Cognitive Enhancement

May 4th, 2008  |  Published in commentary

Yesterday, I wrote a brief post about an exercise that might increase certain types of intelligence.  When I looked at the related links that WordPress generated, I found a post from last year about the effect of exercise on the brain.  To sum it up, it helps.  This makes perfect sense, as human beings are essentially just very complex systems, and so anything that affects one part will inevitably affect the system as a whole.  As our bodies evolved to suit a lifestyle vastly different from ours, it is no surprise that we need to take extra steps to ensure that they function properly.  If we have any hope of ever becoming posthuman, we must first realize the full potential of being “merely” human.

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Exercise Your Brain

May 3rd, 2008  |  Published in Misc, News, Society

Although I am a huge proponent of reading as a way of improving brain functioning, I am also a geek, so I think that you might as well leverage whatever technology is out there. Last week, NewScientist had an article about a simple exercise that could make you smarter. Sounds pretty cool (and it can’t hurt), right? Well someone went ahead and implemented it in Flash. Who knows, maybe at sometime in the future our schools will have an entire class devoted to thinking skills (like this, or chess, or go). I know, expecting our schools to teach people how to think better may sound crazy, but its crazy enough that it just might work! So go ahead, play, and get smarter! Today, remember what happened two iterations ago, tomorrow, the world!!! (the extra exclamation points are to ensure that you know that I am indeed serious)

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Moore’s Law to Continue Until Further Notice

May 1st, 2008  |  Published in Misc, News, SciFi, Society

EETimes has reported that Hewlett Packard Senior Fellow R. Stanley Williams has invented a memristor (which is sort of like a transistor, but . . . not, more info in the article).  As a result, it appears that Moore’s Law will continue unabated into the foreseeable future.  Excellent news for those of us who want to have computers installed in our heads.

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The Purpose of Speculative Fiction

April 28th, 2008  |  Published in Fiction, Misc, Rant, SciFi, Society, writing

I honestly started this with the intention of writing about Google Analyzer, but by the time I got to the end, I realized that I was talking about something else altogether. So I apologize for any meandering or lack of structure, but at the same time hope that you enjoy it.

It seems like I’ve been spending a lot of time recently talking about information overload, if not here, then in comments and other miscellaneous places. My take on it is that the human brain is an excellent filtering device – every instant that we are conscious, we filter out a good deal of sensory information. This isn’t a bad thing, as the alternative would be paralysis due to a tidal wave of trivia, and after all, it happens on a subconscious level, so we are never even aware of it.

Why does this matter? Because, much of technology today is all about bringing us more information, not necessarily better information. Take the internet, if you break it down, it’s probably something like 75% porn, 24.9% other irrelevant crap, and .1% useful information. That we can get anything useful out of it is in itself a wonder. We are in a process, however, of increasing the amount of raw data that we have access to, mainly through things like cheap cameras and automatic recording systems (every time you purchase something with a credit card, it creates a massive paper trail, or rather, data trail, it is only a matter of time before we do that for everything). This isn’t necessarily bad, but it does stem from the way we approach technology.

Currently, if you want to solve a computational problem, you simply throw processing power at it until you solve it. Very little resources are spent trying to improve the process, only trying to ensure that Moore’s Law will continue to hold true. So how do you improve the process? I’m not precisely sure. Improving processes is something that happens in non-intuitively connected leaps, and as such is something that is difficult to focus on. What I can say, though, is that the one area that will always pan out is basic research. By this I mean research that isn’t meant to solve a specific problem, that isn’t there to create a product, stuff that simply says, “we need to know more about . . .” and goes from there. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the more basic the question, the more we will have to be creative to answer it (read the analogy of the cave a couple of times and you’ll understand). The second is that Descartes was right, from every premise comes other premises. Every time you learn something new, when you connect it to the rest of your world-view, you can learn even more.

Unfortunately, it seems that basic research is not exactly a priority. Who would have said, a hundred years ago, that man would make it to the moon only to lose interest? Why don’t we have more large colliders? The list of questions is endless. Unfortunately, it seems that our curiosity as a species has been smothered by bureaucracy and self-interest (which is another discussion altogether, I’m afraid). I am hopeful, though, that our curiosity can and will be rekindled (as the alternative is extinction). The reason that I say this is that so long as people ask “what if?”, so long as people continue to read (or otherwise experience) speculative fiction, there will always be hope.

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The Future is a Diamond Mine

April 23rd, 2008  |  Published in SciFi, Society

The other day I was directed to the transcript of a speech by Science Fiction Author Charlie Stross, in which he talks about the changes that will be wrought by massively and cheaply available bulk storage.  Anyone interested in what the future might look like (and by that I mean just about everyone) should read this.  Fantastic stuff.

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