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IEET > Life > Innovation > Health > Vision > Futurism > Contributors > Eric Schulke

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“Alpha Thinkers” are the Transhuman Wave of the Future


Eric Schulke
By Eric Schulke
transhumanity.net

Posted: Mar 25, 2013

Alpha thinkers are creatives, innovators, pioneers. They acutely and agilely navigate an abundance of diverse, fallacy aware thinking.

The alpha thinker can’t bring themselves to live at the last outpost and not venture further. They cannot resist poking their finger through the realm of sub atomic particles. They can’t stay on this side of the atmosphere. They look into biology and the elements. They want to know why we are here, why the universe and all of existence is here, how far it goes, what is out there, what the hell is going on. Alpha thinkers are the universe’s way of creating the devises needed to help bring out all of the potential in its elements.

Thanks to Hans Berger’s early 20th century creation of the Electroencephalography machine (EEG) for measuring electricity in the brain, we can see that the brain contains what we now call the Alpha, Beta, Theta and Delta waves. Alpha waves are associated with people that are always thinking about things. They are often associated with the person that looks like they are drifting off in thought, telling others to slow down and examine things. They deliberate. They look for the best most dynamically-nuanced progressive answer. They take a wide variety of factors into account. The products of these thoughts gravitate toward the creative, new, original, cutting edge, progressive, advanced, pioneering. They think big and long term more.

Studies reported in Scientific America find that, 

“highly creative people tend to produce more brain waves in the alpha range (a frequency of eight to 12 hertz, or cycles per second) during creative tasks than do less creative people.  Martindale and his group interpreted alpha power as a marker of decreased cortical arousal and defocused attention and suggested that creative people were allowing more information into their conscious awareness during creative work.” “We think that the reduction in cognitive inhibition allows more material into conscious awareness that can then be reprocessed and recombined in novel and original ways, resulting in creative ideas.”

They don’t just think about a few things, or think about a lot of things without much understanding… they think about a lot of things with insight and agility. 

An eccentric or a creative alone does not necessarily connote an alpha thinker. As Harvard psychologist Shelley Carson says, 

“not all eccentric individuals are creative. Work from our lab indicates that other cognitive factors, such as high IQ and high working-memory capacity, enable some people to process and mentally manipulate extra information without being overwhelmed by it.”

Studies by neuroscientists John Kounios and Mark Beeman show that people who are experiencing alpha wave activity are more likely to receive bursts of gamma frequency, a frequency that is associated with that “aha!” moment when thinking about things. We might think of it rather like a magnifying glass that can focus light rays. When the glass settings are just right, the confluence of rays bursts into flame.

As Tali Sharot at the Welcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging points out, the frontal cortex, one of the last parts of the human brain to evolve, seems to facilitate this kind of thinking. Combine that with alpha waves and you have a new mixture with potent potential.

Sharot points out about this new system that, 

“...the core function of the memory system could in fact be to imagine the future; to enable us to prepare for what has yet to come.” 

Evolution prepares the brain to think more. The alpha thinker is necessary for society to flourish. We advanced through stages - Erectus, Habilis, Neanderthal, Sapien - and now we are becoming the Transhuman, the species of the alpha thinker.

Like the alpha thinkers of the enlightenment (Spinoza, Newton, Paine) and the free-thinking colonists that fled religion and superstition in Europe to come to the Americas - today’s alpha thinkers take on challenges. 

 

Historically, alpha thinkers have been outnumbered by more than 99 to 1. Today, they are only outnumbered by 6 to 1.

The number of alpha thinkers by “creative class” affirms this number. The 40 million people of the US creative class comprise roughly 1 in 6 of the US population.

It is not a college degree that signifies the alpha thinker. As the alpha thinker knows, its an abundance of fallacy-aware thinking that signifies it.

Studies from the International Labour Organization, reported in the Atlantic, tell us that, 

“In the U.S., for example, nearly three-quarters of adults with college degrees are members of the Creative Class, but less than 60 percent of the members of the Creative Class have college degrees: In other words, 4 in 10 members of the Creative Class – 16.6 million workers – do not have college degrees. Creative Class membership adds significantly to wages, carrying with it a 16 percent wage premium even after controlling for level of education and other factors, equivalent to another 1.5 years of additional education, according to research by economist Todd Gabe.”

Alpha thinkers control the elements. They are cosmic titans, the leaders of humankind, the explorers of the universe setting sail with fierce urgency.

William Faulkner summed it up well when talking about one creative task - writing. He said,

“Let the writer [thinker] take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the [thinking] done, no shortcut. The young [thinker] would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old [thinker], he wants to beat him. ”

We don’t fill out every form, we don’t follow many paths, we go where others haven’t and leave a trail. We fail along the way, many times. We often camp out at an impasse working out a way through it for years. Sometimes we retreat and start new paths. We are found dead at the end of many incomplete trails, with a tangle of thorn bushes in front of us. But we also emerge triumphantly in new lands, we arrive at glorious new theories, burst through into liberating new frames of reference and unlock new tantalizing dimensions to life.

We aren’t here to build empires of trinkets and novelties. We aren’t here to stay the same, keep things for tradition’s sake, without progress. We are here to evolve, to get better and better, to explore further, master more, and do more with less. As Douglass Rushkoff points out, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that there is enough food produced to provide everybody in the world with over 2,500,000 million calories per day. A person needs an average of 2,000 per day. Even that, he points out, is after places like the United States dump tons of food in the name of higher market prices. Banks, he points out, tear down foreclosed homes for the sake of converting them back into the more solvent land capital.

Rushkoff further points out that, 

“Our problem is not that we don’t have enough stuff—it’s that we don’t have enough ways for people to work and prove that they deserve this stuff…I have to wonder just how truly bad is it for people. Isn’t this what all this technology was for in the first place?” 

Most things, as the alpha thinker Tim Ferriss and others point out, are not productive, even when they may think they are. The old adage of keeping yourself with busy work is outdated. This is no longer a world where there is use in digging holes to fill them in, if there was ever even a use for such a work that consumed precious time.

Tim Ferris says, 

“Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” “What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it. Efficiency is still important, but it is useless unless applied to the right things.” To put it most succinctly he says, “Focus on being productive instead of busy.”

Some countries have already begun adapting to this reality. For example, in 2000, France legislated the 35 hour work week. This is because over time we produce more and more with less and less. So to compensate for their 10% unemployment rate, they reduced working hours by 10%, thereby creating 10% more jobs in the market place. 

It is getting so the only thing left for people to do is pioneer, to create, to innovate, to think. This drives up the demand for the alpha thinker. As the social and economic theorist Richard Florida says, 

“Technology and innovation are critical components in driving economic growth. To be successful, communities and organizations must have the avenues for transferring research, ideas, and innovation into marketable and sustainable products.”

We have to foster the growth of the alpha thinker. We can no longer afford to jam them into standardized schooling and try to turn them all into 9-5 workers. We can no longer afford to think the solution is to medicate them and dumb them down. We can no longer afford to corral their thinking drive. Tim Ferriss tells us that, 

“It is far more lucrative and fun to leverage your strengths instead of attempting to fix all the chinks in your armor. The choice is between multiplication of results using strengths or incremental improvement fixing weaknesses that will, at best, become mediocre. Focus on better use of your best weapons instead of constant repair.” 

Our era is advancing rapidly because of the alpha thinker. We are transitioning into another new age. Richard Florida tells us that,

“intellectuals and various types of artists—[are] an ascendant economic force, representing either a major shift away from traditional agriculture- or industry-based economies or a general restructuring into more complex economic hierarchies.” 

“Future 101” instructor Michael Ferguson points out, 

“Cultural, political and social discourse will evolve from a preoccupation with satisfying the basic needs of life to a pursuit of a finely crafted life. … ‘Creative’ will become one of the largest, if not the largest, career categories.”

By creating more with less, the alpha thinker constructs one of the next crucial pieces of the puzzle toward continued pioneering of more of existence, they free up more time for the world for experimenting and exploring and thinking. They mine for the edges of the boxes and find the priorities among the edges. They explicate tools for the world. They unlock realms for the world. They know where the keys and the doors are, which doors are most likely to lead to amazing new things, and they try the keys until they get them to work.  

Harnessing fire, inventing the wheel, the stone age, the iron age, the enlightenment, the age of discovery, the Renaissance, the scientific revolution, the industrial revolution, the technological revolution, the communications revolution… …and now, the transhuman revolution, the space race and the movement for indefinite life extension - these are some of the gifts that alpha thinkers have brought, and are bringing, to humankind.

Support your alpha thinkers, they are the wave of the future.


Eric Schulke is an activist with the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension. He was a Director, Teams Coordinator, and Marketing & Outreach team leader at Longecity – Advocacy & Research for Unlimited Lifespans (2009-2012). He attended University of Wisconsin.
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COMMENTS


“We have to foster the growth of the alpha thinker. We can no longer afford to jam them into standardized schooling and try to turn them all into 9-5 workers. We can no longer afford to think the solution is to medicate them and dumb them down. We can no longer afford to corral their thinking drive.”

Yes. Unfortunately (for technoprogressives) the number of alphas is quite small relative to the population; and of course you all know that. I keep coming back to this, it needs to be reiterated why we are pulled back into the past by paleos: they want to preserve something from the past due to their nostalgia, however they take it way too far—they are not nostalgic for the near past but for the distant past. The more time goes by the greater the contrast between the possibilities for the future and our being pulled back by them. And we are being drawn backwards by them, as they possess not only the influence to do so, but also that pull, that power.





I’m all for the *science* behind brain wave frequencies, despite that they’re clearly pretty macroscopic features of underlying processes we do not yet understand much of in detail. Empirical observations that different EEG-measured frequencies are associated with different cognitive states and that some are more desirable are fascinating. I’m even very much on board with the observation that some people have more Alpha or Theta output than others, either by heredity or entrainment and that there is an association with cognitive output or even “creativeness”.

>Studies reported in Scientific America find that,
>
>>“highly creative people tend to produce more brain waves in the alpha range (a frequency of eight to 12 hertz, or cycles per second) during creative tasks than do less creative people.  Martindale and his group interpreted alpha power as a marker of decreased cortical arousal and defocused attention and suggested that creative people were allowing more information into their conscious awareness during creative work.” “We think that the reduction in cognitive inhibition allows more material into conscious awareness that can then be reprocessed and recombined in novel and original ways, resulting in creative ideas.”

All fine. If a little murky.

However this article goes way out on a limb to claim there is such a thing as an “Alpha thinker”, and that this is (naturally) the next stage of human evolution.

>Evolution prepares the brain to think more. The alpha thinker is necessary for society to flourish. **We advanced through stages - Erectus, Habilis, Neanderthal, Sapien - and now we are becoming the Transhuman, the species of the alpha thinker.**

This piques my skepticism. And of course—all of your dead heroes were Alpha Thinkers too! Spinoza (of course), Newton (even the hardcore logicians)... the whole lot of the old dead smart guys, basically. If they were alive and we hooked them up to an EEG you could basically expect as a fact that it would just explode with all the alpha waves.

And then right in the middle, a completely unexplained pie chart showing some distribution of religious affiliations of… something. Legend? Context? It isn’t even mentioned anywhere in the article. How does religion have anything to do with this?

A fun fact according to the essay:
>Historically, alpha thinkers have been outnumbered by more than 99 to 1. Today, they are only outnumbered by 6 to 1.

Completely unsourced. That’s just a vaugue statistic of undefined terms seemingly pulled out of a hat. “Historically”? When have “historically” significant measurements been made of the general population which seek to count the number of “Alpha Thinkers”. A rhetorical question obviously, the answer is never.

It just devolves from there.
>Alpha thinkers control the elements. They are cosmic titans, the leaders of humankind, the explorers of the universe setting sail with fierce urgency.

Sure, geniuses, alluded to previously, are truly genius. There is indeed a stratification of mental potency and of abilities which are distributed unevenly throughout the population, and certainly - a possible expression of some of the mentally extra-capable may be a preponderance toward Alpha waves, but to fixate upon that and assume that it is the significant mark of genius or *especially to attribute it as the cause* of genius and creativity is a bit foolish.

All the loosely bound associations that have nothing to do with Alpha Waves, like quoting Faulker and a bunch of dubious, unrelated, unsourced statistics and rambling in the article don’t do any favors for the thesis—assuming that the thesis is that there is such a meaningful class of people who could be called “Alpha Thinkers”, that they are the bees knees and the forefront of humanity and clearly the next stage of our evolution. It just makes “Alpha Thinker” sounds like a sort of re-branded “[Indigo Child](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigo_children)” for transhumanists.

At least the mystics are getting a tad more scientific.





I just found out the best description of my personality is Schizoid (SPD), which evolved out of (avoidant) reactive attachment disorder (RAD) :

Emotional coldness, detachment or reduced affect.
Limited capacity to express emotions towards others.
Consistent preference for solitary activities.
Very few, if any, close friends or relationships, and a lack of desire for such.
Indifference to either praise or criticism.
Taking pleasure in few, if any, activities.
Indifference to social norms and conventions.
Preoccupation with fantasy and introspection.
Lack of desire for sexual experiences with another person.

Sounds just like an Alpha Thinker…ironic (by the way I’m a member of Mensa and a National Master at chess).  BTW, I am looking at the future, which no doubt includes cosmopolitan space travel and exponential manufacturing outside the Earth’s gravity well, and seeing a great demand for schizoid workers.  Furthermore, within twenty years extreme longevity treatments that will allow us to live centuries, so perhaps my mom’s gross negligence was my inadvertent fortune (talk about making lemonade from lemons).

 





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