Daniel: by Thomas Adkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This applies only to the excerpt, which is the first chapter. It’s an intriguing start and gets the storytelling right. I enjoy seeing how authors treat liminal states of mind. Adkins does it well. The PoV character’s identity and nature are mysteries. Something unusual and, apparently, unprecedented has happened to him. I’m interested in knowing what.
I understand this chapter is the product of a workshop held in Albuquerque.
During the past two weeks, I’ve enjoyed rich conversations with some creative, insightful friends—introverts all. As an introvert with many interests, I can occupy myself with research and other projects for weeks on end without feeling the need to engage directly with others beyond my wife. A few years ago I became more aware of research finding introverts, to be optimally healthy, need to deliberately cultivate regular social interaction with others. We can do this without violating our other needs. Introversion entails both health boosters and detractors. On the downside, according to Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., introverts
- may experience more stress in social situations or even when thinking about social situations and avoiding social opportunities may erode health
- be more realistic about negative realities or fixate on them, presenting more opportunities for negative moods or depression
- may be less emotionally adaptable to open or crowded living or working environments (introverts tend to prefer living in less populated areas where they can be outdoors without being crowded, as in many mountainous areas)
- may not benefit as much from fitness and other activities that are organized to emphasize socialization (think Cross Fit or many other popular fitness programs)
- may have less effective immune systems, though the effect is small
- may require more time and effort to think through decision scenarios (possibly due to the denser gray matter in their brains)
- are more easily aroused by sensory stimuli, which can make them seek situations with less stimulation
- may avoid risk-taking, which can have positive and negative effects (they’re unlikely to become gambling addicts but are also more likely to miss significant opportunities that require them to take chances)
- may ignore negative health indicators and delay speaking with health care providers about potential health issues
- may experience slower situational comprehension and response times in loud environments or situations with intensified sounds or urgency signals, such as when exposed to alarms, vehicle horns, or other people yelling commands (think of the spate of recent episodes of police excessive force against people the claim were not obeying their screamed orders)
Regarding the last point above, an introvert friend worries she’ll not be capable of understanding the screamed commands of a threatening policeman and will be arrested, injured, or even killed because of it. There is probably a clinical or technical name for such a temporary inability to process language. I’m unaware of any law enforcement training specifically addressing this issue. If you know more about it, please post a comment.
If you’re not sufficiently concerned about people using AI tools to create convincing fake audio and video, now the Computer Vision Lab at Nottingham University has developed an AI system capable of creating fairly accurate 3D faces from single photographs. I uploaded one of my own to the demo tool and a few seconds later it produced the following model (a GIF of captured screen video of me rotating the 3D model):
Imagine what AI can do with multiple images and videos of you (from your social media posts, mobile phone’s images and videos library, surveillance images, etc.). Among other possible take-aways is the need for vigilance and cynicism. If you see or hear something in digital media (online or in media sent to you via email, IM, etc.) that is too terrible, wonderful or just shocking to be true, it probably isn’t. For now, at least, it’s still possible to detect forged media (and fake news, but you probably don’t want to) but soon it will require AI tools to spot the work of other AI tools and we’ll then have to decide which AIs to believe. The make/detect forgeries arms race is accelerating.
Okay, still smarting from me suggesting you may not want to detect when the news you enjoy and agree with is fake? Check out the following video and exercise your media literacy by researching cognitive biases.
Related links (interesting examples of cognitive bias and trolling in many of the comments)
“This is the first time scientists have been able to identify a patient’s own brain cell code or pattern for memory and, in essence, ‘write in’ that code to make existing memory work better, an important first step in potentially restoring memory loss”
“We showed that we could tap into a patient’s own memory content, reinforce it and feed it back to the patient,” Hampson said. “Even when a person’s memory is impaired, it is possible to identify the neural firing patterns that indicate correct memory formation and separate them from the patterns that are incorrect. We can then feed in the correct patterns to assist the patient’s brain in accurately forming new memories, not as a replacement for innate memory function, but as a boost to it.”
This very rich, conversational thought piece asks if we, as participant designers within a complex adaptive ecology, can envision and act on a better paradigm than the ones that propel us toward monocurrency and monoculture.
We should learn from our history of applying over-reductionist science to society and try to, as Wiener says, “cease to kiss the whip that lashes us.” While it is one of the key drivers of science—to elegantly explain the complex and reduce confusion to understanding—we must also remember what Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” We need to embrace the unknowability—the irreducibility—of the real world that artists, biologists and those who work in the messy world of liberal arts and humanities are familiar with.
In order to effectively respond to the significant scientific challenges of our times, I believe we must view the world as many interconnected, complex, self-adaptive systems across scales and dimensions that are unknowable and largely inseparable from the observer and the designer. In other words, we are participants in multiple evolutionary systems with different fitness landscapes at different scales, from our microbes to our individual identities to society and our species. Individuals themselves are systems composed of systems of systems, such as the cells in our bodies that behave more like system-level designers than we do.
Understanding how brains actively erase memories may open new understanding of memory loss and aging, and open the possibility of new treatments for neurodegenerative disease.
Max Tegmark’s new book, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, introduces a framework for defining types of life based on the degree of design control that sensing, self-replicating entities have over their own ‘hardware’ (physical forms) and ‘software’ (“all the algorithms and knowledge that you use to process the information from your senses and decide what to do”).
It’s a relatively non-academic read and well worth the effort for anyone interested in the potential to design the next major forms of ‘Life’ to transcend many of the physical and cognitive constraints that have us now on the brink of self-destruction. Tegmark’s forecast is optimistic.
Once upon a time, the United States of America had a competent president who actually grasped complex issues and could intelligently explore governmental implications. Those were the days.
A neuron that encircles the mouse brain emanates from the claustrum (an on/off switch for awareness) and has dense links with both brain hemispheres. Scientists including Francis Crick and Christoph Koch have speculated that the claustrum may play a role in enabling conscious thought.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1569501/ (Crick and Koch academic article)
We’ve frequently discussed how self-aware consciousness likely arises not from any single brain structure or signal, but from complex, recursive (reentrant), synchronized signaling among many structures organized into functional regions. (Did I get close to accurate there?) That a giant neuron provides another connection path among such regions can be taken to align with the reentrant signaling and coordination view of consciousness (ala Edelman and Tononi).
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