Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Humans, Version 3.0
February 28, 2011 6:56 PM   Subscribe

Humans, Version 3.0. "The next giant leap in human evolution may not come from new fields like genetic engineering or artificial intelligence, but rather from appreciating our ancient brains." [Via]

More from Stanislas Dehaene:

Evolution of human cortical circuits for reading and arithmetic: The “neuronal recycling” hypothesis (PDF)

How do humans acquire novel cultural skills? The neuronal recycling model (video)

Previously.
posted by homunculus (15 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some interesting ideas there. Not exactly Copernican, since many of the pragmatic programmes bootstrapped out of psychological research fit into the broad class of repurposing our natural inclinations in the service of things we want to do in contexts other than the usual ones. Neurolinguistic programming, for example, in its exploitation of our preference for sensation in forming beliefs.
posted by O Blitiri at 7:15 PM on February 28, 2011


And machine-enhancement is part of our world even today, manifesting in the smartphones and desktop computers most of us rely on each day. Such devices will continue to further empower us in the future, but serious hardware additions to our brains will not be forthcoming until we figure out how to build human-level artificial intelligences (and meld them to our neurons)

Human-level artificial intelligences were not necessary in order to invent cochlear, auditory-brainstem, or video implants, all of which would seem to be "serious hardware additions to our brains". Likewise, mental access to I/O devices would be an absolute game-changer, and has nothing to do with artificial intelligence... in fact, it would probably combine a relatively simple interface with the very same neuronal recycling/adaptive harnessing the author is championing.

In short: I'm not sure I buy the dichotomy he's trying to build, here. How can "cyborg enhancement" be "off the table for many years" when simple mind/machine interfaces are already functioning today?
posted by vorfeed at 7:26 PM on February 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


And machine-enhancement is part of our world even today, manifesting in the smartphones and desktop computers most of us rely on each day. Such devices will continue to further empower us in the future, but serious hardware additions to our brains will not be forthcoming until we figure out how to build human-level artificial intelligences (and meld them to our neurons), something that will require cracking the mind’s deepest mysteries. I have argued that we’re centuries or more away from that.

Has there ever been a sci-fi story with a premise like this? I'm picturing a detective with an AI implant partner with a dry wit and british accent.
posted by codacorolla at 7:42 PM on February 28, 2011


Neurolinguistic programming, for example, in its exploitation of our preference for sensation in forming beliefs.

And this next one would have the added benefit of being real.
posted by scalefree at 7:48 PM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Has there ever been a sci-fi story with a premise like this?

Thousands.
posted by jet_manifesto at 8:23 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Interesting stuff, and I agree with what he says about music, which 'hacks' our perceptual-emotional processes perfectly. And indeed, I think we have yet to fully exploit our musical capacities for social synchronization.

It's a pity he has to adopt tacky 2.0/3.0 terminology though. It just encourages the false dichotomy with technological enhancements (natural born cyborg anybody?)
posted by leibniz at 3:00 AM on March 1, 2011


Perhaps when I reach the 3.0 stage, I'll be blessed with a neuronal recycling capacity which will let me discern a fingernail of cogent argument within a forest of waving hands. I'll come back and read the article again then.
posted by Jakey at 3:49 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting article. Perhaps a bit slight on the details, but I may pick up the book to read further.

but serious hardware additions to our brains will not be forthcoming until we figure out how to build human-level artificial intelligences

Having just watched this video of a prosthetic arm being manipulated through thought (and a lot of biological rewiring), I think it is quite likely that we will end up using our brains to control the external world in ways that we do not quite comprehend yet. It may not change how we use our brain, but it will change what we use our brain for.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:04 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rather, the strategy is to twist Y into a shape that the brain does know how to process.

i.e., Perform task Y on drugs.
posted by tybeet at 5:16 AM on March 1, 2011


All of these may well be part of the story of our future, but I’m not holding my breath. The first of these—natural selection—is impracticably slow, and there’s a plausible case to be made that natural selection has all but stopped acting on us.

While it is attractive to believe that technology and social circumstance may divorce us from evolution, we have plenty of evidence to suggest it has continued unabated.
posted by melatonic at 6:43 AM on March 1, 2011


While it is attractive to believe that technology and social circumstance may divorce us from evolution, we have plenty of evidence to suggest it has continued unabated.

Nobody's arguing that evolution has *actually* stopped, just that it's so minor compared to advances in technologies that it's negligible. For example, electricity & light bulbs let us "see at night", automobiles let us "run at high speed and for long distances", airplanes let us fly, etc. It'd take millions of years to evolve those capabilities naturally.
posted by LordSludge at 7:30 AM on March 1, 2011


Nobody's arguing that evolution has *actually* stopped, just that it's so minor compared to advances in technologies that it's negligible. For example, electricity & light bulbs let us "see at night", automobiles let us "run at high speed and for long distances", airplanes let us fly, etc. It'd take millions of years to evolve those capabilities naturally.

If our fitness as individuals is even slightly related to our ability to interface with technology, over the course of a small number of generations we would expect to see selection of traits within human populations which enhance our ability to use and generate technology.

That noted, I agree that these changes aren't going to make us see in the dark or fly without a bit of creativity :)

I just mean to point out that there is a dialectic at play here and the incredible pace of environmental change brought about by technological development is more likely than not to increase the rate at which human populations are evolving. Consistent with this point, observations of patterns of selection among point mutations suggest that the rate at which new selected traits are arising in human populations is nearly 100-fold higher than expected given the time since our divergence from chimpanzees.
posted by melatonic at 8:17 AM on March 1, 2011


If our fitness as individuals is even slightly related to our ability to interface with technology, over the course of a small number of generations we would expect to see selection of traits within human populations which enhance our ability to use and generate technology.

Well this explains why my parents text so damn slow.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:52 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]



Whew. It says at the bottom that the author is a neuroscientist, but a lot of this reads perilously close to late "human potential movement" writings about unlocking our latent syke-ick abilities and pronouncements that "you only use ten percent of your brain" (to which I say, "speak for yourself, doc").

Maybe it's just badly written (my default position).

On the other hand:
Human-level artificial intelligences were not necessary in order to invent cochlear, auditory-brainstem, or video implants. . . Likewise, mental access to I/O devices . . . has nothing to do with artificial intelligence.
Bravo, Vorfeed!
posted by Herodios at 10:27 AM on March 1, 2011


If our fitness as individuals is even slightly related to our ability to interface with technology, over the course of a small number of generations we would expect to see selection of traits within human populations which enhance our ability to use and generate technology.

Well... careful with that word "fitness". Evolution only cares how "fit" you are to reproduce and for your offspring to reproduce and bear offspring. To put a point on it, I don't think being tech-savvy has any connection to having lots of kids. If anything, the opposite -- "fitness" appears to correlate with lesser education, etc.

Now I suppose if a certain gene trait boosts your lavalife response rate or helps you write awesome craiglist hookup classifieds, then... Evolution!!
posted by LordSludge at 11:24 AM on March 1, 2011


« Older On Friday night in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a banker ...  |  Squatters on the Skyline: "Fac... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments