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cool idea

merlin's picture

  one of the more striking passages of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein seemed to me  particularly  meaningful in the context of everything we've been talking about this semester. But I then went a step beyond the story and found it relevant after reading the World Wide Mind excerpts and subsequent discussion. 

In chapter 4, victor's character explains: in other studies, you go as far as others have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know; but in a scientific pursuit, there is a continual food for discovery and wonder." I found this statement to be so intriguing that I put it to the test, without even being aware until I reflected upon our discussion with Michael Chorost. 

When he skyped with our class he touched upon two hypotheticals. The first was the vision of using futuristic nano-bot technology to construct and repair inside the human body merely by injection. Later on the discussion evolved into talking about learning and what effect computers would have on us with futuristic use of cyborgian human-computer interfaces. Also discussed was the possibility of computers themselves being able to learn, and the potential to create a system similar in complexity to that of the human brain with it's large number of synapses. Putting these two parts of the discussion together got me thinking about the way in which we learn. 

In the event of learning, the key is repetition. Every time we learn something, neural pathways are altered in the brain. these pathways are made up of nerve cells that communicate through special junctions called synapses. In the process of learning, The synapses increase in efficiency and are better able to pass nerve signals along the path. Say you are learning a new word in a foreign language. You would probably repeat the word a few times and this repetition strengthens the connections, thereby making the signal better able to travel more easily. You could say that the brain is continuously rebuilding itself. 

What if we combined that nano-bot idea to this already understood process by which the human mind is under continuous renovation. Think of the nano-bots as little construction workers who can be sent in to target a certain location, and how cool it would be if they could one day be created and programmed specifically for the purpose of aiding in the brain's large-scale construction project! What if we could just tell them to go in and target a site at which learning is about to take place and begin to accelerate the creation of those neural pathways so that our minds wouldn't require repetition, but rather we could learn anything we waned merely by doing it or reading it or hearing it just once?  They say that we only use a fraction of our mind's full capacity over the course of a lifetime. Perhaps computer technology could allow people to make the most of their brains... Of course such a vision comes with the price of many moral questions. But it is the creation of this novel connection between parts of Michael's discussion which I find most exciting. 

Going back to Victor's quote, I found myself surprised when my very own imaginations started working and how I started having detailed conceptions of where all this technology could one day go. It shows that as Victor's character explains, science continuously allows for the creation of so many things no one has ever conceived of or seen before.  i had taken what others (authors) have written and came up with my very own new vision and pathway for those theories. This allowance for novel creation seems to be one of the greatest beauties of science.




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