This short YouTube video on neurobiotics (called A Simulated Mouse Brain in a Virtual Mouse Body) talks about building a ‘virtual mouse’ by putting a computer model of a mouse brain in a virtual mouse body.  How cool is science?


 

Runtime: 2:28


This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldXEuUVkDuw

Video Info:

Published on Feb 23, 2015

Neurorobotics engineers from the Human Brain Project (HBP) have recently taken the first steps towards building a “virtual mouse” by placing a simplified computer model of the mouse brain into a virtual mouse body. This new kind of tool will be made available to scientists, both HBP and worldwide. Read more:https://www.humanbrainproject.eu/-/a-…

Useful Links:

Human Brain Project: http://www.humanbrainproject.eu
NEST simulator software for spiking neural network models: http://nest-simulator.org/
Jülich Press Release 2013, Largest neuronalnetwork simulation using NEST : http://bit.ly/173mZ5j

Open Source Data Sets:
Allen Institute for Brain Science: http://www.brain-map.org
Bioinformatics Research Network (BIRN): http://www.birncommunity.org

The Behaim Globe:
Germanisches National Museum, http://www.gnm.de/
Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation, TU Wien, http://www.geo.tuwien.ac.at

 

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The Hedonistic Imperative – David Pearce

This is a video of David Pearce talking about the Hedonistic Imperative.  In the video (The Hedonistic Imperative – David Pearce), Pearce discusses what he calls “paradise engineering“. I like Pierce’s response to the old myth that we need suffering to appreciate pleasure (about 8 minutes in).  Have a look…


RunTime: 17:57


This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v07VZIQyoMc

Video Info:

Published on Mar 25, 2014

Filmed at the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne Australia
http://hedweb.com – The Hedonistic Imperative outlines how genetic engineering and nanotechnology will abolish suffering in all sentient life. The abolitionist project is hugely ambitious but technically feasible. It is also instrumentally rational and morally urgent. The metabolic pathways of pain and malaise evolved because they served the fitness of our genes in the ancestral environment. They will be replaced by a different sort of neural architecture – a motivational system based on heritable gradients of bliss. States of sublime well-being are destined to become the genetically pre-programmed norm of mental health. It is predicted that the world’s last unpleasant experience will be a precisely dateable event. Two hundred years ago, powerful synthetic pain-killers and surgical anesthetics were unknown. The notion that physical pain could be banished from most people’s lives would have seemed absurd. Today most of us in the technically advanced nations take its routine absence for granted. The prospect that what we describe as psychological pain, too, could ever be banished is equally counter-intuitive. The feasibility of its abolition turns its deliberate retention into an issue of social policy and ethical choice.

Subscribe to this Channel: http://youtube.com/subscription_cente…

Science, Technology & the Future: http://scifuture.org

Humanity+: http://humanityplus.org

 

 

Transhumanism : Scientist successfully upload a Worms Mind into the body of a Robot (Dec 17, 2014)

This video (called Transhumanism : Scientist successfully upload a Worms Mind into the body of a Robot (Dec 17, 2014)) is a short video (only 37 seconds), but the implications are astounding.  If it can be done for a worm…


Runtime: 0:37


This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SA1Di6KkGFY

Video Info:

Published on Dec 17, 2014

SOURCE: http://www.rt.com

VIDEO RESPONSE:
Tom Horn : Transhumanism Cybernetics Nephilim Giants Genetically Modified Humans (Mar 23, 2014)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ra5X5…

News Articles:

Worm ‘brain’ controls LEGO robot – what this means for the human brain
http://www.zmescience.com/research/te…

So It Begins: Scientists Put Worm Brain In Robot Body
http://geekologie.com/2014/12/so-it-b…

Worm ‘Brain’ Uploaded Into Lego Robot
http://singularityhub.com/2014/12/15/…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This video may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes only. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 106A-117 of the U.S. Copyright Law.

 

 

From the Human Brain to the Global Brain by Marios Kyriazis

This paper (From the Human Brain to the Global Brain by Marios Kyriazis) talks about brain augmentation and the possible (probable?) emergence of a global brain.  This is actually a concept which is quite familiar to me because it is the backdrop to a science fiction novel (possibly series) I’ve been writing in my spare time – limited as that may be, but more on that another time.  I’d just like to point out (and I know I’m not the first) that we already have the framework (the internet) for a rudimentary global brain.  Really, all it lacks is sophistication.


 

From the Human Brain to the Global Brain

Introduction

Human intelligence (i.e., the ability to consistently solve problems successfully) has evolved through the need to adapt to changing environments. This is not only true of our past but also of our present. Our brain faculties are becoming more sophisticated by cooperating and interacting with technology, specifically digital communication technology (Asaro, 2008).

When we consider the matter of brain function augmentation, we take it for granted that the issue refers to the human brain as a distinct organ. However, as we live in a complex technological society, it is now becoming clear that the issue is much more complicated. Individual brains cannot simply be considered in isolation, and their function is no longer localized or contained within the cranium, as we now know that information may be transmitted directly from one brain to another (Deadwyler et al., 2013; Pais-Vieira et al., 2013). This issue has been discussed in detail and attempts have been made to study the matter within a wider and more global context (Nicolelis and Laporta, 2011). Recent research in the field of brain to brain interfaces has provided the basis for further research and formation of new hypotheses in this respect (Grau et al., 2014; Rao et al., 2014). This concept of rudimentary “brain nets” may be expanded in a more global fashion, and within this framework, it is possible to envisage a much bigger and abstract “meta-entity” of inclusive and distributed capabilities, called the Global Brain (Mayer-Kress and Barczys, 1995;Heylighen and Bollen, 1996;Johnson et al., 1998; Helbing, 2011; Vidal, in press).

This entity reciprocally feeds information back to its components—the individual human brains. As a result, novel and hitherto unknown consequences may materialize such as, for instance, the emergence of rudimentary global “emotion” (Garcia and Tanase, 2013; Garcia et al., 2013; Kramera et al., 2014), and the appearance of decision-making faculties (Rodriguez et al., 2007). These characteristics may have direct impact upon our biology (Kyriazis, 2014a). This has been long discussed in futuristic and sociology literature (Engelbart, 1988), but now it also becomes more relevant to systems neuroscience partly because of the very promising research in brain-to-brain interfaces. The concept is grounded on scientific principles (Last, 2014a) and mathematical modeling (Heylighen et al., 2012).

Augmenting Brain Function on a Global Scale

It can be argued that the continual enhancement of brain function in humans, i.e., the tendency to an increasing intellectual sophistication, broadly aligns well with the main direction of evolution (Steward, 2014). This tendency to an increasing intellectual sophistication also obeys Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety (Ashby, 1958) which essentially states that, for any system to be stable, the number of states of its control mechanisms must be greater than the number of states in the system being controlled. This means that, within an ever-increasing technological environment, we must continue to increase our brain function (mostly through using, or merging with, technology such as in the example of brain to brain communication mentioned above), in order to improve integration and maintain stability of the wider system. Several other authors (Maynard Smith and Szathmáry, 1997;Woolley et al., 2010; Last, 2014a) have expanded on this point, which seems to underpin our continual search for brain enrichment.

The tendency to enrich our brain is an innate characteristic of humans. We have been trying to augment our mental abilities, either intentionally or unintentionally, for millennia through the use of botanicals and custom-made medicaments, herbs and remedies, and, more recently, synthetic nootropics and improved ways to assimilate information. Many of these methods are not only useful in healthy people but are invaluable in age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease (Kumar and Khanum, 2012). Other neuroscience-based methods such as transcranial laser treatments and physical implants (such as neural dust nanoparticles) are useful in enhancing cognition and modulate other brain functions (Gonzalez-Lima and Barrett, 2014).

However, these approaches are limited to the biological human brain as a distinct agent. As shown by the increased research interest in brain to brain communication (Trimper et al., 2014), I argue that the issue of brain augmentation is now embracing a more global aspect. The reason is the continual developments in technology which are changing our society and culture (Long, 2010). Certain brain faculties that were originally evolved for solving practical physical problems have been co-opted and exapted for solving more abstract metaphors, making humans adopt a better position within a technological niche.

The line between human brain function and digital information technologies is progressively becoming indistinct and less well-defined. This blurring is possible through the development of new technologies which enable more efficient brain-computer interfaces (Pfurtscheller and Neuper, 2002), and recently, brain-to-brain interfaces (Grau et al., 2014).

We are now in a position expand on this emergent worldview and examine what trends of systems neuroscience are likely in the near-term future. Technology has been the main drive which brought us to the position we are in today (Henry, 2014). This position is the merging of the physical human brain abilities with virtual domains and automated web services (Kurzweil, 2009). Modern humans cannot purely be defined by their biological brain function. Instead, we are now becoming an amalgam of biological and virtual/digital characteristics, a discrete unit, or autonomous agent, forming part of a wider and more global entity (Figure 1).

global brain

Figure 1. Computer-generated image of internet connections world-wide (Global Brain). The conceptual similarities with the human brain are remarkable. Both networks exhibit a scale-free, fractal distribution, with some weakly-connected units, and some strongly-connected ones which are arranged in hubs of increasing functional complexity. This helps protect the constituents of the network against stresses. Both networks are “small worlds” which means that information can reach any given unit within the network by passing through only a small number of other units. This assists in the global propagation of information within the network, and gives each and every unit the functional potential to be directly connected to all others. Source: The Opte Project/Barrett Lyon. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.

Large Scale Networks and the Global Brain

The Global Brain (Heylighen, 2007; Iandoli et al., 2009; Bernstein et al., 2012) is a self-organizing system which encompasses all those humans who are connected with communication technologies, as well as the emergent properties of these connections. Its intelligence and information-processing characteristics are distributed, in contrast to that of individuals whose intelligence is localized. Its characteristics emerge from the dynamic networks and global interactions between its individual agents. These individual agents are not merely the biological humans but are something more complex. In order to describe this relationship further, I have introduced the notion of the noeme, an emergent agent, which helps formalize the relationships involved (Kyriazis, 2014a). The noeme is a combination of a distinct physical brain function and that of an “outsourced” virtual one. It is the intellectual “networked presence” of an individual within the GB, a meaningful synergy between each individual human, their social interactions and artificial agents, globally connected to other noemes through digital communications technology (and, perhaps soon, through direct brain to brain interfaces). A comparison can be made with neurons which, as individual discrete agents, form part of the human brain. In this comparison, the noemes act as the individual, information-sharing discrete agents which form the GB (Gershenson, 2011). The modeling of noemes helps us define ourselves in a way that strengthens our rational presence in the digital world. By trying to enhance our information-sharing capabilities we become better integrated within the GB and so become a valuable component of it, encouraging mechanisms active in all complex adaptive systems to operate in a way that prolongs our retention within this system (Gershenson and Fernández, 2012), i.e., prolongs our biological lifespan (Kyriazis, 2014b; Last, 2014b).

Discussion

This concept is a helpful way of interpreting the developing cognitive relationship between humans and artificial agents as we evolve and adapt to our changing technological environment. The concept of the noeme provides insights with regards to future problems and opportunities. For instance, the study of the function of the noeme may provide answers useful to biomedicine, by coopting laws applicable to any artificial intelligence medium and using these to enhance human health (Kyriazis, 2014a). Just as certain physical or pharmacological therapies for brain augmentation are useful in neurodegeneration in individuals, so global ways of brain enhancement are useful in a global sense, improving the function and adaptive capabilities of humanity as a whole. One way to augment global brain function is to increase the information content of our environment by constructing smart cities (Caragliu et al., 2009), expanding the notion of the Web of Things (Kamilaris et al., 2011), and by developing new concepts in educational domains (Veletsianos, 2010). This improves the information exchange between us and our surroundings and helps augment brain function, not just physically in individuals, but also virtually in society.

Practical ways for enhancing our noeme (i.e., our digital presence) include:

• Cultivate a robust social media base, in different forums.

• Aim for respect, esteem and value within your virtual environment.

• Increase the number of your connections both in virtual and in real terms.

• Stay consistently visible online.

• Share meaningful information that requires action.

• Avoid the use of meaningless, trivial or outdated platforms.

• Increase the unity of your connections by using only one (user) name for all online and physical platforms.

These methods can help increase information sharing and facilitate our integration within the GB (Kyriazis, 2014a). In a practical sense, these actions are easy to perform and can encompass a wide section of modern communities. Although the benefits of these actions are not well studied, nevertheless some initial findings appear promising (Griffiths, 2002; Granic et al., 2014).

Concluding Remarks

With regards to improving brain function, we are gradually moving away from the realms of science fiction and into the realms of reality (Kurzweil, 2005). It is now possible to suggest ways to enhance our brain function, based on novel concepts dependent not only on neuroscience but also on digital and other technology. The result of such augmentation does not only benefit the individual brain but can also improve all humanity in a more abstract sense. It improves human evolution and adaptation to new technological environments, and this, in turn, may have positive impact upon our health and thus longevity (Solman, 2012; Kyriazis, 2014c).

In a more philosophical sense, our progressive and distributed brain function amplification has begun to lead us toward attaining “god-like” characteristics (Heylighen, in press) particularly “omniscience” (through Google, Wikipedia, the semantic web, Massively Online Open Courses MOOCs—which dramatically enhance our knowledge base), and “omnipresence” (cloud and fog computing, Twitter, YouTube, Internet of Things, Internet of Everything). These are the result of the outsourcing of our brain capabilities to the cloud in a distributed and universal manner, which is an ideal global neural augmentation. The first steps have already been taken through brain to brain communication research. The concept of systems neuroscience is thus expanded to encompass not only the human nervous network but also a global network with societal and cultural elements.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Acknowledgment

I thank the help and input of the reviewers, particularly the first one who has dedicated a lot of time into improving the paper.

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Keywords: global brain, complex adaptive systems, human longevity, techno-cultural society, noeme, systems neuroscience

Citation: Kyriazis M (2015) Systems neuroscience in focus: from the human brain to the global brain? Front. Syst. Neurosci. 9:7. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2015.00007

Received: 14 October 2014; Accepted: 14 January 2015;
Published online: 06 February 2015.

Edited by:

Manuel Fernando Casanova, University of Louisville, USA

Reviewed by:

Mikhail Lebedev, Duke University, USA
Andrea Stocco, University of Washington, USA

Copyright © 2015 Kyriazis. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: drmarios@live.it


 

This article can also be found at http://hplusmagazine.com/2015/02/10/human-brain-global-brain/

The coming transhuman era: Jason Sosa at TEDxGrandRapids [Transhumanism]

Dawn of Giants Favorite…

This video from TEDx Grand Rapids is probably one of the best introductions to transhumanism. The video is called The coming transhuman era: Jason Sosa at TEDxGrandRapids. Jason Sosa is a tech entrepreneur and I think it’s pretty safe to say that we’ll be hearing more about him in the near future. This one is an absolute must see!


Runtime: 15:37

This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ugo2KEV2XQ


Video Info:

Published on Jun 24, 2014

Sosa is the founder and CEO of IMRSV, a computer vision and artificial intelligence company and was named one of “10 Startups to Watch in NYC” by Time Inc., and one of “25 Hot and New Startups to Watch in NYC” by Business Insider. He has been featured by Forbes, CNN, New York Times, Fast Company, Bloomberg and Business Insider, among others.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Aubrey de Grey on Longevity and Nutrition

I’m pretty passionate about nutrition and healthy living so when I stumbled across this little article called Longevity, Methuselarity, Telomere Lengths which presents some of the ideas and research of famed gerontologist, Aubrey de Grey (of whom I am also a big fan), I got sucked right in.  The Methuselarity is now!

Longevity, Methuselarity, Telomere Lengths

 

 

What does the 5,000 year old Bristle Cone Pine (Methuselah Tree) and the purported 252 year old Chinese Taoist Li Ch’ing Yuen share in common?

Answer, longevity.

Both the Bristlecone Pine and Li Ch’ing Yuen were aligned to nature’s standards, avoiding common age promoting diseases.

It’s known that clonal species such as the Methuselah Tree, have an innate capacity to avoid common disease promoting pathogens, and that’s also true for Human Beings.  Bristle Cone Pines have a dense resinous bark, which protects the species from invasion by both insects and fungi.

Similarly, Li Ch’ing Yuen’s immune system warded off generations of opportunistic pathogens and errant cancer cells, avoiding the age-related condition called in medicalese “immunosenescence.”

It’s alleged that Li Ch’ing consumed a soup of Lycium chinensis berries, better known as Gogi berries, after encountering an old sage who was twice his age and able to outperform Li in feats of endurance.

The sage shared his secret of longevity and endurance with Li.  Certain herbs like Gogi, Ginseng and Astragalus, increase longevity, and maybe helped Li Ch’ing Yuen slow his cell division clocks, by upregulating his telomerase enzymes within most of his somatic cell lines.[1][2]

Another factor that may have played a role in Li Ch’ing Yuen’s longevity, besides caloric restriction and healthy diet rich in antioxidants, was practicing Taoist philosophy, which mitigates emotional stress, by teaching adherents to cultivate balance and align their biological and emotional rhythms with nature.  Our cells act as sponges, absorbing everything from the environment, including stress, which contributes to aging, by shortening our telomere beads.

This is why I recommend consuming raw, organic, whole foods, such as Gogi berries which are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, sesquiterpenoids and long chain polysaccharides that deliver critical energy packets for optimal cellular processes.

Every known organism that exists well beyond an average lifespan is worth studying its environs, habits and adaptive capabilities.  Interesting studies have shown that intense exercise and caloric restriction increase mitochondrial biogenesis in both fat and muscle cells.  Mitochondrial dysfunction is linked to premature aging, because there’s less energy available to fix cellular damage such as misfolded proteins and antioxidant/oxidant imbalances.[3]

Aubrey de Grey

Aubrey_2Bde_2BGrey

Aubrey David Nicholas Jasper de Grey, the famed Bio Medical Gerontologist who coined the term Methuselarity, to describe the near future when humans will defy aging by reversing telomere shrinkage using advanced medical technologies and genetic modification, is enthusiastic about advances in our understanding of what causes biological deterioration leading to death and how we can clean up the cellular messes contributing to our finitude.[4] Some of these “therapies” as outlined in numerous articles and publications by Aubrey de Grey and his non-profit organization SENS, which stands for strategies for engineered negligible senescence.

Aubrey de Grey zeroed in on 7 age-related damages that occur in an individual’s lifetime, contributing to degenerative diseases and death.

Below are the 7 age-related dis-eases contributing to our finitude, along with the 7 strategies for mitigating and preventing them.[5]

Aubrey de Grey often uses the analogy of housekeeping, to describe the future therapeutics of gerontology.

If the roof is leaking…. fix it.  If the floors are creaking and buckling…. replace them.  Strengthen the foundations of the home as it still stands and continue the repair processes as needed.  This is what Aubrey de Grey calls “exporting entropy.”

7 Causes of ageing:

  • Cell atrophy as caused by catabolism.
  • Senescent (ageing) toxic cells caused by free radicals and metabolic byproducts such as lipofuscin.
  • DNA mutations leading to metastatic cancers.
  • Damage and genetic mutations to the 13 genes of the mitochondria. Mitochondrial dysfunction is linked to numerous degenerative conditions, especially premature aging.  The outer membrane of mitochondria has many protein based pores which allow large molecules to pass through for energy production.  Toxins can accompany ions and even pass through the inner membrane matrix to the mitochondria’s nucleus and cause gene mutations.
  • Intracellular non-functioning protein aggregates. Junk inside the cell.
  • Extracellular misshapen aggregates. Junk outside the cell.
  • Extracellular crosslinks such as advanced glycation end products (AGES). Sugar/Protein aggregates.

The 7 therapeutic strategies for promoting negligible senescence.

  • Stem cell therapy can replace any of our 200 cell types. Growth factors for the anabolic process of repairing and upbuilding atrophied organs.  Exercise which is considered a hormetic event that stimulates the anabolic repair processes.  Hormesis is a dose-response relationship in which something as a vaccine or high-intensity exercise produces negative biological effects at high doses but beneficial effects in low doses.  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
  • Removal of unwanted cells either by invasive techniques such as laser surgery or gene silencing.
  • Utilizing a strategy known as WILT (Whole-Body Interdiction of Lengthening of Telomeres) which means deleting or silencing genes needed for telomere elongation. Now this might seem counterintuitive but Aubrey de Grey thinks that if these genes are silenced and fresh cells are seeded with already lengthened telomeres then cancer will never occur.  The new cells will have their telomeres lengthened outside the body by synthetic telomerase before they are “seeded” within someone.
  • Adding extra copies of the 13 mitochondrial genes with modifications to prevent copy sequence errors. The mitochondrial DNA is much more susceptible to oxidative damage then the heavily walled in nuclear DNA.
  • The breakdown of intracellular aggregates too big for phagocytosis using microbial enzymes. This can be crucial for improving neuronal health by reducing protein aggregates too big for autophagosomes to degrade and deliver to the lysosome.  The breakdown of junk inside the cell is known as autophagy.
  • For extracellular aggregates, Aubrey de Grey suggests immune-mediated phagocytosis by use of vaccines.
  • The breakdown of AGES (advanced glycation end products) which is when sugars crosslink with proteins non-enzymatically. An example of AGES is the browning of meat when it’s cooked.  AGES form when sugars are floating around the blood in excess and negatively interact with cellular proteins.  AGES can damage the clear crystalline proteins of the lens and cornea of the eye contributing to cataracts and blindness.  AGES can damage the delicate endothelial cells of the cardiovascular system leading to cardiovascular disease.  AGES affect ever cell of the body.

The major philosophical question that comes to my mind is can immortality be opened by a technological skeleton key?

Nutrition is the Key

I believe whole food nutrition and nutraceutical supplementation is the answer to achieving longevity and attaining “ageless vitality” throughout anyone’s lifetime.  If you’re 90 years young, or 45 years old, eating a raw organic whole foods diet, composed of fruits, vegetables, herbs and fresh water will reinvigorate you back to physical and mental juvenilia.

There’s much controversy over the question of reversing cellular senescence.   Microbiologist Leonard Hayflick showed in 1961, that human fetal cells divide 60 times before expiring in a biological process known as apoptosis or programmed cell death.  When a cell divides, a protective bead of DNA called a telomere falls off.

Telomere[1]

 

Telomeres are static beads of recurring nucleotides that protect genetic sequences on the chromosomes from degradation.  This biological phenomenon corresponds to the three cell phases Hayflick outlined in his research.  First there’s an initial primary culture, followed by an expansive period of growth and uninterrupted division which then inevitably leads to the third and last stage known as senescence or the Hayflick limit.

The word senescence comes from the Latin root senex meaning old.  Cells in senescence are no longer able to divide and carry out cellular processes.  This is because the enzyme telomerase no longer nourishes telomere strands with fresh nucleotides and cell death quickly ensues.

Hayflick performed an experiment in which he mixed aged male fibroblast cells which divided about 40 times before the experiment, into a substrate with young female fibroblast cells that had divided only 4 times prior to the experiment.

Hayflick discovered that the male fibroblast cells stopped dividing at a certain point, even when surrounded by the young female fibroblast cells.  It was as if they had a memory of their past 40 divisions and ceased dividing.

Hayflick concluded that there must be some kind of physical limit to cellular division, and science later empirically discovered telomere caps at the ends of the chromosome which shortened with each cellular division.

Interestingly, telomere shortening doesn’t occur in cancer cells, because of an enzyme known as “telomerase” which nourishes and relengthens the ends of DNA by adding strands of nucleotides from an inexhaustible reservoir within the cell.  This is the reason for Aubrey de Grey’s WILT strategy, which silences the genes in each cell that encode the telomerase enzyme.

Nutrigenomics

HE_fruits-vegetables-heart-shape_s4x3_lead

Nutrigenomics is another area of study that is showing promise, by empirically verifying old world wisdom that foods shape our physical and emotional wellbeing.  In vitro (glass tube) studies have shown that the Traditional Chinese herb Astragalus membransceus and its two secondary metabolites cycloastragenol and astragaloside IV, activate the telomerase enzyme within healthy lymphocyte and skin cells to repair shrinking telomeres.  In 2005 there was a very small 24-week double-blind, placebo controlled study, involving 36 men, aged 60 and 85 years old which was sponsored by TA sciences.

The results of the study showed slight improvement in visual acuity, immune function, skin integrity and libido.  Studies performed by companies on their own products, subject the results to considerable skepticism and criticism, and ought to be further investigated by independent researchers in a randomized controlled study to prove effectiveness while removing bias.  If the product works in a small prospective study, than it should in most instances be reproducible in a larger independent verification trial.

It’s important to point out that Japanese centenarians have lower blood levels of C-reactive protein, thrombin, interleukin 1 and 6, each of which are involved in the inflammatory cascade that underlies and drives degenerative diseases.  Interestingly, these same Japanese centenarians had increased expression of the protein adiponectin, which is involved in regulating blood glucose levels and fatty acid breakdown.  You could say genes are responsible for their longevity, but research continues to support the notion that a healthful diet, increased activity and a positive outlook, play more of a role in life-extension, than just a good familial blue print.[6]

images

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the “French paradox” which is enjoying life ad libitum (at one’s pleasure) and avoiding the common risk factors associated with such a lifestyle.  The answer to the French Paradox is most likely as complex as a post-modernist dissertation from the famed Ecole Superieure in Paris, but I would say the purported one million café’s that dot the beautiful landscape play a central role in France’s longevity paradox.  Eating fresh food rich in antioxidants such as resveratrol, communicating with friends and loved ones and maintaining a stoical threshold for stress, are all keys to a long happy life.

My Favorite Longevity Herbs

Rasayana which means rejuvenation, is an ancient Ayurvedic discipline focused on using herbs like Bacopa Monnieri and Turmeric for increasing longevity and vitality.  Ayurveda (Ayuh-Life, Veda-Science) is the oldest form of medicine, preceding Traditional Chinese and Greek healing systems by over a thousand years.[7]  What we do know about aging is that proper diet, exercise and positive outlooks greatly reduce several risk factors for age related degenerative diseases.  Ayurvedic medicine has found several powerful anti-ageing herbs which are now being used worldwide for their health promoting and anti-stress properties.

Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi)

Bacopa_monnieri_W_IMG_1612

According to the Hungarian endocrinologist Han’s Selye, stress is a non-specific response by the body to any demand.  Whether you’re in traffic hearing several jackhammers break up a once three lane road or running from a bear in a National Park, the physiological and psychological reaction produced by the body is stress.  If certain stressors persist for any period of time exceeding your physical and psychological thresholds, it’s considered distress.  How we subjectively experience stress, depends upon multiple factors, such as personality, age, economic and social status.  Stress is ubiquitous, and the reason herbs known as adaptogens are the most popular tonics in traditional healing systems.

Bacopa Monnieri or Brahmi is a potent nerve tonic that is known to rejuvenate cognition and memory.[8]  The founder of stress research Hans Selye, systematized stress research, by outlining the three stages of stress, beginning with the alarm stage, which is followed by the stage of resistance and finally the stage of exhaustion.  In our modern, fast-paced, technological environments, individuals experience the three stages of stress with alarming consistency.

Stressful situations activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA stress axis) triggering the release of stress hormones such as cortisol.  This is considered the “fight-or-flight mode” which describes a heightened-stress response by the body, where blood sugar levels rise, for fueling energy intensive systems in response to a “perceived” threat.  Some of this fuel is released from the liver or the result of skeletal muscle breakdown.

This is why cortisol is considered a “catabolic” hormone, because it breaks-down and releases energy as opposed to anabolic hormones which build-up and repair cells.  If cortisol is continually elevated there can be increased fat storage in and around organs known as visceral adipose tissue.[9]  Visceral fat releases proinflammatory hormones that increase chronic inflammation and create the conditions for developing degenerative diseases and rapid ageing.

Combating excess cortisol release can be done, by consuming a healthy plant based diet and using adaptogenic herbs such as Bacopa.

Bacopa can raise your physiological and psychological “stress thresholds,” preventing mental and physical exhaustion.  Ancient Ayurvedic practitioners named Bacopa “Brahmi,” after the Hindu mythical creator “Brama the creator.”  This is because Bacopa supports the seat of consciousness and creation.

Cognitive decline is seen often in the elderly and is considered to be a “normal” part of ageing, but more and more individuals in there 8th and 9thdecades are supplementing with Bacopa and noticing an increase in mental acuity, focus and overall feelings of wellbeing.  Bacopa’s major bioactive chemical constituents are the Bacosides A and B.

These phytochemicals are potent antioxidants which can increase the intracellular antioxidant Glutathione Peroxidase, Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) and Catalase, preventing the age related oxidative induced damage seen in aged neurons.

When taken regularly, Bacopa enhances cognitive function, by increasing neuronal cell communication within the cholinergic system.  Loss of acetylcholine which is the predominant neurotransmitter in the hippocampus, is a hallmark of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  Bacopa has shown an ability to reverse acetylcholine loss and lower brain inflammation.

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera)

ashwagandha

 

Is a powerful Ayurvedic herb and considered India’s equivalent to Korean Ginseng, because of its adaptogenic, immunomodulatory, antioxidant and anti-stress benefits.  Also known as Winter Cherry, Ashwagandha is used extensively on its own and with other herb tonics for rejuvenating senescent cells, raising stress thresholds and increasing mental acuity.

Researchers have found that Ashwagandha detoxifies cells, especially in energy intensive systems, by activating antioxidant enzymes such as Catalase and Superoxide Dismutase.[10]  Both of these antioxidant enzymes protect cells from free radicals and reactive oxygen species.  Unregulated reactive oxygen species cause immune imbalances and chronic low level inflammation.[11]

Supplementing with Ashwaganda, which contains the bioactive polyphenols known as glycowithanolides, boosts antioxidant enzymes in energy intensive systems such as the brain, liver and kidney.

Increasing antioxidant enzyme systems in the body, is the number 1 anti-ageing method for promoting radiant health.  Ashwaganda has shown an ability to mimic the body’s own anti-stress hormones which effectively lowers cortisol levels.  Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands which temporarily provides alertness, increased reaction time and memory function.

Overtime, excess cortisol has the opposite effects, causing insulin resistance, memory loss and depression.  The glycowithanolides in Ashwaganda work with the body to combat the negative effects of physical and emotional stress, by restoring our ability to adapt successfully to the demands of everyday life.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

turmeric 

By far the most popular herb in the world, Turmeric is an amazing Rasayana (rejuvenative) tonic that protects all 34 trillion cells from oxidative damage.

Free radicals such as the hydroxyl radical are oxygen atoms with unpaired electrons that cause damage to our cells.  Free radicals enter the body from the environment and are produced as a byproduct of energy production within each cell-especially energy intensive organs such as the brain, eyes, liver and kidney.

Turmeric, also known as Curcumin because of the active secondary metabolites called curcuminoids, is a spice in the Zingiberaceae family which includes the amazing pungent, tonic herb Ginger.

Traditionally, Turmeric has been used to treat numerous ailments such as inflammation, cancer, fatigue and pathogenic invasion.[12]

Recently, Turmeric has been under investigation for ability to work through the inflammatory pathways to quench inflammation and protect cell membranes from oxidative damage.  Turmeric has powerful chelating abilities, assisting the body in removing heavy metals which damage cellular proteins and enzymes.  Researchers have also discovered Turmeric’s mechanism of action in quenching inflammation, is by inhibiting the enzymes cyclooxygenase 2 and 5-lipoxygenase.

Both enzymes convert the omega 6 fatty acid arachidonic acid into proinflammatory prostaglandins, accelerating the ageing process into overdrive.

Turmeric is a powerful Rasayana tonic that can begin offering protection, by inhibiting the production of proinflammatory cytokines, reducing pain and increasing mobility.

The byproducts of fossil fuels leach into the environment and bioaccumalate in our bodies, causing damage to our cellular components, especially our mitochondrial and cellular DNA.  Turmeric is a chemopreventative medicinal, meaning it inhibits the destructive effect of persistent organic chemical pollutants that can form adducts (Latin-Drawn-toward) with our DNA, contributing to genomic instability and cancer.[13]  Our DNA is fundamental to our existence and recent research has revealed that our genome is the principle site of memory storage.[14]  Turmeric can protect both mitochondrial and cellular DNA from oxidative damage.

[1] The Lancet: Increased Telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: a pilot study, Dean Ornish, Jue Lin, Jennifer Daubenmier, Gerdi Weidner, Elissa Epel, Colleen Kemp, Mark Jesus M Magbanua, Ruth Marlin, Loren Yglecias Peter R Carroll, Elizabeth H Blackburn; November, 2008.  Ornish et al postulated a comprehensive lifestyle change to increase telomerase activity.  Telomeres are static beads of protein complexes at the ends of chromosomes that promote DNA stability.  Researchers have discovered that individuals with poor lifestyle habits such as smoking, inactivity and overconsumption of processed meat and dairy products increase their risk of developing cancer, diabetes and obesity.  Poor lifestyle habits are also correlated with low telomerase activity which effects telomere length leading to genomic instability and increased risk for age-related diseases.  Telomerase is the enzyme which has the potential to re-lengthen telomeres.  Ornish et al postulated that if poor lifestyle habits negatively impact telomere length then healthy lifestyle changes must produce the opposite effect.  Employing a comprehensive lifestyle modification program that included a whole foods diet high in fruits, vegetables unrefined grains and legumes with moderate aerobic exercise and in group support for duration of 3 months-resulted in a 29%-84% increase in telomerase activity.  Telomerase activity was measured in PBMCs (peripheral blood mononuclear cells) which are immune cells.  The significance of increased telomerase activity within white blood cells means healthy lifestyle changes lower inflammation, diabetes and cardiovascular health which are the top three causes of disease and death in the world.

[2] APS Acta Pharmacologica Sinica: Autophagy in ageing-associated diseases, Li-qiang He, Jia-hong Lu and Zhen-yu Yue, February 18th 2013.  Caloric restriction is a key to longevity in many species such as C elegans, mice and humans because it activates autophagy which is the removal of junk inside the cell.  Autophagy (Greek meaning auto-self, phage-eat) is the cells waste removal process that functions best when fewer calories are consumed.  Researchers discovered that autophagy can be upregulated, especially during times of caloric restriction.  The MTOR protein which is involved in anabolism by increasing protein synthesis and alerting cells such as skeletal muscle there’s anabolic building material outside the cell to bring in for repair and growth.  MTOR or mammalian target of rapamycin inversely regulates autophagy, suppresing autophagocytosis when nutrients and growth factors such as IGF1 are present.

[3] PLoS Genetics: Editorial, Entropy Explains Aging, Genetic Determinism Explains Longevity, and Undefined Terminology Explains Misunderstanding Both, Leonard Hayflick, December 2007. An interesting and engaging editorial by famed microbiologist Leonard Hayflick explores the current scientific understanding on biological deterioration.  If you separate the prefix de, from the word generation, you find a meaning with broader connotations such as the generation of cells within our bodies that begin as one cell and degrade as many.  Multicellular organisms eventually die because as Lenard Hayflick points out, energy dispersal can never be entirely eliminated only circumvented for varying time-periods by repair or replacement processes.  This is the second law of thermodynamics which states that entropy is inevitable in closed and open systems.  The trouble with reversing entropy within multicellular organisms such as human beings is that the repair and replacement processes suffer the same fate as the cells they work to keep up and change.

[4] HarperCollins Publishers: Long For This World: The Strange Science of Immortality, Jonathan Weiner, 2010.  Science Writer Jonathan Weiner explores immortality and man’s timeless quest for conquering biological deterioration.  In 1966, Professor Gerald Gruman wrote A History of Ideas about the Prolongation of Life: The Evolution of the Prolongevity Hypothesis to 1800, in which he distinguished two types of thinkers on the issue of life and death.  The prolongevists according to Gruman are optimistic about man’s ability to extend lifespan and the apologists, who according to Weiner reconcile us to our inevitable fate.  Microbiologist Leonard Hayflick who discovered that human cells divide approximately 60 times before expiring, takes a rather sardonic position on the idea of Prolongevity saying: “Everything in the Universe changes or ages with time, and to think that you can reverse it is nonsense.”  Aubrey de Grey is of the former camp, arguing with passion and erudition that immortality is within the future anterior and molecular biology has just about zeroed in on the “causes” of cellular degeneration.  Jonathan Weiner’s book is an excellent introduction to the science of Gerontology and the individuals such as Aubrey de Grey who’re working tirelessly to supply their shoulders for tomorrow’s immoralists.

[5] IOS press: A Strategy for Postponing Aging Indefinitely, Aubrey de Grey Ph.D. 2005.

[6] New York Times Magazine: The Island Where People Forget To Die, Dan Buettner, October 24th 2012.

[7] Taylor & Francis: Rasayana: Ayurvedic herbs for longevity and rejuvenation, H.S. Puri, 2003.

[8] ELSIVIER: Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior: Adaptogenic effect of Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi), Rai, Deepak; Bhatia, Gitika; Palit, Gautam; Pal, Raghwendra; Singh, Satyawan, July 1st 2003.

[9] HINDAWI: Journal of Obesity: Mindfulness Intervention for Stress Eating to Reduce Cortisol and Abdominal Fat among Overweight and Obese Women: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Study, Jennifer DaubenmierJean KristellerFrederick M. HechtNicole ManingerMargaret KuwataKinnari JhaveriRobert H. LustigMargaret KemenyLori Karan, and Elissa Epel, June 1st 2011.

 

[10] HINDAWI: Glioprotective Effects of Ashwagandha Leaf Extract against Lead Induced Toxicity, Praveen KumarRaghavendra SinghArshed NazmiDinesh LakhanpalHardeep Kataria, and Gurcharan Kaur, May 28th2014.

 

[11] ELSIVIER: Ageing Research Reviews, Molecular Inflammation: Underpinnings of ageing and age related diseases, Chung, Hae Young, Cesari, Matteo Anton, Stephen Marzetti, Emaunuele Giovannini, Silvia, January 1st2009.

[12] ACTA, ABP, Biochimica Polonica: Curcumin and curcuminoids in quest for medical status, Grzegorz Grynkiewicz and Piotr Slifirski, May 14th 2012.

[13] WHO: World Health Organization: PERSISTANT ORGANIC POLLUTANTS (POPS) July 2008.  Persistent organic pollutants are synthetic chemicals that “persist” in the environment and bioaccumalate in fat tissue.  This why they are considered lipophilic or fat loving.

[14] NATURE Neuroscience: Cortical DNA Methylation maintains remote memory, Courtney A. MillerCristin F. GavinJason A. WhiteR. Ryley Parrish,Avinash HonasogeChristopher R. YanceyIvonne M. RiveraMaria D. RubioGavin Rumbaugh, and J. David Sweatt, June 2010.

 

This article can also be found on the Longevity Upgrades website here.

Ray Kurzweil – How to Create a Mind

This is one of the longer presentations I’ve seen by Ray Kurzweil.  In the video, Kurzweil discusses some of the concepts behind his latest book, How to Create a Mind.  This talk covers a lot of ground; everywhere from the Kurzweil’s Law (Law of Accelerating Returns), merging with technology, pattern recognizing technology, the effects of economy on life expectancy, solar energy, medical technology, education…  Well, you get the picture.  Check it out.


Runtime: 1:01:00

This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT2i9dGYjkg


Video info:

Published on Jun 17, 2014

 

 

Felix Schurmann Talks About Blue Brain and the Human Brain Project at USI

In this video, Felix Schurmann explains the Blue Brain Project and the Human Brain Project.  This is a good introduction to the BBP/HBP, if you are unfamiliar with the projects.  Schurmann discusses the need for the research into brain simulation, gives an overview of some of the current research in cognitive science and computer brain modeling, makes a couple predictions about the future of computational cognitive science and brain simulation, and discusses the convergence of cognitive science and computation.  


Runtime: 54:54

This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3M4UgeLW1cI


Video Info:

Published on Jun 20, 2014

Understanding the human brain is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. Today, for the first time, modern ICT has brought these goals within sight: Many areas of science and engineering have adopted simulation-based research as a novel tool for discovery and insight. The sustained performance growth in supercomputer performance allows ever more detailed models, which makes supercomputing nowadays also a viable tool for biology. The Swiss Blue Brain Project has been pioneering the use of supercomputers for detailed, integrative brain tissue modeling since 2005. This success paved the ground for the Human Brain Project, an EU FET Flagship project with more than 100 European and international research institutes. The goal of the HBP is to use ICT as a catalyst for a global collaborative effort to understand the human brain, its diseases and to derive novel computing technologies.
Information and subscription on http://www.usievents.com

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Success.com – Ray Kurzweil: The Exponential Mind

Chris Raymond at success.com interview Ray Kurzweil.  The article is called Ray Kurzweil: The Exponential Mind.  It follows the usual Kurzwelian interview parameters (a little background, explain exponential growth with examples, discuss where technology is taking us), but it also goes into some of the things his critics have to say and talks a bit about Kurzweil’s new role at Google.  


 

Ray Kurzweil: The Exponential Mind

The inventor, scientist, author, futurist and director of engineering at Google aims to help mankind devise a better world by keeping tabs on technology, consumer behavior and more.

Chris Raymond

Ray Kurzweil is not big on small talk. At 3:30 on a glorious early summer afternoon, the kind that inspires idle daydreams, he strides into a glass-walled, fifth-floor conference room overlooking the leafy tech town of Waltham, Mass.

Lowering himself into a chair, he looks at his watch and says, “How much time do you need?”

It doesn’t quite qualify as rude. He’s got a plane to catch this evening, and he’s running nearly two hours behind schedule. But there is a hint of menace to the curtness, a subtle warning to keep things moving. And this is certainly in keeping with Kurzweil’s M.O.

“If you spend enough time with him, you’ll see that there’s very little waste in his day,” says director Barry Ptolemy, who tailed Kurzweil for more than two years while filming the documentary Transcendent Man. “His nose is always to the grindstone; he’s always applying himself to the next job, the next interview, the next book, the next little task.”

It would appear the 66-year-old maverick has operated this way since birth. He decided to become an inventor at age 5, combing his Queens, N.Y., neighborhood for discarded radios and bicycle parts to assemble his prototypes. In 1965, at age 17, he unveiled an early project, a computer capable of composing music, on the Steve Allen TV show I’ve Got a Secret. He made his first trip to the White House that same year, meeting with Lyndon Johnson, along with other young scientists uncovered in a Westinghouse talent search. As a sophomore at MIT, he launched a company that used a computer to help high school students find their ideal college. Then at 20, he sold the firm to a New York publisher for $100,000, plus royalties.

The man has been hustling since he learned how to tie his shoes.

Though he bears a slight resemblance to Woody Allen—beige slacks, open collar, reddish hair, glasses—he speaks with the baritone authority of Henry Kissinger. He brings an engineer’s sense of discipline to each new endeavor, pinpointing the problem, surveying the options, choosing the best course of action. “He’s very good at triage, very good at compartmentalizing,” says Ptolemy.

A bit ironically, Kurzweil describes his first great contribution to society—the technology that first gave computers an audible voice—as a solution he developed in the early 1970s for no problem in particular. After devising a program that allowed the machines to recognize letters in any font, he pursued market research to decide how his advancement could be useful. It wasn’t until he sat next to a blind man on an airplane that he realized his technology could shatter the inherent limitations of Braille; only a tiny sliver of books had been printed in Braille, and no topical sources—newspapers, magazines or office memos—were available in that format.

Kurzweil and a team that included engineers from the National Federation for the Blind built around his existing software to make text-to-speech reading machines a reality by 1976. “What really motivates an innovator is that leap from dry formulas on a blackboard to changes in people’s lives,” Kurzweil says. “It’s very gratifying for me when I get letters from blind people who say they were able to get a job or an education due to the reading technology that I helped create…. That’s really the thrill of being an innovator.”

The passion for helping humanity has pushed Kurzweil to establish double-digit companies over the years, pursuing all sorts of technological advancements. Along the way, his sleepy eyes have become astute at seeing into the future.

In The Age of Intelligent Machines, first published in 1990, Kurzweil started sharing his visions with the public. At the time they sounded a lot like science fiction, but a startling number of his predictions came true. He correctly predicted that by 1998 a computer would win the world chess championship, that new modes of communication would bring about the downfall of the Soviet Union, and that millions of people worldwide would plug into a web of knowledge. Today, he is the author of five best-selling books, including The Singularity Is Near and How to Create a Mind.

This wasn’t his original aim. In 1981, when he started collecting data on how rapidly computer technology was evolving, it was for purely practical reasons.

“Invariably people create technologies and business plans as if the world is never going to change,” Kurzweil says. As a result, their companies routinely fail, even though they successfully build the products they promise to produce. Visionaries see the potential, but they don’t plot it out correctly. “The inventors whose names you recognize were in the right place with the right idea at the right time,” he explains, pointing to his friend Larry Page, who launched Google with Sergey Brin in 1998, right about the time the founders of legendary busts Pets.com and Kozmo.com discovered mankind wasn’t remotely ready for Internet commerce.

How do you master timing? You look ahead.

“My projects have to make sense not for the time I’m looking at, but the world that will exist when I finish,” Kurzweil says. “And that world is a very different place.”

In recent years, companies like Ford, Hallmark and Hershey’s have recognized the value in this way of thinking, hiring expert guides like Kurzweil to help them study the shifting sands and make sense of the road ahead. These so-called “futurists” keep a careful eye on scientific advances, consumer behavior, market trends and cultural leanings. According to Intel’s resident futurist, Brian David Johnson, the goal is not so much to predict the future as to invent it. “Too many people believe that the future is a fixed point that we’re powerless to change,” Johnson recently told Forbes. “But the reality is that the future is created every day by the actions of people.”

Kurzweil subscribes to this notion. He has boundless confidence in man’s ability to construct a better world. This isn’t some utopian dream. He has the data to back it up—and a team of 10 researchers who help him construct his mathematical models. They’ve been plotting the price and computing power of information technologies—processing speed, data storage, that sort of thing—for decades.

In his view, we are on the verge of a great leap forward, an age of unprecedented invention, the kinds of breakthroughs that can lead to peace and prosperity and make humans immortal. In other words, he has barely begun to bend time to his will.

Ray Kurzweil does not own a crystal ball. The secret to his forecasting success is “exponential thinking.”

Our minds are trained to see the world linearly. If you drive at this speed, you will reach your destination at this time. But technology evolves exponentially. Kurzweil calls this the Law of Accelerating Returns.

He leans back in his chair to retrieve his cellphone and holds it aloft between two fingers. “This is several billion times more powerful than the computer I used as an undergraduate,” he says, and goes on to point out that the device is also about 100,000 times smaller. Whereas computers once took up entire floors at university research halls, far more advanced models now fit in our pockets (and smaller spaces) and are becoming more miniscule all the time. This is a classic example of exponential change.

The Human Genome Project is another. Launched in 1990, it was billed from the start as an ambitious, 15-year venture. Estimated cost: $3 billion. When researchers neared the time line’s halfway point with only 3 percent of the DNA sequencing finished, critics were quick to pounce. What they did not see was the annual doubling in output. Thanks to increases in computing power and efficiency, 3 percent became 6 percent and then 12 percent and so on. With a few more doublings, the project was completed a full two years ahead of schedule.

That is the power of exponential change.

“If you take 30 steps linearly, you get to 30,” Kurzweil says. “If you take 30 steps exponentially, you’re at a billion.”

The fruits of these accelerating returns are all around us. It took more than 15 years to sequence HIV beginning in the 1980s. Thirty-one days to sequence SARS in 2003. And today we can map a virus in a single day.

While thinking about the not-too-distant future, when virtual reality and self-driving cars, 3-D printing and Google Glass are norms, Kurzweil dreams of the next steps. In his vision, we’re rapidly approaching the point where human power becomes infinite.

Holding the phone upright, he swipes a finger across the glass.

“When I do this, my fingers are connected to my brain,” Kurzweil says. “The phone is an extension of my brain. Today a kid in Africa with a smartphone has access to all of human knowledge. He has more knowledge at his fingertips than the president of the United States did 15 years ago.” Multiplying by exponents of progress, Kurzweil projects continued shrinkage in computer size and growth in power over the next 25 years. He hypothesizes microscopic nanobots—inexpensive machines the size of blood cells—that will augment our intelligence and immune systems. These tiny technologies “will go into our neocortex, our brain, noninvasively through our capillaries and basically put our neocortex on the cloud.”

Imagine having Wikipedia linked directly to your brain cells. Imagine digital neurons that reverse the effects of Parkinson’s disease.Maybe we can live forever.

He smiles, letting the sweep of his statements sink in. Without question, it is an impressive bit of theater. He loves telling stories, loves dazzling people with his visions. But his zeal for showmanship has been known to backfire.

The biologist P.Z. Myers has called him “one of the greatest hucksters of the age.” Other critics have labeled him crazy and called his ideas hot air. Kurzweil’s public pursuit of immortality doesn’t help matters. In an effort to prolong his life, Kurzweil takes 150 supplements a day, washing them down with cup after cup of green tea and alkaline water. He monitors the effects of these chemistry experiments with weekly blood tests. It’s one of a few eccentricities.

“He’s extremely honest and direct,” Ptolemy says of his friend’s prickly personality. “He talks to people and if he doesn’t like what you’re saying, he’ll just say it. There’s no B.S. If he doesn’t like what he’s hearing, he’ll just say, ‘No. Got anything  else?’”

But it’s hard to argue with the results. Kurzweil claims 86 percent of his predictions for the year 2009 came true. Others insist the figure is actually much lower. But that’s just part of the game. Predicting is hard work.

“He was considered extremely radical 15 years ago,” Ptolemy says. “That’s less the case now. People are seeing these technologies catch up—the iPhone, Google’s self-driving cars, Watson [the IBM computer that bested Jeopardy genius Ken Jennings in 2011]. All these things start happening, and people are like, ‘Oh, OK. I see what’s going on.’”

Ray Kurzweil was born into a family of artists. His mother was a painter; his father, a conductor and musician. Both moved to New York from Austria in the late 1930s, fleeing the horrors of Hitler’s Nazi regime. When Ray was 7 years old, his maternal grandfather returned to the land of his birth, where he was given the chance to hold in his hands documents that once belonged to the great Leonardo da Vinci—painter, sculptor, inventor, thinker. “He described the experience with reverence,” Kurzweil writes, “as if he had touched the work of God himself.”

Ray’s parents raised their son and daughter in the Unitarian Church, encouraging them to study the teachings of various religions to arrive at the truth. Ray is agnostic, in part, he says, because religions tend to rationalize death; but like Da Vinci, he firmly believes in the power of ideas—the ability to overcome pain and peril, to transcend life’s challenges with reason and thought. “He wants to change the world—impact it as much as possible,” Ptolemy says. “That’s what drives him.”

Despite what his critics say, Kurzweil is not blind to the threats posed by modern science. If nanotechnology could bring healing agents into our bodies, nano-hackers or nano-terrorists could spread viruses—the literal, deadly kind. “Technology has been a double-edged sword ever since fire,” he says. “It kept us warm, cooked our food, but also burned down our villages.” That doesn’t mean you keep it under lock and key.

In January of 2013, Kurzweil entered the next chapter of his life, dividing his time between Waltham and San Francisco, where he works with Google engineers to deepen computers’ understanding of human language. “It’s my first job with a company I didn’t start myself,” he deadpans. The idea is to move the company beyond keyword search, to teach computers how to grasp the meaning and ideas in the billions of documents at their disposal, to move them one more step forward on the journey to becoming sentient virtual assistants—picture Joaquin Phoenix’s sweet-talking laptop in 2013’s Kurzweil-influenced movie Her, a Best Picture nominee.

Kurzweil had pitched the idea of breaking computers’ language barrier to Page while searching for investors. Page offered him a full-time salary and Google-scale resources instead, promising to give Kurzweil the independence he needs to complete the project. “It’s a courageous company,” Kurzweil says. “It has a biz model that supports very widespread distribution of these technologies. It’s the only place I could do this project. I would not have the resources, even if I raised all the money I wanted in my own company. I wouldn’t be able to run algorithms on a million computers.”

That’s not to say Page will sit idle while Kurzweil toils away. In the last year, the Google CEO has snapped up eight robotics companies, including industry frontrunner Boston Dynamics. He paid $3.2 billion for Nest Labs, maker of learning thermostats and smoke alarms. He scooped up the artificial intelligence startup DeepMind and lured Geoffrey Hinton, the world’s foremost expert on neural networks—computer systems that function like a brain—into the Google fold.

Kurzweil’s ties to Page run deep. Google (and NASA) provided early funding for Singularity University, the education hub/startup accelerator Kurzweil launched with the XPRIZE’s Peter Diamandis to train young leaders to use cutting-edge technology to make life better for billions of people on Earth.

Kurzweil’s faith in entrepreneurship is so strong that he believes it should be taught in elementary school.

Why?

Because that kid with the cellphone now has a chance to change the world. If that seems far-fetched, consider the college sophomore who started Facebook because he wanted to meet girls or the 15-year-old who recently invented a simple new test for pancreatic cancer. This is one source of his optimism. Another? The most remarkable thing about the mathematical models Kurzweil has assembled, the breathtaking arcs that demonstrate his thinking, is that they don’t halt their climb for any reason—not for world wars, not for the Great Depression.

Once again, that’s the power of exponential growth.

“Things that seemed impossible at one point are now possible,” Kurzweil says. “That’s the fundamental difference between me and my critics.” Despite the thousands of years of evolution hard-wired into his brain, he resists the urge to see the world in linear fashion. That’s why he’s bullish on solar power, artificial intelligence, nanobots and 3-D printing. That’s why he believes the 2020s will be studded with one huge medical breakthrough after another.

“There’s a lot of pessimism in the world,” he laments. “If I  believed progress was linear, I’d be pessimistic, too. Because we would not be able to solve these problems. But I’m optimistic—more than optimistic: I believe we will solve these problems because of the scale of these technologies.”

He looks down at his watch yet again. Mickey Mouse peeks out from behind the timepiece’s sweeping hands. “Just a bit of whimsy,” he says.

Nearly an hour has passed. The world has changed. It’s time to get on with his day.

Post date:

Oct 9, 2014

This article can also be found at http://www.success.com/article/ray-kurzweil-the-exponential-mind

MIT Technology Review: How Smart Dust Could Spy On Your Brain

This is an article from the MIT Technology Review website called How Smart Dust Could Spy On Your Brain which is based on research being conducted at the University of California Berkeley.  The future applications of this technology will be to allow higher resolution brain scans and shows potential as a medium for brain-machine interfaces (BMI).  It will be interesting to see where this research goes.


 

The real time monitoring of brain function has advanced in leaps and bounds in recent years. That’s largely thanks to various new technologies that can monitor the collective behaviour of groups of neurons, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, magnetoencephalopathy and positron emission tomography.

This work is revolutionising our understanding of the way the brain is structured and behaves. It has also lead to a new engineering discipline of brain-machine interfaces, which allows people to control machines by thought alone.

Impressive though these techniques are, they all suffer from inherent limitations such as limited spatial resolution, a lack of portability and extreme invasiveness.

Today, Dongjin Seo and pals at the University of California Berkeley reveal an entirely new way to study and interact with the brain. Their idea is to sprinkle electronic sensors the size of dust particles into the cortex and to interrogate them remotely using ultrasound. The ultrasound also powers this so-called neural dust.

Each particle of neural dust consists of standard CMOS circuits and sensors that measure the electrical activity in neurons nearby. This is coupled to a piezoelectric material that converts ultra-high-frequency sound waves into electrical signals and vice versa.

The neural dust is interrogated by another component placed beneath the scale but powered from outside the body. This generates the ultrasound that powers the neural dust and sensors that listen out for their response, rather like an RFID system.

The system is also tetherless–the data is collected and stored outside the body for later analysis.

That gets around many of the limitations. The system is lower power, can have a high spatial resolution, and it is easily portable. It is also rugged and can potentially provides a link over long periods of time. “A major hurdle in brain-machine interfaces (BMI) is the lack of an implantable neural interface system that remains viable for a lifetime,” say Seo and co.

The difficulty is in designing and building such a system and today’s paper is a theoretical study of these challenges. First is the problem of designing and building neural dust particles on a scale of roughly 100 micrometres that can send and receive signals in the harsh, warm and noisy environment within the body.

That’s why Seo and co have chosen ultrasound to send and receive data. They calculate that the power required to use electromagnetic waves on the scale would generate a damaging amount of heat because of the amount of energy the body absorbs and the troubling signal-to-noise ratios at this scale.

By contrast, ultrasound is a much more efficient and should allow the transmission of at least 10 million times more power than electromagnetic waves at the same scale.

Next is the problem of linking the electronics to the piezoelectric system that converts ultrasound to electronic signals and vice versa. Ensuring that the system works efficiently will be tricky given that it has to be packaged in an inert polymer or insulator film (which must also expose the recording electrodes to nearby neurons).

Finally, there is the challenge of designing and building the interrogation system that generates the ultrasound to power the entire array but at a low enough power to avoid heating skull and the brain.

On top of all this is the additional challenge of implanting the neural dust particles in the cortex. Seo and co say this can probably be done by fabricating the dust particles on the tips of a fine wire array, held in place by surface tension, for example. This array would be dipped into the cortex where the dust particles become embedded.

That’s an ambitious vision that is littered with challenges beyond the state-of-the-art. However, the team has a strong background in nanoelectromechanical systems and in the interface between electronic systems and cells.

Indeed, one of the authors, Michel Maharbiz, developed the world’s first remotely controlled beetle a few years ago, a development that was named one of the top 10 emerging technologies of 2009 by Technology Review.

These guys are clearly not afraid to take on big challenges. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1307.2196: Neural Dust: An Ultrasonic, Low Power Solution for Chronic Brain-Machine Interfaces

 

This article can also be found at http://www.technologyreview.com/view/517091/how-smart-dust-could-spy-on-your-brain/