“Minds are simply what brains do”, Marvin Minsky. The Society of Mind (1986).
It is urgently necessary to adopt a spirit of amateur scientists that without fear -and with DIY (“do it yourself”) methodologies- fuels a journey with no return to the domain of new neuroscientific and biotechnologies techniques.
The DIY spirit, together with popular science and the “maker” culture, is being the catalyst of countless innovative technological projects capable of responding to those big problems that affect humanity: population growth, naturaldisasters, wars, globalization… We are being protagonists of a transcendental change inhuman history whose capacity to generate solutions will see the next decades full of well-being or uncertainty. Therefore, it is urgently necessary to bet on a spirit of amateur scientists to write speeches, generate knowledge and design comprehensible tools for citizenship. Here, and now, this text presents a committment for a “science on the street” that fights against the hegemony of governments and large corporations, maybe this way we can go building from civil society freer realities to progress in the evolution of Homo Sapiens.
WHY IS THE NEURO-EMPOWERMENT IMPORTANT?
One of the “Potential Hazards of Neuromarketing” (2013) according to Stephen J. Genco, Andrew P. Pohlmann, and Peter Steidi is related to the bad reputation of “marketing as subliminal advertising”, since an uninformed company can understand this new practice as a tool to “read the mind”. The authors conclude that although in Neurosearch different brain and body signals will be measured with different sensors, the analysis of the information obtained is not the reading of the thoughts but the recognition of different mental states.
If today we have the technology and intellectual capacity to move forward in the cognitive activity and read part of our subconscious objectively, when will it be possible to save that information and create a computer prototype of the nerve impulses that configure that mental process? Will we be able one day to live forever in virtual simulations after having uploaded our brain and its neural connections to a computer? Will we have the ability to build virtual environments (VR) that affect its users generating stimuli (body movements, emotions expressed in visceral sensations, artificial stimulation of cerebral synapses …)?
The way to face such risky and futuristic ideas can be carried forward relying on the Transhumanist philosophy and the hypothetical process of decoding a real mind for its subsequent transfer to an artificial substrate (known as mental transfer or “mind uploading”). The margin of issues related to its feasibility, the possibility of computer replication our mental processes, raises many philosophical questions (ethical and ontological) since the fate of the self or the ego is unknown.
The philosopher Mary Midgley, in her book “Science as Salvation” (1992), identified the origin of the notion of achieving immortality through the transcendence of the human body (collected in the transhumanist proposal of “mind-downloading” or mental transfer) in a group of scientific thinkers of the early twentieth century (including J.B.S. Haldane). Current author Maciamo Hay predicts that one day it will be possible to upload computer the content of a person’s mind (including personality, memories and emotions), but this will not mean that our biological consciousness will be transferred too and that we will become immortal. On the other hand we can find high positions like Francis Fukuyama´s -member of the Presidential Council of Bioethics of the USA – who believes that Transhumanism is one of the “most dangerous ideas in the world“. Despite what many critics say, the people in favor of this discordant philosophical views think that we can use technology to radically improve human beings (such as individuals, societies, and species).
Many believe in the compatibility of the human mind with computer hardware, which implies the theoretical possibility that someday consciousness could be transferred to an alternative basis. The “mind downloading” and its real viability for 2050 following Moore’s Law- which states that approximately every two years the number of number of transistors in a microchip- can be converted very soon into practical everyday tools to increase our capabilities.
FREEDOM THROUGH THE ICT.
In his book “Fragments of Anarchist Anthropology” (2004) the american anthropologist and anarchist activist David Graeber tells us in reference to the ubiquitous Marxist vision in university education and research that “from the perspective of the academy (…) much of the intellectual debate has turned into a parody of sectarian politics, in which everyone strives to caricature the arguments of the other”. Graeber thinks that today we can find thousands of Marxist scholars, from one school or another, who avoid approaching the sincerity of the basic principles of anarchism: self-organization, voluntary association, and mutual help. And due to the social and libertarian nature of the neuroscientific ideas of this text it will be correct if we frame it within the anarcho-transhumanism politics, an adaptation of anarchist ideals (anti-hierarchy, anti-repression, anti-restriction) to the principles of the Transhumanist movement in the cultural, intellectual and political spheres. Transhumanism is both a philosophical concept and an international intellectual movement that supports the use of new sciences and technologies to improve human mental and physical capacities.
In this libertarian movement, Anarcotranshumanism, the liberation of humanity of repression and restrictions through technological and scientific improvement means that freedom is ultimately a matter of expanding our ability and opportunities to relate and expand ourselves in the world around us. The Anarchopedia.org explains it in this synthetic way:
• Political Freedom: Against the tyranny of the government.
• Economic Freedom: Against the tyranny of capital.
• Biological Freedom: Against the tyranny of genes.
RELIGION 2.0: LANGUAGES, COMPUTERS AND PHILOSOPHY.
Wittgenstein said that “the limits of my language are the limits of my world“, for that reason it is considered from this text essential to take control in the design of our stories in order to learn to program a new world that always exceeds our expectations. Some neuropolitical analists show that the collective reality that we live is a construction based on language and if we want to transform our reality, we must transform our narrative first.
In relation to this idea, the eclectic writer, speaker, philosopher, ethnobotanist, psychonaut and American art historian Terence McKeena opined that there are two visions of world: based on the scientific method and/or composed of words (= language). According this second vision we can understand the word as computer code (“our mind is a code creator”), positioning us as creators of a so-called “virtual reality”. What we call objectivity does not exist -according to McKeena- but instead we live in a sum of personal descriptions. The mind is necessary for the world to formally exist (vision inspired by the oriental philosophy and quantum physics) and the subconscious is the programmer’s of our interactive simulations. Therefore, if we consider that “neurons are the butterflies of the soul” –as Ramón Santiago y Cajal once said- we will understand the risky intellectual standpoint of this text which only wants to bring the Neurosciences closer to the citizenship.
“As nonbiological brains become as capable as biological ones of effecting changes in the world —indeed, ultimately far more capable than unenhanced biological ones —we will need to consider their moral education. A good place to start would be with one old idea from our religious traditions: the golden rule”, Ray Kurzweil. How o Create a Mind (2012).
Warning: This text was written in 2015 when I studied at the University of Barcelona, and is published here only for cultural reasons. My scientific view has changed since then.
*(Pictures: Mark Strozier,33rdsquare, necron_cheese & PBS).