Nootropic Neural News

Annual Question: 

George Church

The most accessed parts of the Internet focus on new news and old news via search engines and social network news about shopping, pets, and humans—especially sportful and celebrity humans. What is the distinction between popularity and enduring importance?

In remote indigenous peoples (300 million strong, including Kawahiva, Angu, Sentineli) and our primate relatives, the distinction seems small. In contrast, in our hyper-civilization, the importance of survival has been decoupled from popularity. Our ancient starvation for sugar and fat has morphed today into nearly limitless ad libitum cardio-challenging doughnuts and steaks. Our instincts to reproduce can now be diverted into a wide variety of diversions. Practice for the hunt with rocks and spears has became inflated to 514 stadiums holding 40,000 to 220,000 spectators and up to 4.8 billion viewers via electronics. Mild analgesic herbal medicines have become powerfully pure and addictive. Running toward (or away from) a predator-prey encounter has transformed into a market for massive and speedy cars, killing 1.2 million people per year (roughly equal to all humans alive 10,000 years ago). 

Our Darwinian drive to improve our survival relative to other species now includes augmentations that would be baffling to our ancestors—dodging asteroids via mars colonies and handheld neural prosthetic supercomputers with two video cameras.

The new news is that Greenpeace, KMP, and MASIPAG are accused of “crimes against humanity” for blocking (including vandalizing safety testing experiments), from 2002 to 2016, golden rice, which could save a million souls per year from vitamin A deficiency.

The old news, again, this year (courtesy of the national academies of the US, UK and China) is that, after forty years, we still haven’t reached a consensus on whether we want embryo (germline) augmentation. But this is likely a moot point since genetic and non-genetic adult augmentation represents hundred-fold larger markets and much faster potential return on enhancement—weeks rather than decades—web-warp-drive speed vs. human generation speed.

As with ancient (DNA) evolution, so too with new techno-cultural (r)evolution, even a fractional percent advantage grows exponentially (like compounded interest) resulting in a swift and complete displacement of the old.

We seek news of aging reversal and nootropics—memory and cognitive enhancers. We hunt down ways to get ahead of the FDA-EMA-CFDA curve, even risking the very youth and cognition that we seek to extend. Loopholes in the global regulatory fabric include "natural" products, medical tourism, "practice of medicine" (including surgical procedures and stem cell therapies).

Our ability to prioritize and process the news is in an autocatalytic, positive feedback loop in which we extend our brain both biologically and electronically. Surgery could extend our brain capacity from 1.2 kg to 50 kg (routine head loads of the Sherpas of Nepal). The rate of growth of neural systems could be as fast as the doubling time of human cells (about one day) with differentiation from generic stem cells to complex neural nets recently engineered to occur in four days.

With sufficiently intimate proximity of two or more kg-scale brains, the possibility of mind-backups might be closer than via cloning (which lacks neural copying) or via computer simulation (which requires deeper understanding than mere bio-copying and has a million-fold energy inefficiency relative to brains).

The news is that we can measure and manipulate human neural development and activity with the exponentially improving “innovative neurotechnologies” (the last two letters of the BRAIN project acronym). If (when) these augmentations begin to seriously help us process information, that would be mind-boggling and important news.


[ Wed. Dec. 9. 2015 ]