Categories
Psychology Tech

A brain without a body

Artificial intelligence is like a brain without a body. 

Instead of billions of neurons, computers contain bits and bytes of varying voltage levels so they can do stuff like provide directions, select and edit our best photos, or beat humans at chess.

Deep Blue beat Kasparov not by matching his insight and intuition but by overwhelming him with blind calculation. Thanks to years of exponential gains in processing speed, combined with steady improvements in the efficiency of search algorithms, the computer was able to comb through enough possible moves in short enough time to outduel the champion. 

Nicholas Carr, A Brutal Intelligence: AI, Chess, and the Human Mind
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Machines contain faster processors than human brains. Even the most effective Ritalin in the world would leave humans trailing behind its fellow instrument. 

The irony, of course, is that AI is a factory of nothingness without human programming. Computers are ‘competent without comprehension,’ chugging along like a human does on automatic pilot.

If anything, we need to augment humans with machines. Thanks to Elon Musk, we’re nearly there.

We’re a brain chip away from the computer-powered brain, scampering closer to superhuman cyborgs. 

Becoming the tools of our tools, the brain with a body comes back to finish the chess game first. 

Categories
Arts Psychology Science

The father of neuroscience was also an amazing artist

Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramon y Cajal

More than a hundred years ago, the father of modern neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal demonstrated that information is the output of messy internal wiring provided by the brain’s chemical synchronicity.

Cajal was an artist trapped in a laboratory. He used his trained skills as an artist to draw masterful sketches of the brain. In doing so, he illustrated the neuron doctrine.

But where the Renaissance master goes sensual, macro, and dynamic, the Spaniard zeros in, mapping the miraculously microscopic using new methods of staining slide tissues that isolated single cells under the microscope. In this way, Cajal drew the newly visible synaptic networks of the brain and discovered a breakthrough that proved that neurons are in touch without touching. These results changed neuroscience. His work is still widely used as a teaching device.

Vulture Magazine
The father of neuroscience was also an amazing artist
Photo: Images via Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramon y Cajal
The father of neuroscience was also an amazing artist
The father of neuroscience was also an amazing artist
The father of neuroscience was also an amazing artist

He called the connection between the neural impulses synapses, the gaps between the neurons that allowed them to talk to each other. However, he couldn’t identify the synapses under the microscope like we can with 200X magnification today.

You can still walk across an invisible bridge even if you can’t physically see it there. All you need to know is that the magic is working.

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work Social Media Writing

Why everyone should blog

Everyone should blog. You do not have to publish 500 words a day. You do not even need to post at all. In fact, writing comes easier when you can write for yourself, in private.

Use a smartphone journal like the Day One app or the ever-popular Morning Pages Journal where you write by hand. When it comes to blogging effectively, you have to be a little vulnerable. Don’t tell all but don’t hide everything either, especially if your advice will benefit the lives of other people.

“Everyone should write a blog, every day, even if no one reads it. There’s countless reasons why it’s a good idea and I can’t think of one reason it’s a bad idea.” 

Seth Godin

I have been blogging for years (click here to view my guide to setting up a blog on WordPress). It is harder to get an audience who cares to read your stuff today than it has ever been. You have to assume nobody wants to read your shit because he or she is busy or would rather be social networking or playing games instead. However, for those readers who do read your blog frequently, they have subscribed for a reason.

Luis Suarez has been blogging since 2002 and recently offered some advice about using your blog to reflect the real you.

“It’s all about having a meaningful presence and how you work your way to make it happen, to leave a legacy behind, to share your thoughts and ideas others can learn from just like you do yourself with other people’s vs. pretending to be who you are not…Just be yourself with your own thoughts and share them along! It is what we all care for, eventually. The rest is just noise.”

Luis Suarez

No, blogging is not dead

People like to say blogging is dead. But not only are new platforms emerging like Medium, but blogging is just writing. Words will always be a powerful way to say something meaningful, whether it is in print, online, graffiti, or the walls of a cave.

I started this blog so I could show the world what interests me. It is no surprise that what you read here is information I learned from other blogs. In other words, blogging acts like a canvass where you synthesize, remix and interpret in your words.

“Blogs are like ham­mers. They are tools for building stuff.”

Hugh MacLeod
Why everyone should blog
Art by Hugh MacLeod

Above all, blogging is free, what Seth Godin calls “the last great online bargain.” Blogging gives you a voice, and it is an excellent incentive to think in a world that just wants us to consume.

Blogging is a bicep curl for the brain. Write daily, and practice the art of conviction.

“Use your blog to connect. Use it as you. Don’t “network” or “promote.” Just talk.”

Neil Gaiman
Categories
Life & Philosophy

How to make up your mind and decide

Decisions are multi-faceted. They can be manifested as desires, little bets about how you want things to go. After all, all believing is betting.

However, you can also decide against your best wishes. No one wants to put a sick dog to sleep. Difficult decisions paralyze people’s judgment. “Sometimes it’s not what I want to do but what I ought to do,” admits the elder woman in the video from Andrew Norton.

Decisions can be murky too. In Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, is the ‘right thing’ to cause a ruckus or sit back and preach non-violence? Mookie the protagonist postpones his own anxiety, feeling action is necessary despite breaking the law. He deals with the consequences.

Sometimes the right answer comes about through experience–a mere function of your mistakes. That is, first you decide and then you deduce, analyzing the call after the fact. Decision-making is a skill, growing stronger with more deliberate practice.

“There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation.

William James

In the words of Seth Godin: “You don’t need more time, you just need to decide.” You cannot afford to hesitate in a sea of doubt. Dance with fear or risk of living with regret. Indecision is still a decision or rather suspend doubt, DECIDE, and bear the responsibility.

Categories
Creativity Tech

This professor describes the future educated person

Dear digital denizens, please rest easy.

That so-called ‘internet addiction’ you have is an evolution of what humans have been doing along — curating, collecting, and sharing. We just do it with more often with the assistance of our screens.

According to professor Kenneth Goldsmith at the University of Pennsylvania, “an educated person in the future will be a curious person who collects better artifacts. The ability to call up and use facts is the new education. How to tap them, how to use them.”

Professor Goldsmith named his course “Wasting Time on the Internet”– an incentive that gets his students to sign up. However, it has the opposite effect. Instead of screen-staring, his students are more likely to create and collaborate.

“They became more creative with each other. They say we’re less social; I think people on the web are being social all the time. They say we’re not reading; I think we’re reading all the time, just online.”

The web is the world’s biggest copy-paste machine. On top of this, Google is our second brain. The fear is that humans will lose their ability to think. However, what happens instead is that we allow more ideas to have sex. Remixing ideas is what Maria Popova of Brainpickings often refers to as “combinatorial creativity.”

“When a D.J. brings a laptop full of music samples to a club he doesn’t play an instrument, but we don’t argue that he isn’t doing something creative in mixing those sounds to create his own effect. In the online world the only thing you’re the master of is your collection, your archive, and how you use it, how you remix it. We become digital archivists, collecting and cataloging things. I find it exciting.”

It turns out that wasting time on the Internet could be productive rather than harmful. To think the Internet also means the end of books and face to face communication is also an exaggeration. Of course, like any tool, it depends on what you are using the Internet for — playing games is not the same as sharing research and new ideas.

What’s your opinion on learning in the Internet age? Tweet at me.