What is humanity’s situation with respect to surviving long-term with a good quality of life? (Frame the core opportunities and obstacles.)
What attributes of our evolved, experientially programmed brains contribute to this situation? (What are the potential leverage points for positive change within our body-brain-mind system?)
What courses of research and action (including currently available systems, tools, and practices and current and possible lines of R&D) have the potential to improve our (and the planetary life system’s) near- and long-term prospects?
Following is a list of (only some!) of the resources some of us have consumed and discussed online, in emails, or face-to-face in 2019. Sample a few to jog your thoughts and provoke deeper dives. Please add your own additional references in the comments below this post. For each, give a short (one line is fine) description, if possible.
This link shows 12 positive benefits of meditation supported by scientific studies
Part of the collective commons transformation is how humanity has become a hybrid cyborg with the machine, meaning the personal computer and an internet connection. It has fundamentally changed our nature to one of a mass-communicated collaborative commons. The Frontiers ebook is the tech side of that development, whereas the more social side is what Rifkin writes about.
Taken together, these morphological characteristics suggest that neurons in the elephant cortex may synthesize a wider variety of input than the cortical neurons in other mammals.
In terms of cognition, my colleagues and I believe that the integrative cortical circuitry in the elephant supports the idea that they are essentially contemplative animals. Primate brains, by comparison, seem specialized for rapid decision-making and quick reactions to environmental stimuli.
Will new readers develop the more time-demanding cognitive processes nurtured by print-based mediums as they absorb and acquire new cognitive capacities emphasized by digital media? For example, will the combination of reading on digital formats and daily immersion in a variety of digital experiences — from social media to virtual games — impede the formation of the slower cognitive processes, such as critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination, and empathy, that are all part of deep reading?
Wolf first addressed the evolution of reading and its implications in her earlier book, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. She summarizes her thesis in this interview (14 min video).
Stanislas Dehaene, an author whose work we’ve discussed, also investigated the brain circuits involved in reading. Hear him speak on the topic in this video (33 min).
Several of us met on Labor Day with the goal of identifying topics for at least five future monthly meetings. (Thanks, Dave N, for hosting!) Being the overachievers we are, we pushed beyond the goal. Following are the resulting topics, which will each have its own article on this site where we can begin organizing references for the discussion:
sex-related influences on emotional memory
gross and subtle brain differences (e.g., “walls of the third ventricle – sexual nuclei”)
“Are there gender-based brain differences that influence differences in perceptions and experience?”
epigenetic factors (may need an overview of epigenetics)
If I missed anything, please edit the list (I used HTML in the ‘Text’ view to get sub-bullets). If you’re worried about the formatting, you can email your edits to email@example.com and Mark will post your changes.
Google and others are developing neural networks that learn to recognize and imitate patterns present in works of art, including music. The path to autonomous creativity is unclear. Current systems can imitate existing artworks, but cannot generate truly original works. Human prompting and configuration are required.
Google’s Magenta project’s neural network learned from 4,500 pieces of music before creating the following simple tune (drum track overlaid by a human):
Click Play button to listen->
Is it conceivable that AI may one day be able to synthesize new made-to-order creations by blending features from a catalog of existing works and styles? Imagine being able to specify, “Write me a new musical composition reminiscent of Rhapsody in Blue, but in the style of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
There is already at least one human who could instantly play Rhapsody in Blue in Skynyrd style, but even he does not (to my knowledge) create entirely original pieces.