Doesn’t it strike you as odd – as science and technology continue to accelerate the pace at which the future overtakes the present and then quickly disappears into the past – that we still haven’t figured out Who we are, What we are, Where we are, Why we are, and How we got here – let alone what the Nature of Reality actually is? WTF?! continues to be the most succinct summary of our existential quandary – even as we race headlong to the very brink of our species’ self-extinction.
Now, with the dawning convergence of neuroscience, ICT (Information and Communication Technology), and nanotechnology, it’s going to become exponentially more complicated to find helpful, hopeful answers to our existential questions. For as Nicholas West writes in his on-line Tech Swarm articles, “Technology seems to be on a runaway course either to free humanity or to enslave it.”
West tells us about “a new fiber implant that will transmit signals and drugs directly into the brain.” He references the National Institute of Health’s BRAIN Initiative – an acronym for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnolologies – and its Connectome Project, which is working “to acquire and share data about the structural and functional connectivity of the human brain.”
In Europe, we learn that the Human Brain Project is on a mission “to explore what makes us human, new treatments for brain disease, and to build revolutionary new computing technologies.” One of the main goals of the HBP, as stated on its website, “is to build neuromorphic computing systems that use the same basic principles of computation and cognitive architectures as the brain.”
Given our species’ hunger for power and penchant for mischief, it will come as no surprise that among the heavy funders for this type of research are the U.S. Department of Defense and the Air Force. One can only imagine (with fear and trembling) what sort of Brave New World lurks just around the next corner.
Commenting in one of her performance pieces, The Time of Our Lives, writer Laurel Airica points out that –
“We’re like an idiot savant. We’ve a grand intellect to flaunt
but only just the smallest ration of deep wisdom and compassion.
And there is really
nothing smart about a brain without a heart
although it seems to be the ultimate seduction –
because it grants us unchecked power
but just to bring our darkest hour –
for it endows us with a genius
Stephen Hawking has called Artificial Intelligence our greatest existential threat and warned that it could spell the end of human life. Elon Musk – founder of SpaceX, co-founder of PayPal, and chief designer/CEO of Tesla Motors (among other things) – views it as potentially more dangerous than nukes. In an effort to support research into the safe and beneficial development and application of AI, he recently contributed $10 Million to the Center for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University.
Fortunately, there are many brilliant minds working on projects that could help us to maximize our potential for good – before we screw ourselves over for good. Among these is the Flow Genome Project, which is looking to track and map every neurological, physiological, and psychological component that works together to create the Flow experience of being in the Zone. Their goal is to make Flow more accessible to more people for longer periods – with less effort and risk. Today, however, their site seem to be off-line. Oh well.
If all of this is starting to remind you of the apocalyptic sort of struggles depicted in Lord of the Rings, be not surprised. Instead, stay tuned for mention of other mind-altering, heart-expanding, and consciousness-raising modalities and technologies you may want to explore. And above all else, foresee the world you’d like to help bring into existence through the powers of your positive belief and the persistent cultivation of ‘optimysticism.’