Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Entanglement of left and right brain

Humans seem to survive with two opposite personalities in their brain. The left and right hemispheres of the brain accumulate and process data differently - it is almost like two different people are living inside the same context, simultaneously. In most cases, it appears one or the other dominates unilaterally and consistently, providing an unchanging outward personality. In a limited number of cases, humans seem to be able to switch back and forth, demonstrating different personalities and thought processes - perhaps one at work and the other at home.

An entanglement of the left and right brain could provide humans a higher context. The left brain, typically analytical and precise, battles constantly the right, shy and holistic. The left, a master at tactics do not typically yield to strategy, that appears squishy and undefined. The time lag that comes with the tenuous hardware connection between the two often leads to confusion - and sometimes to diseases.

But if one could get the two sides entangled, perhaps thoughts and ideas could be transmitted without a loss in time. If so, humans could have an integrated brain - that combines tactics with strategy, precision with uncertainty, optimization with satisfaction, utilitarianism with emotion, wealth with knowledge, ideas with processes, bad with good, past with future, ignorance with science, technology with ordinary decisions, insurance with health of the populace, board rooms with manufacturing plants, teachers with students, Washington with the heartland, East with the West, business with academics, politicians with those who run away from it, the guy with beautiful artificial hair and the hairless, those who spent millions to make their skin look better before heading out to the red carpet with those who do not have enough for dinner.

Entangle two sides of your brain. If so, you could propel humanity further.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Poop for depression

It has long been known that the microbiome has a significant influence on the human brain. Now more tactical observations (1) confirm that certain missing species in the gut could lead the host to depression. This is an important finding that may lower brain research to focus on lower parts of the body.

The gut has been an unavoidable and most important aspect of large biological systems including humans. There they converted plant and animal matter to energy, powered their ever agreeable computer and went to work. Most systems had very efficient designs of the brain, just capable of keeping their mechanical systems that controlled the body in tune. Then the freak, human, showed up, with significant excess capacity in an organ that tends to get bored. However, the small ones in the gut always held the strings. It is possible that they are using the quantum computer upstairs for research, without the knowledge of the host.

Fecal transplant seems to solve many problems and lately CNS issues, including depression. The predictive power of microbiome on the occurrence and amelioration of human disease states is higher than what can be done with the compendium of medical knowledge based on foreign chemical agents. In fact, chemical agents that destroy the microbiome, albeit being able to show short term benefits, lead to long term deleterious effects on the system. Antibiotics certainly fall into this category. More importantly, these agents seem to have accelerated the decline of beneficial bacteria while simultaneously increasing the potency of the bad ones.

Medicine may need to focus on, not on the host, but what the host carries. The later, perhaps accounting for over half of the live cells in the system, appears to control almost everything including the host's brain.


(1) https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/02/evidence-mounts-gut-bacteria-can-influence-mood-prevent-depression

Friday, February 8, 2019

Mirror, Mirror... Who is the smartest?

News (1) that a tiny reef fish can recognize itself in the mirror may have implications for how intelligence is defined, consciousness is understood and ultimately, how the contemporary darling of humans - "artificial intelligence," progresses out of hype and confusion. Humans, endowed with a massive quantum computer with almost infinite capacity, appear incompetent compared to life forms with limited resources. Assessment of intelligence has to consider both the output as well as the endowment - it has to be a ratio of these metrics. More tactically for humans, "IQ," has to be a function of initial conditions afforded to the individual, exhibiting intelligence. Biased standardized tests and IQ tests do not have a clue how this works.

A new measurement is sorely needed. Across the animal kingdom, if output is measured against brain endowment, humans are likely going to bring up the rear. It is apt, as they have been trying to burn the Oxygen out of their greenhouse before they suffocate, erect walls and hatred and smash a beautiful planet down, at the first opportunity. This is clearly not signs of intelligence, far from it. Recognizing self is an important leap in the intelligence spectrum. If a biological entity could do that with few brain cells, it would point to major pitfalls in our understanding of IQ. Self awareness is a necessary (but not necessarily sufficient) condition for consciousness. If we ultimately find aggregate consciousness across species is approximately the same, it will be damning for the human ego.

If consciousness can be replicated with few q-bits, as in the case of the reef fish, it may also mean that humans are on a wrong tangent toward "artificial intelligence." It would not matter if companies have infinite computing resources, that will not be sufficient to create intelligence. As the hardware, search and operating system giants have found out by repeated experiments, hooking up infinite processors and computers do not lead to "intelligence." It will certainly burn a hole in your clients' quarterly budgets but nothing beyond that. And, the ".ai" companies with stars in their eyes, doing everything to change the world, will do much less.

Let's learn from the reef fish - minimize resources and maximize output. That's the definition of intelligence.


(1) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-tiny-reef-fish-can-recognize-itself-in-a-mirror/

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Universal mathematics

Recent news (1) that honeybees can add and substract using colored symbolic representations, indicates that mathematics is a more fundamental concept, integral to any entity. For a biological system to survive and thrive, it appears that the conceptualization of symbolic representations and arithmetic are necessary conditions. It may have broader implications for those seeking life outside Earth. If life is Carbon based, it is possible that they will share a common mathematical language, regardless of the state of their evolution.

The physical discontinuity that led to mass extinctions 65 million years ago on Earth and sent the remaining biological diversity on a tangent, may have resulted in a slower than typical progression on mathematical capabilities. If Honeybees could have performed arithmetic 300 million years before humans arrived, it is possible that the survivors are less competent in conceptualization and symbolic representation. If so, extraterrestrial life is likely substantially more advanced in mathematics. The beauty of math, as a language, is that it is backward compatible. The advanced species, thus, will be able to recognize the crude conceptualization and arithmetic that humans are currently specializing in.

If the current constraints on space-time hold true (which is unlikely), physical transport across coordinates of possible life will be impossible. Assuming we got this reasonably correct, an advanced entity elsewhere will try to communicate using only mathematics and not rigid constraints such as languages. Voyager is carrying recordings of languages from around the world on the premise that when ET picks it up, they will be thrilled by English or Arabic. It is unlikely. Human languages are not backward compatible nor are they mathematically reducible. It is an accumulation of errors, an inelegant misrepresentation of beautiful math. More cynically, the human brain appears to be mathematical in operation, not in use. An advanced entity may ultimately be able to connect directly with the hardware but not to the carrier of it.

Is there free will?

(1) https://www.inverse.com/article/53065-can-bees-do-math-wtf




Saturday, February 2, 2019

Options for the blue planet

As the policy makers try hard to curtail the options left for the tiny blue dot based on ignorance and ego, there could still be a few left for humanity to consider. The planet appears to be sick and is under constant threat from space, both intra and extrasolar. Any external observer to this closed system is unlikely to bet on its survival. The existential threats to humanity fall largely into two buckets - a slow environmental deterioration that will lead to massive biological extinctions with an anticipated culmination and a catastrophic event that will wipe it out from the vast universal map.

So, what options are left? On the former, most scientists and policy-makers are focused on curtailing greenhouse emissions. It is a bit like studying how brakes work on an automobile that is falling down the mountain slope. Policies that incrementally curtail emissions will do nothing - that time has long passed. Data will show that it was never a reliable option -just an academic notion and a feel-good exercise. The only option is a technological leap - an invention that can substantially change the composition of the greenhouse we all breathe in, within a decade. This is fundamentally a material science and energy problem. If we get the best minds focused on it, we can certainly solve it. It is a waste of time trying to influence the nincompoops in the nation's capital and elsewhere.

On the later, the space agency has been a disappointment. Packed with a bimodal distribution of engineers, some very old and some very young,  they have completely missed the boat. The older ones want to make rockets and land on nearby planets. The younger ones with stars in their eyes want to time travel. Neither is going to be helpful in any way on an impending threat of collision with a large-sized body. Here again, the only option is a technological leap. Engineers have a tendency to rely on what they know, such as exploding an approaching asteroid with a nuclear bomb. What they need to focus on are inventions that will render the status-quo obsolete. Universities, money hungry machines, have not been helpful in teaching the next generation what is really important. The professors seek tenures, the administrators seek handouts and the students seek degrees with irrelevant rankings and stamps.

It is truly a comedy. As they run faster and faster like hamsters on a treadmill with no end goal, humans have to wonder how they can break out of the shackle.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Chicago constant

Professor Hubble of Chicago proposed and measured a single number, with such broad implications that a century later we are still trying to figure it out (1). The fate of the universe, no less, rests on the thoughts of a singular individual from the Southside. Candles and CMB seem to disagree so closely that God should be chuckling as She let the humans seek unattainable truth as they vanish. But the accomplishments of a single individual, Hubble, cannot be underestimated.

The engineers got LIGO and those who do not have access, simpler ideas. Could we not understand if we expand into darkness or simply converge back into heat and fury? Could we not understand that an ailing World, a spec in the universe, does not matter? Could we not understand that the short horizons we are afforded are so ephemeral that counting money and power are useless? Could we not understand walls and hatred do not solve problems? Could we not understand only those hypotheses that are well supported by "grants," are proved and the rest not. Could we not understand that outcomes are mostly based on initial conditions and not capabilities, competence or assertions?

A single number, invented by an advanced human being, hangs in the balance. It is ironic.

(1) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-universes-fate-rests-on-the-hubble-constant-mdash-which-has-so-far-eluded-astronomers1/#googDisableSync

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The importance of language

A recent study (1) that shows the individual's language preferences could affect what she sees is interesting. But more importantly, one has to wonder if disparate languages drive the apparent cultural, social and policy differences across the globe. If so, that will be unfortunate.

Complex language, apparently the only differentiating quality of the human animal, has gotten them far. They could communicate thoughts, innovate, memorize and survive in the Savannah. They have been creative, perhaps starting in clicks and music and progressing toward more complex structures. In the modern context, languages seem to share common roots in Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, and Afro-Asiatic with a few unusual divergences in the Pacific and South India. But the larger three streams of language progression appear to be distinctly different in architecture, specialization, and use. If the general hypothesis that language shapes one's comprehension is true, we may have separated ourselves into three different worlds (not to mention smaller ones in the Pacific and South India), purely by chance.

The human brain has been trying to cope with language forever. Language is an unnatural leap for the animal and the brain could not have coped with the idea without great effort. Reinforcement learning would have led the three cohorts of humans into a higher and higher association of language with outcomes. Thus, they would likely reject observations from outside that do not fit. Their science, religion, closely follows with few cultural variations. And, their organizational philosophy, objective functions, and expectations have diverged significantly.

A technology that integrates the three distinctly different streams of language could be a necessary condition for humans to make the next leap.

(1) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/our-language-affects-what-we-see/

Monday, January 21, 2019

Is this what we really want?

Recent news (1) that a single digital photograph could predict genetic diseases, demonstrates where humans are heading.  Now, not only hardware but also behavior (2) is predictable. We are fast approaching a regime in which both a newborn's lifespan and her expected contribution to society are predictable at birth. This has broad implications for policy.

It is important to revisit the human objective function. What exactly are we trying to maximize?. Are we trying to maximize societal utility - aggregate happiness of 7.4 billion people across the world? Are we trying to segregate and locally optimize? If so, are we considering time as an axis? Without such a notion, tactical optimization is likely to fail.

In a regime where an individual's expected contributions are predictable, a utilitarian society could cull and advance at the expense of humanity. Mathematics could override emotions and ultimately, humans. Is this what we really want? More fundamentally, is a human an aggregation of her memories? If so, are those memories valuable in the context of a societal objective function?

It appears that it ultimately comes down to what humans want to maximize. A planet spinning in distress could go on for another 4 billion years but more likely will be eliminated by an asteroid collision in significantly less time. If so, should we not attempt to maximize tactical happiness? Should we not attempt to lift 7.4 billion from distress and sorrow? Why do few humans with immense resources not understand the construct of the universe?

It is certainly depressing, but then it has always been.

(1)https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/01/artificial-intelligence-could-diagnose-rare-disorders-using-just-photo-face

(2) https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/01/people-can-predict-your-tweets-even-if-you-aren-t-twitter