Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have all issued warnings about the increasing capabilities of artificial intelligence. Yet how real is the threat? Is it something we need to worry about in the short to medium term or something that’s so far away that we can’t even begin to prepare for it?
Many popular sci-fi movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator, The Matrix, Transcendence and Ex Machina have played on our deeply rooted fears about the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence and how it may threaten the survival of humans. Yet the reality is that it’s very difficult to decipher how artificial intelligence is developing, and where we are at with current breakthroughs and applications of artificial intelligence.
This is why the perspective offered by Dr. Michio Kaiu is so interesting. Uniquely, he is both a theoretical physicist and futurist and has turned his attention to focusing on the future of the human mind. He not only understands the latest developments in artificial intelligence, but also has a deep understanding of human intelligence and what it would require for AI to develop to the point of threatening humans.
In a phone interview, Dr. Kaku was asked for his thoughts on the current state of artificial intelligence:
“The potential of A.I. is real in the sense that if artificially intelligent robots leave the laboratory it could signal the end of the human race, however let’s be practical.”
For the time being, Dr. Kaku believes we have little to fear from AI:
“Our most advanced robots have the intelligence of a cockroach; a retarded lobotomized cockroach. You put one of our robots in Fukushima, for instance, instead of cleaning up the mess they just fall over, they can barely walk correctly.
“The pentagon even sponsored a challenge, the DARPA challenge, to create a robot that could clean up the Fukushima nuclear disaster. All the robots failed except one. They failed to do simple things like use a broom or turn a valve. That’s how primitive we are.”
Dr. Kaku foresees advances over the next few decades, but also believes we have enough time to prepare:
“However, in the coming decades I expect robots to become as smart as a mouse, then a rabbit, then a dog, and finally a monkey. At that point who knows? Perhaps by the end of the century, it could be dangerous. Not now. In which case, I think we should put a chip in their brains to shut them off. The conclusion is we have time, we have time in which to deal with robots as they gradually, slowly become more intelligent.”
He has a valuable analogy to share with anyone thinking the danger is already here:
“I think it’s good to alert people that this is happening, but the time frame is not years, the time frame is decades, or as one scientist said, ‘the probability that a sentient robot will be built soon is similar to the probability a 747 jetliner is assembled spontaneously by a hurricane,’ so we’re still children when it comes to harnessing artificial intelligence, not that it can’t happen.”
Despite the fears surrounding the evolution of artificial intelligence, Dr. Kaku believes our main concerns as a civilization should be focused on making the rapid technological growth seen in the past few decades sustainable.
Moore’s Law is a computing term which originated in 1970 that states the processing power for computers overall will double every two years. The term was coined by Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel, who predicted the pace of the modern digital world would exponentially increase every six months. Yet Dr. Kaku warns that we are reaching the limits of how much further we can go with the silicon-based technologies that launched the computer revolution.
“Moore’s law is one of the pillars of modern civilization. It is the reason why we have such prosperity, and why we have such dazzling household electronic appliances, but it can’t last forever. Sooner or later Silicon Valley could become a rust belt, just like rust belt in Pennsylvania.
“That’s because components inside a silicon chip are going down to the size of atoms. In your Pentium chip, in your laptop, there is a layer that is about 20 atoms across, tucked into some of the layers that are in a Pentium chip, we’re talking about atomic scale.”
At this point, the major challenge is how we’ll get to the next level. As Dr. Kaku says:
“However, in the coming decades it’ll go down to maybe 5 atoms across, and at that point two things happen; you have enormous heat being generated and second is leakage, electrons leak out because of the certainty principle.
“In other words, the quantum theory kills you. The quantum theory giveth and the quantum theory taketh away. The quantum theory makes possible the transistor to begin with, so it also spells the doom of the age of silicon.”
Although it’s almost impossible to predict what’s going to emerge as the next big technological breakthrough, Dr. Maku is certain that Silicon-based processors will go the way of vacuum tubes:
“One day the age of silicon will end just like the age of vacuum tubes. When I was a kid I remember TV sets all had vacuum tubes. That era is long gone. Historians today look at this age of silicon and wonder what’s next. The short answer is we don’t know. There are no viable candidates, none of them ready for prime time, to replace silicon power.
“So what this means is that in the future, we could see a slowing down of Moore’s Law. That at Christmas time, computers may not be twice as powerful as the previous Christmas, so we physicists are desperately looking for replacements like quantum computers or I personally think molecular computers will eventually replace silicon, but they’re not ready yet. I think that in principle, we could be in trouble.”
There are two types of people: huggers and non-huggers. Some people just don’t enjoy hugging. These are the people who feel a little uncomfortable when you try to hug them. Other people love it when you hug them and will show their appreciation, happiness or excitement. These are the ones who will give a giant bear hug to people they love.
There are two types of people: huggers and non-huggers. Some people just aren’t the cuddly type. They’re probably the ones who shy away a little bit when you go in for a hug. Others love to show their appreciation, happiness or excitement by hugging those they care about. They are the ones who give those giant bear hugs that you either love, or are a bit afraid of, depending on your hugging preference.
Regardless of how you feel about hugging, the reality is that hugging can convey a message that words often can’t. It helps to create a special bond between two people and can allow the sharing of joy together.
When two people hug each other, it creates a series of health benefits for each person. The health benefits may help convince non-huggers to change their mind about hugging.
1. Hugging forms a bond
According to Psychology Today, hugging releases oxytocin from the brain which causes huggers to bond. This hormone is associated with feelings of contentment and relaxation.
2. Hugging relaxes the body
While a hug may begin quite firmly, most huggers relax their bodies and fall into each other during a hug. This creates a very relaxing effect for huggers, having therapeutic benefits.
3. Hugging can relieve pain
The release of endorphins relieves pain by blocking pain pathways in the brain. It can also help to soothe aching by increasing circulation to soft tissues.
So if you’re feeling some pain, hug someone!
4. Hugging increases understanding
A passionate hug creates an exchange of feelings between two people, and produces feelings of understanding and empathy. This comes from the release of oxytocin which is often referred to as the love hormone.
5. Hugging relieves depression
Dopamine levels in your brain are increased when hugging. This helps to boost your mood. Low dopamine levels are associated with depression, self-doubt and lack of enthusiasm. Oxytocin being released also plays a part in relieving depression.
6. Hugging elevates your mood
Hugging can be an instant mood booster by increasing both dopamine and serotonin levels. So if you’re down in the dumps, go and find someone to give a hug to!
7. Hugging alleviates stress
The stress hormone known as cortisol is reduced when hugging. Lower levels of cortisol helps to relax the body and calm the mind, as found by a study suggesting hugs showed a positive correlation with higher relaxation levels.
8. Hugging boosts the immune system
People who hug frequently receive more social support and have less symptoms of illnesses, according to a study.
9. Hugging reduces worry
Hugs and touch reduce worry, according to a study published in Psychological Science. Researchers found that even hugging an inanimate object such as a teddy bear has a positive effect.
10. Hugging improves heart health
A study found that participants who didn’t have physical contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate by ten beats per minute. Having a slower and stable heart rate helps to decrease blood pressure and lower the chance of heart problems.
So many of us seek happiness as our greatest goal in life. What if I told you that trying to be happy was making you unhappy?
New research is starting to show us that the pursuit of happiness is getting the way of actually being happy.
How can this be?
It’s because we often find what we’re looking for. Science calls this “confirmation bias”, and it’s based on the principle that the brain looks for evidence that fits with its mental model of the world.
So if you’re constantly aiming to be happy, you’re creating a belief system that you’re not currently happy and you need something different in your life to attain happiness.
What’s the alternative? Embrace mindfulness in the present moment, which is about accepting and observing your feelings without judging them or needing them to be positive or happy.
Here’s some articles on embracing mindfulness in the present moment:
The science of emotional diversity
People who show a full range of emotions, such as anger, worry and sadness, are actually healthier than those whose range tends to be mostly on the positive side. This has been demonstrated by studies that show that overly pursuing happiness can be detrimental to your health.
In a study of over 35,000 people, researchers that people demonstrating high emotional diversity were less likely to be depressed than people who consistently only show positive emotion alone.
In another study of 1,300 people, the people showing greater emotional diversity used fewer medications, didn’t go to the doctor as often, exercised more and at better than those with a more limited emotional range.
It turns out that striving to be happy all of the time affects our creativity levels. One study showed that when we experience extreme or intense happiness, we tend to lose our connection to creativity.
There’s another study that has found those on the high end of always being happy tend to be less flexible in adapting to challenging situations. It’s more difficult for these people to adjust. Also, they are more likely to engage in sexual promiscuity or take extra risks to pursue pleasurable feelings. In fact, children who were regarded as “highly cheerful” are more likely to die at a younger age due to riskier behavior.
What you can do
Now that you’ve read about some of the research suggesting that striving to be happy can be bad for your health, what can you do next?
It doesn’t mean that happiness is a bad thing. Rather, it’s important to let the feelings of happiness emerge naturally. If you’re genuinely feeling happy, then feel it!
But if you’re feeling sad or angry, then feel that too.
Don’t place so much judgement on yourself for whatever you’re feeling. Nothing is good or bad, only thinking makes it so.
Here are some more articles you may enjoy reading on mindfulness and happiness.
Originally published on The Power of Ideas.
We’ve come to understand that both introverts and extroverts do things differently. Extroverts tend to speak their mind and have no problem expressing their feelings to a large group of people. Introverts on the other hand appear to be more reserved, think clearly before speaking and obtain energy from doing independent activities.
A particularly interesting area to study is how the brain works differently for both ends of the spectrum. German psychologist Hans Eysenck researchezxd the brain of an introvert and found that introvert’s have naturally high cortical arousal, meaning their ability to process information per second is higher than the average extrovert.
For an introvert in a heavily stimulated environment, such as large groups of people with loud noises and movements, they will most likely get more overwhelmed and exhausted from the brain’s cortical activity.
The definition of introverts can be hard to describe; however, it’s not to be confused with people who are shy. Some introverts love hanging out in big groups and have confidence in speaking aloud but there’s just a few things that introverts seem to have stronger traits in.
Here are the five traits you see in introverts
They’re Deep Thinkers
Introverts do a LOT of thinking. They have monologues in their minds about situations and go deep into complexities about things which often ends up being unnecessary. They like to contemplate multiple scenarios and work out solutions for each. Good amounts of an introvert’s day is spent on thinking deeply.
They Analyze Experiences
Adding to the deep thinking, a lot of analysis comes to play with past, present and future experiences. Introverts take facts and experiences from the past and link them with new facts and experiences. They like to be nostalgic but also like to prepare for the future from learning from the past. They like to draw a big picture in the heads to see how things connect, using a lot of problem solving skills.
They Look at Multiple Perspectives
Introverts don’t tend to be the loud one in the group, they tend to do a lot of observing when other people speak. Observations of social situations on how people react and perceive is a strong feature of an introvert’s personality. They quickly learn multiple ways of seeing things, and tend to know how to adapt themselves to better communicate with others.
They are Naturally Empathetic
As patient and active listeners, an introvert is someone that will offer great comfort and support when others are down. They are empathetic and accepting of others, and have realistic answers to solve problems.
Originally published on The Power of Ideas.
To many people who don’t believe in any religion, Buddhism is generally seen as a “good” kind of religion. It doesn’t start wars and has powerful things to say about the mind and mental self control.
But what does the neuroscience say?
In an interview with RedOrbit, Psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson spoke about the science of what’s going in Buddhist monk’s brains, and how this research might help us achieve enlightenment.
What is enlightenment?
Dr. Hanson believes it’s first important to point out what enlightenment really means. He says according to the Buddhist tradition, “it means it’s very psychological operationalized as a mind, a nervous system, that’s no longer capable of any kind of sustained greed, hatred or delusion.”
Feel good emotions can still be experienced, but you’re not meant to get attached to those feelings. We also become aware of unpleasant emotions, but it doesn’t result in anger or hatred.
According to Hanson, “Buddhism in its roots is very practical, very down-to-earth, and maps very well to modern neuropsychology.”
He says that neuroscience also agrees that there is such a thing as enlightenment: “There are certain psychological states that seem associated with the upper reaches of human potential, if not enlightenment altogether.”
Probably the best psychological term to use for “enlightenment” is “equanimity”, a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience or exposure to emotions, pain or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance in their mind.
Perhaps being “at one” with everything around you is a better way to describe it as the above may get interpreted as “being aloof”.
People with great equanimity are fully present, can concentrate their attention with great skill, and have a compassionate and loving attitude towards all that exists in the universe.
Your Brain on Enlightenment
So, how can normal people attain these skills?
According to Dr. Hanson “The brain is built like a house with three floors, from the bottom up,” Dr. Hanson explains.
“The reptilian brain stem is at the bottom; on top of that, beginning around 250 million years ago, we have the subcortex, which is loosely associated with the mammalian stage of evolution. And finally we have the primate level,” which is the most advanced: the cerebral cortex.
“We are walking around with a vast, ancient zoo and museum inside us,” he adds. “We diverged from fish some 350-450 million years ago, but some of the brain similarities are still there, making sound, for example.”
There are two amygdalas in the subcortext and they control our emotional reactions and threat detection. According to Dr. Hanson, this is key. This part of the brain can be identified in our ancient ancestors , yet it can be trained to become even more highly developed in most humans.
Research has proven that very equanimous people are not numb or apathetic, but can be passionate and angry – it’s just that their emotional responses are controlled. This is caused by the amygdala becoming regulated top down in the cerebral cortex. The alarm bells don’t ring as readily or as loudly, and people recover more rapidly. This is process is aided by oxytocin, informally referred to as the “love hormone”.
How can we actually achieve enlightenment?
According to Dr. Hanson, there are several techniques that can help. He listed four of them:
1) “Repeated internalization of positive emotions” is important, says Hanson. This doesn’t have to be in a “giddy, new age kind of way”, but in authentic ways such as taking pleasure from simple things like friendships or time with our family. You can start a gratitude practice to appreciate even the small things in your life.
2) Labelling emotions also helps. Simply jotting down one word about how your feeling such as “angry”, “competitive” helps us to control our emotions.
3) Stay with a nice moment longer, indulging it in it helps. No need to over analyze, it’s just mental noting.
4) Where focus of attention is concerned, meditation is key by training to mind to focus on your breathe or a particular object. This helps to build up neuro circuits in the anterior cingulate cortex.
5) If striving for virtue and kindness, Dr. Hanson says he likes to practice a technique called “hit and run compassion”, in which a total stranger is chosen on the street, and is secretly and silently wished well for a few seconds.
Is enlightenment simply extreme brain training?
Dr. Hanson says that brain training is how sees it, but it’s important to be clear about the purpose. the neurological signature is a build up of neuro circuits anterior cingulate cortex. “Brain training could also be used to become the world’s greatest sniper. I think the Buddhism journey was motivated by a desire to be free from suffering, as well as emphasizing virtue and kindness.”
The word ‘Buddha’ simply means ‘one who knows’ or ‘one who sees clearly’. So, yes it’s something we’re all capable of having. Dr. Hanson concludes: “Some of us will be more motivated to achieve it than others, just as some people will be more motivated to become great Olympians or football players, but it is achievable. Buddhist psychology maps the best to modern, Western science of any contemplative traditions, because it tends to be at bottom really quite secular. It’s not metaphysical – it’s direct experience based.”
Originally published on The Power of Ideas.