Tl;dr: When our brains get connected to the Internet, we will have the opportunity to get smarter at ever faster rates. What does that mean for each of us and what about those who are left behind in the new ‘digital divide?’
I’ve been going very deep recently in trying to understand the brain, the mind, and consciousness. I am barely scratching the surface, but I am enjoying the process.
If you are interested, I’ve put a list of the book on my current reading list at the end of this post.
I suspect some of this interest comes from my recent presentations on AI and some as a result of my personal efforts in meditation.
Regardless, what I am learning (this part from Kurzweil) is that our minds are optimized by an overarching algorithm that runs across the entire neocortex.
The neocortex is the “new” mammalian brain. It sits on top of the older mammalian brain which, itself, sits on top of the reptilian brain.
Each of us has a neocortex that is comprised of billions and billions of cortical columns. Each column is like one piece of a massive pattern recognition machine. Think of them like lego pieces, assembled with the purpose of helping us make sense of the world.
There is saying that “neurons which fire together, wire together” which means that patterns that repeat are easily identified. That’s why it’s easier to identify your boss than the guy who walked by you in the bathroom the last time you were at the airport.
Simplifying greatly, what this means is that our neocortical algorithms are an assembly of these lego pieces, which have been put together and utilized repeatedly.
Over time, these patterns basically make up our identities. Essentially, the people we are and how we represent ourselves to the world are the aggregation of optimized and repeating patterns.
Most of the time, this is great.
Sometimes it isn’t, particularly when we *think* we recognize a pattern, act accordingly, and then get feedback that we were wrong.
It’s akin to seeing someone from across the room and thinking it’s someone you know. You call their name, only to realize that it isn’t.
That’s a very minor example, but the process (as I understand it) goes something like this.
- First, you encounter a situation (walking into a restaurant)
- Next, your neocortex algorithm identifies a set of patterns (it looks like a fast-food joint)
- You walk up to the counter and read the menu, expecting to place an order (act in accordance with the most likely situation)
- You are told that it’s actually not a real restaurant, but a lifelike exhibit built for a movie set.
- You take the feedback (gather data) from the experience
- You update your algorithm (not ALL places that look like fast food joints are actually restaurants).
This may feel like a silly example, but I think this is what happens.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
More Inputs, Better Algorithms
As I shared last week in Virtual Kidnappings and the Advent of Neural Ransomware, the era of Computer-Brain Interfaces (CBIs) is rapidly approaching.
When that happens, there will be a world of people using the equivalent of 56k dial-up modems in their homes/offices and a world of people using Gigabit connections…. directly to and from their brains.
While obvious pattern recognition anomalies (the terrorist attacks of September 11th or a Trump election win) will update everyone’s algorithms, the difference will lie in the more subtle, nuanced situations.
Normally, we can only process a few pieces of data in a given experience (time, weather, speed of the car — whatever).
With a CBI, backed up in the cloud, however, we’ll process millions of pieces of information about each experience.
You’ll know how many cars were on the road, how many birds were in the sky, what color the lights were, how many pedestrians were on the sidewalks and how many people were in the cafes.
This may seem unnecessary, but the Big Data/AI revolution is all about this. It’s just that we’ll have access to all of that with the purpose of improving, updating, and optimizing the neocortical algorithm.
When this starts to happen, the feedback loops (time from new input to the updated algorithm) will speed up, making the CBI-enabled people smarter, faster.
Plus, the algorithms will get better and better, able to identify ever more unique patterns, giving the owner the capability to make smarter decisions.
Or, for me, in the case of a social situation, avoid putting my foot in my mouth as my neocortical algorithm recognizes that this particular person won’t like the joke that I am about to tell, so I’d better shut up.
There could be a “digital divide” between CBI and non-CBI-enabled people at some point in the future.
It’s the difference between an iOS update every year and an iOS update every minute….but for your brain.
I’m not sure what to make of all of this, but it is absolutely fascinating and not without its concerns as well.
Mind/Brain/Consciousness Books on my Reading List
- How to Create a Mind Ray Kurzweil
- Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work
- Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills
- The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being
- Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI
- The Untethered Soul
The Faster You Update Your Brain, the Smarter You Become was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.