#54. A Summary of ‘The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind’ by Michio Kaku

the_future_of_the_mind_michio_kaku

‘The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind’ by Michio Kaku (Doubleday; February 25, 2014)

Table of Contents:

i. Introduction/Synopsis

PART I: A CRASH COURSE IN WHAT WAS KNOWN OF THE HUMAN BRAIN LEADING UP TO THE BRAIN-IMAGING REVOLUTION OF THE 1990’S

Section A: The Evolution of the Brain

1. The Evolution of the Brain: From the Reptilian Brain to the Human Brain

  • 1a. The Reptilian Brain
  • 1b. The Mammalian Brain
  • 1c. The Human Brain

Section B: Different Functions in Separate Areas of the Human Brain

2. The Two Hemispheres of the Brain

  • 2a. Left to Right, Right to Left
  • 2b. The Motor Cortex

3. The Asymmetrical Brain

  • 3a. The Language Centers of the Brain: Broca’s Area and Wernicke’s Area
  • 3b. Left-Brained Vs. Right-Brained
  • 3c. Miscellaneous Functions in the Brain

4. Neurons and Connections

PART II: THE BRAIN-IMAGING REVOLUTION, AND THE RECENT ADVANCES IN NEUROSCIENCE (AND A PRELUDE OF WHAT IS TO COME NEXT)

Section C: The Brain-Imaging Revolution

5. MRI and fMRI (and Other Brain Imaging Technologies)

  • 5a. MRI and fMRI
  • 5b. Other Brain-Imaging Technologies

6. Advances in Brain-Probing Technology

  • 6a. Transcranial Electromagnetism
  • 6b. Optogenetics

7. Advances in Brain-Therapy Technology

Section D: Recent Advances in Neuroscience (and a Prelude of What Is to Come Next)

8. Telepathy: The Ability to Read Thoughts, Scenes, Dreams, and Imaginings

  • 8a. Mind Reading
  • 8b. Recreating Scenes, Dreams and Imaginings

9. Telekinesis: Using the Brain to Control Computers

10. The Remembering Brain

  • 10a. How Memory Works
  • 10b. Manipulating Memory

i. Eliminating a Memory
ii. Uploading and Downloading Memories

11. Boosting Memory and Intelligence

  • 11a. Boosting Memory
  • 11b. Boosting Intelligence

PART III: THE FUTURE OF THE MIND: FROM BRAIN RESEARCH TO ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Section E: The Brain Projects

12. The Human Brain Project

13. The BRAIN Initiative

Section F. Artificial Intelligence

14. The State of AI

15. Where AI Is Heading

  • 15a. Artificial Intelligence and Neural Networks
  • 15b. Robots with Value Systems and Emotions

i. Robots with Value Systems
ii. Robots with Emotions

  • 15c. Robots with Self-Awareness

16. Conclusion

Appendix: Michio Kaku’s ‘Space-Time Theory of Consciousness’

  • a. Introduction
  • b. Level 0 Consciousness
  • c. Level I Consciousness
  • d. Level II Consciousness
  • e. Level III Consciousness

 i. Introduction/Synopsis

Up until 15 to 20 years ago the instruments and methods used to study the brain were still somewhat primitive. Since this time, however, advances in brain-imaging and brain-probing technology have gone into overdrive—as have the computers needed to make sense of the data coming out of these technologies. The deluge began in the early to mid 1990’s with the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, and it’s more powerful cousin the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, and it hasn’t stopped there. In addition to the MRI and fMRI, we now have a host of advanced imaging and probing technologies from the positron emission topography (PET) scan, to magnetoencephalography (MEG), to near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), to optogenetics, to the Clarity technique, to the transcranial electromagnetic scanner (TES), to deep brain stimulation (DBS) and more. In addition to these new imaging and probing technologies we have also advanced greatly in understanding how genes are expressed in the brain.

The result of these new advances is that we have learned more about the brain and how it works in the past 15 years than in all of history put together. And we are beginning to see real-world applications of this new understanding. For example, in the past decade scientists have learned to read the brain’s functioning to the point where they can now read (and recreate) thoughts and even dreams and imaginings directly from the brain; use the brain to directly control computers, and anything computers can control—including prosthetics (and even have these prosthetics send sensations back to the brain); implant and remove simple memories in the brain; create primitive versions of artificial brain structures; and also unravel at least some of the mysteries of mental illness and disease.

And this is just the beginning. Scientists continue to refine the scanners and probes that have recently been invented. What’s more, governments are beginning to put up real money to fund major projects designed to help solve the remaining mysteries of the mind. For example, in 2013 both the United States and the European Union announced significant funding for two ambitious projects whose ultimate goal is to give a full map, model and even simulation of the human brain. Specifically, the American government contributed over $3 billion to the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, while the European powers contributed over $1.5 billion to the Human Brain Project.

What this means is that we can look forward to a time when some of the early advancements we’ve made in understanding and manipulating the brain will reach full maturity. A time when we will interact with computers directly with our thoughts (and paraplegics will power exoskeletons directly with theirs); a time when we can share our thoughts, memories, dreams, and imaginings directly with others; a time when we can upload knowledge and skills directly into our brains; a time when we will have a full understanding of mental illness and disease—and the power to cure them.

And not only does the future of neuroscience promise these great feats, it also promises to help us develop the coping stone of all technologies: artificial intelligence. Indeed, while artificial intelligence has progressed in leaps and bounds in recent years, it still remains fairly limited. A big part of this has to do with the fact that we have modeled our artificial intelligence systems based on how we think the mind should work, rather than on how it actually works. With our new knowledge of how the mind does work, however, the prospect of creating AI machines with human-level intelligence becomes ever more real.

Here is Michio Kaku introducing his new book:

What follows is a full executive summary of Michio Kaku’s The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind.

PART I: A CRASH COURSE IN WHAT WAS KNOWN OF THE HUMAN BRAIN LEADING UP TO THE BRAIN-IMAGING REVOLUTION OF THE 1990’S

Before the advent of advanced imaging and probing technologies scientists studied the brain using 3 main methods: 1) dissecting the brains of humans and other animals and comparing them; 2) dissecting the brains of brain-damaged victims to probe for the cause of their mental deficits (and hence piece together which areas of the brain are responsible for which behaviors); and 3) using electrodes to stimulate or disrupt particular areas of the brain to see how this affected behavior (and again, using this to decipher which areas of the brain are responsible for which behaviors) (loc. 287-94). Using these methods, scientists were able to unearth some important truths about the brain.

Section A: The Evolution of the Brain

1. The Evolution of the Brain: From the Reptilian Brain to the Human Brain

For example, at the most general level, scientists were able to piece together the basic evolution of the brain. This was finally accomplished in 1967 by Dr. Paul Maclean working out of the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States (loc. 503).

What MacLean showed is that the brains of species with more complex mental abilities (including mammals, primates, and humans) are not reshaped entirely from what had come before; rather, newer brain structures are built on top of older ones.

1a. The Reptilian Brain

So, for example, mammals, primates and humans are all equipped with the brain structures that make up the brain of a reptile—which brain structures are responsible for elementary mental functions. Take us humans, for example. As Kaku explains, “[MacLean] noticed that the back and center part of our brains, containing the brain stem, cerebellum, and basal ganglia, are almost identical to the brains of reptiles. Known as the ‘reptilian brain,’ these are the oldest structures of the brain, governing basic animal functions such as balance, breathing, digestion, heartbeat, and blood pressure. They also control behaviors such as fighting, hunting, mating, and territoriality, which are necessary for survival and reproduction. The reptilian brain can be traced back about 500 million years” (loc. 507).

The reptilian complex of the human brain is shown here:

reptilian_brain

Source: http://taobabe.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/reptilian-brain.jpg?w=640&h=323

1b. The Mammalian Brain

While reptiles are confined to the reptilian brain, mammals, primates and humans all have additional brains structures built on top of it. These brain structures evolved as the aforementioned animals evolved away from their reptilian forebears. So, for example, all mammals are equipped with a brain structure called the limbic system that sits atop the reptilian brain.

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New Podcast: A Discussion of ‘Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread: The Lessons from a New Science’ by Alex Pentland

social_physics_book_pentland

 

On this episode Cristina and I discuss the new book by Alex Pentland called Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread–The Lessons from a New Science.

Topic of discussion: How digital sensors and big data are revolutionizing the social sciences. Also, a focus on the one social interaction pattern that has been shown to be most effective in generating creativity and productivity in individuals, groups and cities.