skills in these arenas is pathetic, humiliatingly - let’s accelerate our progress, so we can wield the wisdom of “deities.”
Aren’t we all.. Amnesiacs? By noon, I forget what I ate for breakfast. Ecstatic adventures of my youth? Lost, down the river of time. Ex-lovers? I forgot their names, shapes, and enticements. Memories are winds we can’t catch, jewels that slip away, desserts rapidly digested and flushed into the ether. Why can’t I remember every wonderful event of my life, that I want to retain?
I want - Total Recall. For this, I need exterior storage space, strapped to my cranium, where everything that happens to me is transposed into text, images, and videos, dated, and filed in multiple categories. In milliseconds, I’d be able to retrieve precise details of my chronology via several channels (time, space, associated references). Fortified with this feature, I’d never again forget anyone’s name, nostalgic urges could be retrieved and satisfied, traumatic disputes would be erasable, and I’d live happier, flushed with joyful remembrances, instead of burdened with bewildered resentment.
The “Personal Memory Device” of the future receives an excellent exposition HERE, by neuro-blogger James Kent, who notes that a “PMD could be easily fitted shortly after birth; the least invasive option would be like a Bluetooth headset worn over the ear connected wirelessly to a local device no larger than a cell phone.”
Eyes Wide Open 24/7
We waste 22%-35% of our lives because we’re mentally dead when we’re asleep, plus we spend another 5%-10% of our life with our brains seriously incapacitated by “drowsiness.” Shockingly inefficient. Would we buy a computer if it was inoperable one-third of the time? Sleep has to be eliminated, or extensively reduced, or made “optional.” Imagine how wonderful a 24 hour day would be if cognitive alertness was available every second? We’d double our productivity and/or social pleasure.
Is annihilating the Sandman possible? Specialists believe shut-eye is required for memory storage… But… if memories can be re-routed and stored “off-brain” (see above) the necessity for snoozing would be tremendously reduced or abandoned altogether. Imagine the benefits! A family of four would no longer need a “3-bedroom” house because bedrooms wouldn’t be essential, neither would beds, pillows, mattresses, and the accompanying laundry time. Hotels, inns, and other coma-quarters for our hibernation habit would become extinct. No more traffic accidents due to falling asleep at the car wheel. No more hustling home early from parties to put the kids to bed. No more sleeping pills, no more insomnia, no more jet lag. Perhaps, in the future, drifting off to Slumberland will be categorized as a “narcoleptic” disease, or regarded as socially-unacceptable behavior, like sloth or drug addiction.
Any current progress in fighting off the Forty Winks? Pharm products like modafinal have reduced immediate demands for repose, but the end of sleep won’t truly arrive until the mind’s workload is drastically reduced.
Human nature is frequently vicious. We fight, quarrel, cheat, back-bite, and act like ornery cusses much of the time. Why? The neuro-excuse is that we just can’t help it because our brains are physiologically flawed. A demonic source of our meanness is the amygdala, a segment of our “reptile brain” that impels us to behave like Komodo Dragons when we perceive that our survival is threatened. What can we do about this?
The answer is anatomical. When University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists Richard Davidson and Antoine Lutz examined the compassionate “lovingkindness” brains of Tibetan monks who had clocked in 10,000+ hours of meditation, they discovered strong gamma ray action, and major brain differences, especially buffed-up thickness in the insole and the right temporal parietal juncture. Furthermore, when Davidson compared the brains of his celibate, childless Tibetan monks to the brains of mothers looking at photos of their babies, he discovered startling similarities. Happiness, Empathy, and Unconditional Love was indicated in the ecstatically lit-up left prefrontal cortexes of both.
What’s this mean, for you and I? Personally, I think meditation would make me even grouchier! (Although another study by Harvard Medical School demonstrated that novices who completed a 8 week course of 30 minutes a day meditation, gained “increases in the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction, and the cerebellum.” ) I’m also not interested in gestating, laboring and conceiving children, via ectopic pregnancy. However, I sincerely would like to be kinder and more patient, and to accomplish this I would subject myself to brain surgical-enhancement, especially if it was just a brief hospital visit, with an acceptable cafeteria. Neural stem cell implantation seems to be a possibility here - if new cells make me neuro-pudgy in the proper areas, I’d perhaps be as equanimous as the Dalai himself.
We study, we cram, we read, but the data we laboriously scan just can’t be “saved.” Our brains copy elemental facts, but 90% instantly vanishes off our meatbag hard-drive. After perusing an 800 page manuscript, I retain enough only to scrawl a spotty synopsis - my neurons lack “stickiness”! Street directions, cell numbers, visual details, explanations, relative’s names - all.. poof!
How to fix this? The answer is obvious. Already, we know that the smartest person in any room is the fastest-fingered surfer finding answers on their iPhone. What we desperately need is our tiny noggins to be logged into the Global Brain all the time, with a “keyboard” that’s guided by “thought direction.” (All right, if you’re paranoid, we can have an on/off switch.) The wifi antennas on our bodies will be style statements, either flagrantly displayed - like a tail - or coyly hidden behind an ear. I’ll probably choose the nerd option: a bull’s eye in the center of my bald spot.
Calculations at Light-Speed
Quick! What’s your answer to this question?
Assuming that the index of refraction of water is 4/3 and that raindrops are spherical, show that the location of a rainbow is approximately 42 degrees above the line from the sun to you. If you see a double rainbow, what is the angle of the second one? Even triple rainbows are possible, although they are difficult to see; where is the third one?
Still struggling? Of course; like me, and the rest of us, you’re extremely stupid. Relative, of course, to a god-like brain that would calculate that in a nano-second. (The answer is HERE).
What do we need for superior calculating ability? A 2011 University of Toronto study informs us that addition requires work from the “visual areas, parietal areas, frontal and prefrontal regions… bilateral thalamus, right insula, right claustrum and bilateral cerebellum,” but subtraction needs extra assistance from the bilateral insole, and multiplication requires effort from the “bilateral cingulate gyrus, left claustrum, right caudate body…” etc. Increasing our current brain volume is needed… if our skulls are too small to accommodate the required neuron expansion, we’ll have to get bigger heads, like hydrocephalics, or the 1500-1600cc capacity of Neanderthals, a 7.5-13% upgrade.
Limitless Intelligence won’t be enjoyable if we can’t get belly-laughs out of it - ideally, our mega-brains should supply us with on-demand, side-convulsing, pee-in-our-pants comedic skills.
Constructing humor is a creative process that requires “thinking outside the box” - not surprisingly, researchers have discovered close correlations between creative types and sufferers of mental illness. Specifically, highly creative people AND schizophrenics both have a lower-than-normal density of D2 receptors in the thalamus, a brain region that serves as a filtering center that processes information before it reaches the “responsible” cortex. The wide-open floodgates allows highly creative, and/or crazy people, to see numerous unique and bizarre connections in ordinary situations.
Apparently, if we want to explode with laughter and/or make others shriek hysterically like demented banshees, all we have to do is reduce our D2 receptor density. This suggests that a D2 control button is needed, to elevate levels when ponderous solemnity is required, and reduce it, when a party needs to be livened. Use it carefully and never shut off the D2 entirely - that’s a one-way ticket to the Funny Farm, where you can giggle maniacally at your own weird jokes, alone forever.
We’re gullible, aren’t we? Fools, saps, stooges, easy marks that take the bait - hook, line, and sinker. Sly people proclaim their love for us, for cruel manipulation. Politicians and TV commercials lie and swindle our innocence. Why are we so easily deceived?
Our new, improved brains won’t be credulous. No! Our god-like brains will have fantastic insight, deep intuition, razor-sharp perception - they’ll be mind-reading wonders, viewing the real truth that lurks beneath sweet and serpentine words. How will we leap from susceptible suckers, to clairvoyant savants? Here’s the easy answer:
We need MRI scanners mounted on our heads. In The Neuro Revolution, author Zack Lynch reports that it takes 7 brain regions to tell the truth, but 14 to to tell a lie. With our individualized brain-reading ability, falsehoods and secrets will be ancient history, replaced by total transparency and absolute truth. We won’t be stumbling anymore in our face-time interactions, wondering what the other is thinking, ‘cause we’ll read each other like maps!
Those seven improved zones of smartness will make me happy, but… what’d I forget? Is there a mental superpower that I failed to consider? Please clue me in to additional genius-potentialities, in the Comment Section below:
Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Interim Managing Director and Fundraiser. He was IEET’s Managing Director on January-October in 2012, and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.
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