21 December 2007


I've always avoided transhumanism because it's so mycket snack och lite verkstad as we say here on the north pole, pretentious basically, but on recomendation from my supervisor I joined the BetterHumans network to advertise the iPlant. Was surprised to find that wikiing betterhumans took me to an entry that was almost exclusively on George Dvorsky, whose blog Sentient Developments I'd been planning to start reading anyway. Encouraged I started browsing the network.. a decent news section (incl an article on human genetic variation), articles, videos, blogs, and a forum. In the Mind section of the Improve Yourself forum I find myself writing thusly:

Here's a brain implant that will let you program yourself:

Let's define an iPlant as eight arrays of stimulating electrodes that give their user control over the release of dopamine and serotonin in his or her brain (specifically, by regulating electrical activity in the VTA, SNc, dorsal and medial raphe nuclei). As you may know, dopamine determines what we consider important and rewarding, and thus what we feel motivated to do, whereas serotonin has a strong influence on our mood and our ability to re-evaluate.

The idea isn't all that far-fetched - deep brain stimulation has been routine treatment for Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and dystonia for many years now and modifications of the technique for treating epilepsy, cluster headaches, Tourette’s syndrome, minimally conscious states, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression are currently in clinical trials (Kringelbach et al, 2007; Perlmutter & Mink, 2006). Rats with electrodes stimulating their dopaminergic neurons can be programmed to exercise heavily for hours, simply by giving them pulses of dopamine ("reward") whenever they run on a treadmill (Burgess et al, 1991) or lift weights (Garner et al, 1991). Hundreds of papers on this technique have been published and you may have read that DARPA is using it to remote-control rats (Talwar, 2002).

In humans, the technique could be used to treat, say, morbid obesity (by using trainers with sensors in the soles that reward their user with a pulse of dopamine for every step during running), but the possibilities are endless. Learning programs could be designed, in which users are rewarded for every correct answer on a test, thus becoming motivated to carry on learning. The iPlant could be used as a more dynamic replacement for Ritalin and antidepressants, which simply increase concentrations of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Distributed research programs could be formulated, in which scientifically unskilled volunteers can contribute to critical research problems like cancer, HIV, renewable energy and SENS, by using their iPlants to motivate themselves to learn and perform the physical and mental operations of scientific research protocols.

There’s a lot more information about all this on http://www.iPlant.eu, but I need more input, please let me know what you think.

Hmm... ah well, let's see if anyone responds. Now for going to what is agruably the best Korean restaurant in town.

Edit: Excellent! Got a decent-sized email within 10 minutes of posting :)

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