We are at a point where there is a need to consider what it will require to more fully
humanize the engineering, technology, and science involved in mind/brain
research. We are on the verge of virtualizing our experience, so thoroughly, and
completely, that we risk losing essential aspects of our very humanity because
we do not fully understand or appreciate them.
Successive iterations of so-called “human-enhancement technology” threaten to render us less human,
notwithstanding their intended effects. The more immersive and far-reaching are the virtual realities we create, the more we can come to lose crucial parts of
ourselves. Because we fail to identify them, they are absent from our
Science and technology are delivering new systems of artificial intelligence at a pace
which is bringing our brains and machines toward a point of no return. Because
we inhabit our technology, and it transforms who and what we are, it is
imperative for us to comprehend the difference between the physical connections
comprising the brain and nervous system and the embodied, extended, and
networked intelligence of the human mind.
Most of what we experience is a creation, assembled from internal states of memory
and association. This rich texture of experiential knowledge suffuses our
sensorium and comprises the texture, tone, timber, and resonant qualities of our
More information flows from within us to our sensory centers than information from the outside
world. As little as one-tenth of the neural responses to a visual experience
actually originate in the object in the perceptual field – the rest flow from
pre-formed memories, models, and stored “engrams’ of experience. And many of
these patterns originated in the DNA of other, long-extinct species and
Living minds are rooted in the ancient past experience and genetic intelligence of
millions of years of earthly evolution. And these lives are similarly enmeshed
in the biosphere, with which they share many interrelated functions.
We are involved in a field of endless looping feedback. Our minds contain vast interlocking
chambers of consciousness, most of which are operating below the level of
awareness. As such, studying them, in order to reproduce them, is a massive
undertaking. We are at the threshold of this kind of understanding, and it is already
clear that the root causes of our behavior and the vast majority of our mental
processes are unconscious, and perhaps beyond our ability to decipher.
Entwined within binding cultural ties, we are also entangled with each other in our
actual lives – echoing, magnifying, experiencing, language, body rhythms, and
emotions, while mirror neurons reflect our own states of mind back to us
through the eyes and minds of others.
The kind of one-way communication of much artificial intelligence, computer simulation,
and virtual reality, creates a shallow simulacrum of human mentation and
experience. This does not reduce the significance of the machine mind, but it must
be described in its own terms – not those of human, animal, or other forms of
We are all needed here…all of our human ways of knowing the world, our rich texture
of physical experience and visceral emotion, all the associative, poetic,
metaphorical, symbolic, aesthetic energy we bring to our world is responsible for
making it appear to us in just the ways it does – specifically, uniquely, a bit
differently for each of us. There is a great need to humanize the design of our future.
It is far too important to be left only to technicians.
You’re needed here…with all the positive, emotive,
associative, poetic, metaphorical, symbolic aesthetic energy you bring.
Again, there is a great need to humanize these endeavors. This is what art and
Image: “MindFormation” – Tullio, ink drawing, 2012
Sound Program: Futurist Ray Kurzweil interviewed on the Leonard Lopate show