The Shoddy Science Behind Mind Uploading How outdated views of the mind are driving the movement to digitize our minds.
Many are devoting part of their life insurance toward the prospect of outwitting their death. They are entrusting their bodies — or for some, just their heads — to Alcor, a company which specializes in cryonically preserving human bodies, suspending them from death, with the intention to revive them once we have the futuristic technology to restore their health and integrate them into society. Those who have opted to preserve only their heads seek a different fate — an opportunity for their minds to be scanned and uploaded to a machine much stronger and more capable than their human bodies were.Upgrading our bodies would also enhance our cognitive abilities. According to Ray Kurzweil, a strong proponent of mind uploading, “An emulation of the human brain running on an electronic system would run much faster than our biological brains.” As they envision, the procedure would involve scanning all contents of the brain with high-resolution microscopic receptors, constructing a three-dimensional map (or connectome) of the brain and translating it into the neural code that will run on a new machine.One question we have to ask is: would scanning the brain exclusively for its information construct a complete picture of our cognition? Before we get into questions of whether extracting this data would simulate our intelligence, or who would own this data, we need to tackle this question — why scan just the brain?Mind-uploaders are content to discard their bodies, but is that wise? Implicit in this vision of mind uploading is the view that our intelligence, our reason, is independent of the body and its limitations. This view of the disembodied mind dates back to antiquity. According to Plato, “the whole body [is] a disturbing element, hindering the soul from the acquisition of knowledge” (from Phaedo, ca. 360 B.C.E.). Today, this view is echoed in the cultural imagination surrounding mind-uploading, as tech visionaries work to “extract” the mind from the body.This widely accepted view has persisted for centuries despite evidence in favor of it being absent. On the other hand, contemporary theories of the brain recognize the body as a prominent factor in shaping our mental lives. “The body,” cognitive scientist Daniel Casasanto writes, “is an ever-present part of the context in which we use our minds and, therefore, has pervasive influences on the neurocognitive activity that constitutes our thoughts.” In fact, many of the frameworks of our thinking derive from our bodies, such as how we come to understand abstract concepts — like numbers and magnitudes, time, and morality — which we cannot perceive with our senses. And considering how embodied experience influences thinking, we can expect different bodies to exercise different thinking. For instance, right- and left-handers performing the same tasks tend to make opposite judgments about the same objects and create systematically different mental images. On the basis of handedness, Casasanto found staggering cognitive differences. Imagine how acquiring new bodily attributes through technology would afford us a radically diverse array of thinking — the ultimate cognitive enhancement.Of course, the embodied aspects of our cognition complicate the roadmap for mind uploading — namely, the procedure, as scanning the brain alone would not construct a complete picture of our cognition. What’s most concerning, though, is how tech visionaries have justified overlooking contemporary neuroscience. A common criticism of mind uploading has been that we don’t understand the contents of the brain on a comprehensive level to begin simulating it. Instead of acknowledging this fact as a considerable setback, Anders Sandberg and Nick Bostrom have responded to this criticism by noting that creating a database of all raw data of individuals’ brains and making it readable to a computer would eliminate our need to understand the brain. “It is entirely possible,” they write, “that we could acquire full knowledge of the component parts and interactions of the brain without gaining an insight into how these produce (say) consciousness or intelligence.”Despite Sandberg and Bostrom’s indifference, it’s imperative that we acknowledge our biological realities if we are to transcend them through technology. We need to approach the possibility of simulating the brain by also considering its relationship to the body. Rational thought goes beyond the mind. As we work to create the conditions for artificial superintelligence, we have to make sure our visions to upgrade the mind are not being driven by outdated views of it.This story is published in The Startup,
Researchers from the University of Antioquia in Columbia proposed a new explanation for the weird light behavior of the so-called “Alien Megastructure” star. It seems a ringed-exoplanet the size of Neptune might be the cause.
A team of scientists led by Mario Sucerquia at the University of Antioquia (UdeA) in Colombia have suggested a new explanation for the irregular dips in brightness of the star KIC 8462852, since it recently resumed its unusual behavior. The mysterious shift in stellar opacity could be the signature of a transiting Saturn-like exoplanet. “[W]e study the dynamics of a tilted exoring […] to explain irregular and anomalous transit signals of close-in ringed planets, as well as the rings’ early evolutionary stages,” the researchers wrote.
A team of astronomers led by Yale University’s Tabetha Boyajian first noted the unusual behavior of a star called KIC 8462852 back in 2015. Normally, stars observed from Earth can be seen to dim whenever a planet passes in front of it, in what’s called a transit. That wasn’t the case for KIC 8462852, later dubbed “Tabby’s star.” A flurry of explanations followed, from rogue comets to a colossal “megastructure” orbiting the star supposedly built by extraterrestrials.
ALTERING LIGHT CURVES
Sucerquia and his colleagues tested their idea through simulations of how light curves when a ringed planet transits its star from about one-tenth the distance of the Earth from the Sun. A ringed exoplanet creates irregular dips in brightness when its ring first blocks some of the star and then the planet passes to dim it even more. Afterwards, the rings block it again. These transits would produce no obvious pattern as the rings could be at a different angle each time.
Eric Verdin, a world-leading researcher on aging, recently shared what he has learned about the future of growing old. While Verdin views immortality as a fairy tale, he said that many promising methods for extending life are being studied.
THE FUTURE OF GETTING OLD
The Population Reference Bureau has projected that the percentage of the population over the age of 65 will rise from the current 15 percent to a staggering 24 percent by 2060. This means that research into aging has never been more important.
Eric Verdin is at the forefront of this research and has become the President and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. The institute is the world’s biggest independent research facility studying the causes of growing old — and how to combat them. Recently, he conducted an interview with Nautilus to discuss how aging is effecting our lives.
Verdin believes that the explosion in age-related research is due to researchers’ discovery in the 1990s that aging is not necessarily an inevitability. Instead, it is caused by mutations — and scientists could make changes to the genome of other species that led to a lifetimes of up to twice as long. Verdin stated in the interview this resulted in a belief that “there might be pathways to regulate aging, and if there are pathways that means there are proteins, and that means you can eventually develop drugs.”
Despite this, he says, “if you hear the word immortality, just run. There is no drug that can give you that.” While Verdin believes we can increase the average human lifetime significantly, the fountain of youth is still just a fairy tale. “It’s just nonsense from my perspective, and I think we should really resist the I-word.”
The best way to maximize your lifespan, he said in the interview, is to maintain your body well. Good nutrition and exercise are “incredible anti-aging medicine.” His general advice is to treat the cause rather than the symptom with a combination of lifestyle and pharmaceutical treatments — to fight aging itself rather than dealing with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or macular degeneration when they occur.
THE YOUTH OF THE OLD
The human attraction to immortality has been present in our cultural landscape since the beginning of time — the human mind seems to be unable to resist its lures. There are countless myths and stories based on it: the fountain of youth, the Wandering Jew, the philosophers stone, and the Bible’s Enoch are a few examples.
Recently, this mystical desire has birthed a myriad of promising methods for reversing the aging process which are currently under investigation: from transfusing young people’s blood into older people to give them more osteopontin, to digging into the role telemores play on the aging process, to developing anti-aging, bacteria-based pills.
However, when our increasing life expectancy is combined with the decrease in fertility that many nations are facing, the results are an aging population. In an interview with CNN, Elon Musk pointed out why this is undesirable, saying it causes a “very high dependency ratio, where the number of people who are retired is very high relative to the number of people who are net producers” — an economically detrimental state of affairs.
Due to technological and therapeutic advancements, aging is looking less like an ugly inevitability of our condition and more like a new and exciting epoch in our lives. However, we must ensure that longer lives for people do not come at the expense of the environment, economy, or wellbeing of others.
New Method To Make Ethanol Out Of Carbon Dioxide35 SharesShare on FacebookShare on TwitterTechnologyNew Method To Make Ethanol Out Of Carbon DioxideAlfredo CarpinetiBy Alfredo Carpineti20/06/2017, 20:19Ethanol is one of the most important biofuels used in the world and researchers could soon reduce its impact on the environment significantly.Thanks to a new technique, ethanol could soon be produced directly from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Ethanol is currently made primarily from fermented corn, so it takes a sizable chunk of agricultural resources. The new method, presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, uses water, carbon dioxide, and electricity delivered through a copper catalyst.”One of our long-range goals is to produce renewable ethanol in a way that doesn’t impact the global food supply,” principal investigator Thomas Jaramillo, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Stanford and of photon science at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, said in a statement.The secret to this new method is in the particular crystal structure used for the copper. The team used three types of copper – copper (100), copper (111), and copper (751) – and tested their ability to convert water and carbon dioxide into ethanol.”Copper (100), (111) and (751) look virtually identical but have major differences in the way their atoms are arranged on the surface,” said Christopher Hahn, an associate staff scientist at SLAC and co-lead author of the study. “The essence of our work is to understand how these different facets of copper affect electrocatalytic performance.”The team discovered that a particular arrangement in copper (751), where the atoms are quite far apart and with only two close neighbors, allows for the production of more liquid fuel than other types of copper.”An atom of copper (751) only has two nearest neighbors,” Hahn said. “But an atom that isn’t bonded to other atoms is quite unhappy, and that makes it want to bind stronger to incoming reactants like carbon dioxide. We believe this is one of the key factors that lead to better selectivity to higher-value products, like ethanol and propanol.”While biofuels are carbon neutral, they still use resources that could be used for food production. They also have been linked to potential deforestation in developing countries. This method might provide a truly green alternative.”The eye on the prize is to create better catalysts that have game-changing potential by taking carbon dioxide as a feedstock and converting it into much more valuable products using renewable electricity or sunlight directly,” Jaramillo added.In order to look for the best possible set up, the team aim to test the same approach on other metals to see how different surfaces affect ethanol production.
Why I started Essential
I know people are going to ask me a lot of questions about why I started this company. Why didn’t I just travel the world, ride my motorcycle, tinker with my robots, hang out at my bakery with friends and family. And to be honest I still do ask myself that sometimes…but not too often.
So why did I create Essential? Well, my hardware engineers wanted me to talk about how we are bringing real passion and craftsmanship back into this category. My software engineers wanted me to talk about our vision for making all devices, even those we don’t make ourselves, play well together. My partners wanted me to talk about how we are using methods that could change how successful technology companies are built forever.
But the real reason is because of what happened during a night out with an old friend of mine…