Month: February 2016

The Two Faces of Aging: Cancer and Cellular Senescence

Originally published on Radical Science News.

hela

 

Aging, inflammation, cancer, and cellular senescence are all intimately interconnected. Deciphering the nature of each thread is a tremendous task, but must be done if preventative and geriatric medicine ever hope to advance. A one dimensional analysis simply will not suffice. Without a strong understanding of the genetic, epigenetic, intercellular, and intracellular factors at work only an incomplete picture can be formed. However, even with an incomplete picture useful therapeutics can and are being developed. One face is cancer, a number of diseases characterized by uncontrolled cell division. The other is degradation, which causes a slue of degenerative disorders stemming from deterioration in regenerative capacity.

Now there is a new focus on making Geroprotectors which are a diverse and growing family of compounds that assist in preventing and reversing the unwanted side-effects of aging. Senolytics, a subset of this broad group, accomplish this feat by encouraging the removal of decrepit cells. A few examples include dasatinib, quercetin, and ABT263. Although more research must be done, there are a precious handful of studies accessible to anyone with the inclination to scroll to the works cited section of this article. Those within the life extension community and a few enlightened souls outside of it already know this, but it bears repeating: in the developed world all major diseases are the direct result of the aging process. Accepting this rather simple premise, and you really ought to, should stoke your enthusiasm for the first generation of anti-aging elixirs and treatments. Before diving into the details of these promising new pharmaceuticals, nanotechnology, and gene therapies we must ask what is cellular senescence? What causes it? What purpose does it serve?

Depending on the context in which they are operating a single gene can have positive or negative effects on an organism’s phenotype. Often the gene is exerting both desirable and undesirable influences at the same time. This is called antagonistic pleiotropy. For example, high levels of testosterone can confer several reproductive advantages in youth, but in elderly men can increase their likelihood of developing prostate cancer. Cellular senescence is a protective measure; it is a response to damage that could potentially turn a healthy cell into a malignant one. Understandably, this becomes considerably more complex when one is examining multiple genes and multiple pathways. Identifying all of the players involved is difficult enough. Conboy’s famous parabiosis experiment where a young mouse’s system revived an old ones, shows that alterations in the microenviornment, in this case identified and unidentified factors in the blood of young mice, can have be very beneficial to their elders. Conversely, there is a solid body of evidence that shows senescent cells can have a bad influence on their neighbors. How can something similar be achieved in humans without having to surgically attach a senior citizen to a college freshman?

By halting its own division a senescent cell removes itself as an immediate tumorigenic threat. Yet the accumulation nondividing cells is implicated in a host of pathologies including, somewhat paradoxically, cancer, which as any actuary’s table will show is yet another bedfellow of the second half of life. The single greatest risk factor for developing cancer is age. The Hayflick Limit is well known to most people who have ever excitedly watched the drama of a freshly inoculated petri dish. After exhausting their telomeres cells stop dividing. Hayflick et. al astutely noted that “the [cessation of cell growth] in culture may be related to senescence in vivo.” Although cellular senescnece is considered irreversible, a select few cells can resume normal growth after the inactivation of the p53 tumor suppressor. The removal of p16, a related gene, resulted in the elimination of the progeroid phenotype in mice. There are several important p’s at play here, but two is enough for now.

Our bodies are bombarded by insults to their resilient but woefully vincible microscopic machinery. Oxidative stress, DNA damage, telomeric dysfunction, carcinogens, assorted mutations from assorted causes, necessary or unnecessary immunological responses to internal or external factors, all take their toll. In response cells may repair themselves, they may activate an apoptotic pathway to kill themselves, or just stop proliferating. After suffering these slings and arrows, p53 is activated. Not surprisingly, mice carrying a hyperactive form of p53 display high levels of cellular senescence. To quote Campisi, abnormalities in p53 and p15 are found in “most, if not all, cancers.” Knocking p53 out altogether produced mice unusually free of tumors, but find themselves prematurely past their prime. There is a clear trade-off here.

In a later experiment Garcia-Cao modified p53 to only express itself when activated. The mice exhibited normal longevity as well as an“unusual resistance to cancer.” Though it may seem so, these two cellular states are most certainly not opposing fates. As it is with oxidative stress and nutrient sensing, two other components of senescence or lack thereof, the goal is not to increase or decrease one side disproportionately, but to find the correct balance between many competing entities to maintain healthy homeostasis. As mentioned earlier, telomeres play an important role in geroconversion, the transformation of quiescent cells into senescent ones. Meta-analyses have shown a strong relationship between short telomeres and mortality risk, especially in younger people. Although cancer cells activate telomerase to overcome the Hayflick Limit, it is not entirely certain if the activation of telomerase is oncogenic.

 

MMTP

SASP (senescence-associated secretory phenotype) is associated with chronic inflammation, which itself is implicated in a growing list of common infirmities. Many SASP factors are known to stimulate phenotypes similar to those displayed by aggressive cancer cells. The simultaneous injection of senescent fibroblasts with premalignant epithelial cells into mice results in malignancy. On the other hand, senescent human melanocytes secrete a protein that induces replicative arrest in a fair percentage of melanoma cells. In all experiments tissue types must be taken into account, of course. Some of the hallmarks of inflammation are elevated levels of IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-α. Inflammatory oxidative damage is carcinogenic and an inflammatory microenvironment is a good breeding ground for malignancies.

Caloric restriction extends lifespan in part by inhibiting TOR/mTOR (target of rapamycin/mechanistic target of rapamycin, also called  the mammalian target of rapamycin). TOR is a sort of metabolic manager, it receives inputs regarding the availability of nutrients and stress levels and then acts accordingly. Metformin is also a TOR inhibitor, which is why it is being investigated as a cancer shield and a longevity aid. Rapamycin has extended average lifespans in all species tested thus far and reduces geroconversion. It also restores the self-renewal and differentiation capacities of haemopoietic stem cells. For these reasons the Major Mouse Testing Program is using rapamycin as its positive control. mTOR and p53 dance (or battle) with each other beautifully in what Hasty calls the “Clash of the Gods.” While p53 inhibits mTOR1 activity increases p53 activity. Since neither metformin nor rapamycin are without their share of unwanted side effects, more senolytics must be explored in greater detail.

Starting with a simple premise, namely that senescent cells rely on anti-apoptotic and pro-survival defenses more than their actively replicating counterparts, Campisi and her colleagues created a series of experiments to find the “Achilles’ Heel” of senescent cells. After comparing the two different cell states, they designed senolytic siRNAs. 39 transcripts selected for knockdown by siRNA transfection, 17 affected the viability of their target more than healthy cells. Dasatinib, a cancer drug, and quercitin, a common flavonoid found in common foods, have senolytic properties. The former has a proven proclivity for fat cell progenitors, and the latter is more effective against endothelial cells. Delivered together they they remove senescent mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Administration into elderly mice resulted in favorable changes in SA-BetaGAL (a molecule closely associated with SASP) and reduced p16 RNA. Single doses of D+Q together resulted in significant improvements in progeroid mice.

If you are not titillated yet, please embark on your own journey through the gallery of encroaching options for those who would prefer not to become chronically ill, suffer immensely, and, of course, die miserably in a hospital bed soaked with several types of their own excretions―presumably, hopefully, those who claim to be unafraid of death have never seen this image or naively assume they will never be the star of such a dismal and lamentably “normal” final act. There is nothing vain about wanting to avoid all the complications that come with time. This research is quickly becoming an economic and humanitarian necessity. The trailblazers who move this research forward will not only find wealth at the end of their path, but the undying gratitude of all life on earth.

Blagosklonny, M. V. (2013). Rapamycin extends life-and health span because it slows aging. Aging (Albany NY), 5(8), 592.

Campisi, Judith, and Fabrizio d’Adda di Fagagna. “Cellular senescence: when bad things happen to good cells.” Nature reviews Molecular cell biology8.9 (2007): 729-740.

Campisi, Judith. “Aging, cellular senescence, and cancer.” Annual review of physiology 75 (2013): 685.

Hasty, Paul, et al. “mTORC1 and p53: clash of the gods?.” Cell Cycle 12.1 (2013): 20-25.

Kirkland, James L. “Translating advances from the basic biology of aging into clinical application.” Experimental gerontology 48.1 (2013): 1-5.

Lamming, Dudley W., et al. “Rapamycin-induced insulin resistance is mediated by mTORC2 loss and uncoupled from longevity.” Science335.6076 (2012): 1638-1643.

LaPak, Kyle M., and Christin E. Burd. “The molecular balancing act of p16INK4a in cancer and aging.” Molecular Cancer Research 12.2 (2014): 167-183.

Malavolta, Marco, et al. “Pleiotropic effects of tocotrienols and quercetin on cellular senescence: introducing the perspective of senolytic effects of phytochemicals.” Current drug targets (2015).

Rodier, Francis, Judith Campisi, and Dipa Bhaumik. “Two faces of p53: aging and tumor suppression.” Nucleic acids research 35.22 (2007): 7475-7484.

Rodier, Francis, and Judith Campisi. “Four faces of cellular senescence.”The Journal of cell biology 192.4 (2011): 547-556.

Salama, Rafik, et al. “Cellular senescence and its effector programs.” Genes & development 28.2 (2014): 99-114.
Tchkonia, Tamara, et al. “Cellular senescence and the senescent secretory phenotype: therapeutic opportunities.” The Journal of clinical investigation123.123 (3) (2013): 966-972.

Zhu, Yi, et al. “The Achilles’ heel of senescent cells: from transcriptome to senolytic drugs.” Aging cell (2015).

Every Brain is a Universe: Ontology, Neurotechnology, and Simulation

Originally published on Serious Wonder.

Neurotechnology is the last frontier. Mind-machine interfaces will initially offer ways to simulate, enhance, and stimulate. In conjunction with quantum computers, however, these interfaces will lead to the resolution of the problem of freewill through a proof of its impossibility or through the painstaking design of a being geniunely endowed with this elusive property, the invention of true artificial intelligence (as well as the mentally directed programming environment needed to make it), and assist in the exploration of some largely forgotten debates in ontology. This line of thought ties in strongly with the simulation hypothesis, since these technologies will, ultimately, allow us to create unique and logically contingent universes we can explore as single entities or, as their creators, revel in the totality of what we have wrought.

Try to remember a time you were without consciousness. Go ahead. I hope you almost immediately realized this is a fool’s errand.

battle of lights brain
JOSEPH STELLA, BATTLE OF LIGHTS, CONEY ISLAND, 1913, OIL ON CANVAS, 195.6 × 215.3 CM (77 × 84.75 IN), YALE UNIVERSITY ART GALLERY, NEW HAVEN, CT

Since the evolution of what is widely considered sentience human beings have searched for ways to augment or alter their perception and cognition. By observation alone one should realize the last word in the preceding sentence, reviled for years thanks to the Skinnerian stranglehold on the discipline, is the cornerstone of psychology. To dismiss it was foolish, though less foolish than it is to dismiss it now. Consciousness should be of great concern to all because it sets the pace and tone for every moment of our lives. For all intents and purposes, it is our life. It is our morning oatmeal, the joy of rumination, the ecstasy of victory, the caress of another’s lips, the source of sensations even poets struggle to describe. It does not faithfully store our memories; it actively remodels them depending on how and when they are retrieved. Ontology is a subfield of both philosophy and information science. Although seemingly dissimilar, the latter lends a tangible framework to analyzing the former.The human brain is a small organ capable of receiving and generating an infinite number of unique experiences. Yet as phenomenal as this may seem, our inner worlds, as rich and varied as they are, all arise from similar hardware. Hardware we largely share with birds, reptiles, other mammals, fish, and, to a significantly lesser extent, invertebrates. In spite of the seemingly limitlessness of what a brain can do, stemming from mundane combinatorics, there are fleshy ceilings imposed by biology. Moreover, many of the things it can do, like rendering a dancing 8 bit Santa Claus sliding down a hyperrealistic mound of writhing rectangular raccoons, are not particularly profound or prized. Here I am not referring to anything quantative, not to the brain’s seemingly impoverished calculating faculties when compared to an ordinary desktop computer, but to the qualitative properties of the nervous system when it is functioning “normally.” While it is almost impossible at this time to conceive of nervous systems radically different than our own, it is likely they will, at some point, be invented by augmented humans or by artificial intelligence. By throwing a wrench into the machine, in the form of an exogenous molecule or endogenous chemical changes induced by an activity,dasein changes rapidly. While a pint of stout will probably not lead to any personal revelations, a modest dose of LSD may.

Yes, there are countless similar, as well as very different, physical configurations, including ones bereft of carbon, that could give birth to consciousness, but let us forego that intimidating train of thought for a paragraph or two. Phantom limbs illustrate an important, undeniable, but unfortunately counterintuitive fact about existence. When a body part is lost it may not vanish from the nervous system’s master map. The amputated arm or leg continues to sweat, itch, writhe, and rest.  As any thoughtful person should see, this is more than a tidbit of medical trivia. Although measurement can tell us about an object’s mass, density, etc, the way they feel to their owners is entirely in their brain. In Gestalt and Ericksonian therapies a patient may be asked to identify with an inanimate object. Far from an eccentric technique spawned from the excesses of the sixties, it can occasionally lead to dramatic breakthroughs. It should not be hard to see how major departures from the familiar can facilitate creative resolutions. A little bit of reflection should lead one to conclude time, space, and all other categories of perception are highly unstable. Our bodily awareness is attached to reality by a slender thread.

On a warm Florida night a lad of sixteen smoked a sizeable dose of salvia divinorum on his friend’s back porch before transforming into a dinosaur-rocking chair-man viewing himself from the outside, all while becoming intimately acquainted with what it means to be wooden. At once he was the object and the subject, observer and the observed! With this same entheogen others have reported spending years as articles of furniture or, even more mind-numbingly, as completely ordinary people. I once spoke to a fellow who spent nearly a decade as a blue collar worker in contemporary Texas over the course of fifteen of our earthly minutes. Identity is synonymous with a locus of control. When someone mentions their own consciousness they are usually referring to this place of illusory agency. What is generally called the self is thought of as a static entity. It is a mutable thing that holds together an arbitrary collection of preferences and opinions.The locus defines consciousness. It is the mark that assigns other marks to all our behaviors in order to maintain the image it keeps of itself in relation to its contents, which is why it is so prone to retroactively justifying impulse buys.

At this time there is no proof anyone has free will. Some highly regarded academics, like the physicist Roger Penrose, have tried to debunk determinism. Given the preponderance of fixed action patterns one finds in our species, this seems like a silly assertion. Even if microtubules give higher animals some freedom, on a practical level it is obvious this freedom could be enhanced. Conceptual blending offers endless amusement and discovery. When we think of an angry desk, a feeling, likely different than any other we have had before, is elicited. What about an angry desk made of Ibsen-reading chocolate pudding wombats? There is no limit to the subtlety of our contemplations, besides our almost obsolete wetware. From the refinement of our minds and the acceleration in our communications will come an intellectual explosion unlike any other. We do not, and will not, need to process only one or two thoughts at a time. The mechanisms of the unconscious can be augmented. Access to a collective unconscious in the form of a quantum mainframe or global neuronetwork would be one way of exponentially expediting this process. Such an enhanced being could create a universe populated by other self-aware agents endowed with freewill. It could materialize itself as a single resident within its artificial world or, having no limits on how many sensations it could take in or thoughts it could put out, experience its expanding creation in its entirety. Although I am not a strong proponent of the simulation hypothesis, it is possible all of what is called reality is the toy of such a being. It is even more likely we will become the progenitors of such systems.

A sufficiently advanced civilization could manipulate matter at the most infinitesimal of scales. This means our universe may not be a simulation, but a blob on the table of a physics laboratory. Even with these wonders it is likely humans will never completely lose themselves. Their sense of “I” will be greatly enlarged, but it will not vanish. Even with total automation, people will have lives outside of their mind-enhancing toys. It is disturbing to wonder if a superdimensional entity experimenting with a series of procedural generation algorithms could be responsible for our balanced but amoral cosmos. It would require genius of the highest order to design the initial cosmic egg or framework that would give birth in turn to physics, chemistry, and biology. As astonishing and bizarre as it sounds, this sort of unfathomable brilliance is not far away.

Works CitedBaars, Bernard J. In the Theater of Consciousness: The Workspace of the Mind. New York: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.

Erickson, Milton H., Ernest Lawrence Rossi, and Sheila I. Rossi. Hypnotic Realities: The Induction of Clinical Hypnosis and Forms of Indirect Suggestion. New York: Irvington, 1976. Print.

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. New York: Harper, 1962. Print.

Jacquette, Dale. Ontology. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2002. Print.

Perls, Frederick S. Gestalt Therapy; Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality. New York: Julian, 1951. Print.

Photo Credit: Joseph Stella

Neurotechnology and the Future of Art

Originally published on Radical Science News

Deep_brain_stimulation_electrode_placement_reconstruction

 

Mind-machine interfaces, the decoding of the brain’s workings, and other unforeseen advances in neurotechnology will usher in a creative explosion unparalleled in all history. It has implications for music, literature, and how, on the most basic levels, reality is experienced. Through future apparatuses ancient questions about aesthetics can be resolved or, at the very least, be brought closer to resolution. In general humanity is guilty of overestimating the breadth of its knowledge and underestimating the depth of its intelligence. Cultures throughout history have reflected this habit by placing more emphasis on the former than the latter. In many ways humanity has failed to progress beyond its Paleolithic propensities because it runs in circles; it attacks the same problems in the same ways, mistakenly believing novel thoughts can spring from the same sorts of brains, underestimating the extent to which culture is a byproduct of biology. In the case of thinking one must throw out the baby, the mind itself, with the bathwater.

 

brainwaves

Miranda and Mathias describe an invention called the neurogranular sampler which “works by taking short segments (or sound grains) from sound files and triggering them when any neurons fire.” While this is somewhat primitive to what will spring from it, it demonstrates the basic principle behind playing an instrument without the strain of manual manipulation. It will be possible to record rich compositions and immediately disseminate them. This is stupendous, but this will seem like small potatoes compared to the coming culmination of neurotechnology’s strides. There is no reason we should have only two eyes or two ears or one tongue or even five senses. Likewise, we do not need to be limited to 100 billion neurons. The approaching era is one of unlimited customizability, unbounded imagination, and unfathomable experiments in transcendence. Like any machine the brain can be augmented, upgraded, and even completely overhauled. In a few decades you might be surprised to find specialists in fields as of yet unnamed will be able to transport, duplicate, or in any number of ways modify your mind.

“You think of morality as being a really high-level behavior…to apply (a magnetic field) to a specific brain region and change people’s moral judgments is really astonishing.”

-Liane Young

In Young’s experiment Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) was delivered to the right temporo-parietal junction. Participants were then asked a question to test how the shock had affected their views on morality. In this instance they were given a situation, their girlfriend crossing a bridge unharmed, and asked whether its ethicality should be evaluated based solely on its outcome. This is an ongoing debate in the history of ethics. Consequentialists and utilitarians believe only the effects of an action matter, whereas deontologists, like Kant, place more emphasis on intention and principle. When the RTPJ was disrupted volunteers were more likely to deem a situation “good” based on its outcome. These seem like inalienable parts of ourselves, but they are not. It is possible predilections for horror, fantasy, science fiction, in one way or another, can be pinpointed and induced with comparable efficacy.  It is likely the process will be much more complex, but it is also likely seemingly minor tweaks will result in dramatic alterations to aesthetic sensibilities. Why is it some respond to angry music or Impressionist paintings or movies with talking animals? Neurotech will soon have the answers.

 

transc

 

If the sentence “hotels are horrifyingly existential” is repeated to different listeners very different feelings will be elicited based on their connectome, mood and the background (in the Gestalt sense) on which the message is being imposed. Maybe they think of Unamuno and then cannot help but think of Hemingway’s fondness for bullfights, absurd spectacles put on for empty amusement to delay confronting unpleasantness of everyday life. It may conjure impressions of sleepy Proustian insularity or familial Faulknerian madness or all-encompassing Lovecraftian angst over the limits of what can be known. The phrase “Tolstoy’s corpus” is a single qualia, albeit a very incomplete one to everyone besides Tolstoy scholars. Yet even they have drastically different views of that single picture. In the future perfect qualia clusters, complete and interweaving pictures with conceptual arms shooting out in every direction linking them to cousin clusters, will be readily accessible to all. For what purpose? The expansion of humanity through the enlargement of its constituents. This all sounds wonderful, but how shall it be done? Why should it be done?

Art for art’s sake, when taken too literally, implies there is something intrinsically valuable about a painting, book, or composition. What is intriguing is not sound waves upsetting the insensate air, processed wood material being tattooed with arbitrary symbols, or unwitting canvasses being smeared with pleasing colors, but the feelings they manage to imperfectly convey. The masters manage to more perfectly (or ambiguously) convey their message; this is what keeps them engaging long after their era has passed. While each of Shakespeare’s play has identifiable elements, themes, etc., his collected works present an endless playground to interpreters because of their depth and breadth. As Harold Bloom wrote, “he exists in all languages. He is put on the stage everywhere. Everyone feels that they are represented by him on the stage.” This is probably because Shakespeare did not endlessly revisit, reuse, and ultimately wear out the same set of devices. Ben Jonson was slightly jealous of his contemporary, who wrote, after some of his early abominations, masterpieces with enviable ease. The Bard was a waterfall of creativity. Yet he is not alone. For Mozart writing music by hand was a menial chore. The man, as Robert Greenberg said, carried music around with him the way modern mortals carry around flash drives. There is no chicken and egg problem here. Art is made to convey a message, but the message is there long before it materializes into something intelligible. In spite of its stupendousness and necessity, art today will be viewed in the future as laudable but laughable attempts at telepathic exchange.

 

VR

 

“MindMaze puts your brain into the game.  Never before have neuroscience, virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D full-body motion-capture come together in a games system.  Gamers will be able to see, feel and experience virtual gameplay with absolutely no delay or need for controllers.”

-Dr. Tej Tadi, founder and CEO of MindMaze.

MindMaze detects and accurately predicts brain and muscle activity to trigger in game movement. The technology can be used to train amputees and stroke victims to control prosthetic limbs. This is an impressive amount of precision! Until quite recently art has been passive. Yes, one can lose oneself in a story or piece of music, but one’s involvement does not ultimately change the content of the article itself. Oedipus will pluck his eyes out, Horatio Alger hero’s will be rewarded for his struggles, Mahler will break eardrums, and Spider-Man will save the day. The rise of expansive fictional universes large numbers of people wish to inhabit coupled with the rise of electronic games has lent further support for Hegel’s views on metaphysics and aesthetics. Immersion in these alternative cosmoses has already come of age in the form of video games, however, virtual food and sex are not nearly as satisfying as their corporeal counterparts. True immersion will involve the engagement of all senses. MindMaze is an achievement, and is hopefully a foreshadowing of even more momentous inventions. Immersive Reality will allow Being and Art to develop concomitantly by fusing them together.

It is possible the worlds we and our descendants will be spending portions of our waking hours within will be chess compared to checkers. Perhaps our universe is more appropriately dubbed Snakes and Ladders. Anything that can be perceived by whatever hardware our consciousness will be residing in will be comprehensible and inhabitable. The nasty parts of human nature have remained fairly static, but there is no doubt art has flowered and flourished in spite of all the dreadfulness that has transpired around it. Harold Bloom famously claimed Shakespeare had “invented” the modern world. The veracity of his statement is debatable, but it is clear art has changed and in the process has changed those who enjoy it. Like the sciences, but in a far more personal way, it forces us to rethink and reframe. Its benefits to health and well-being are legion and being attested to by a growing body of peer-reviewed evidence. Hegel’s “cognitivist” view of aesthetics, as it was deemed by later scholars, is broader and more flexible than the viewpoints of his contemporaries, predecessors, and even most of his successors. Art is about evolution, advancement, and enlargement on the personal, national, and global level. Coming back to some of the crudest formulations of aesthetics, those of mimesis, art as a whole mimics the natural world in a profound manner: it evolves.

The desire to complete this essay crystallized when a conversation with Chris Armstrong about poly-beings led to thoughts on the effects a vessel may have on its cargo. The cargo in this context is what is called, for lack of a more expansive term, mind. The vessel, for lack of a less anthropocentric word, is the body, although it needn’t be fleshy, humanoid, or even organic. I set aside the outline until a post by Maria Konovalenko, a well-known figure in life-extension circles, appeared in my feed. It was about the next unit of selection. After all, first there were genes, then organisms (assuming you do not subscribe to the hyper-reductionist view), and now memes. What will follow? How will selection take place? None of the units listed completely supplanted their predecessors, mind you, so will the next one truly dethrone the others? As a number of epistemologists and AI luminaries have said, ours is not the only possible kind of mind.

Thus, as one would expect, a common answer to her question was self-improving AI or AGI. Allegedly this will be final invention of our species. There are surely many other ways to construct a system that gives birth to the dreaded C word. In a world in which brains are interfacing more closely with hardware than ever it seems inevitable that familiar ways of relating to one’s “surroundings” will change. Interaction steadily will lead to increasingly intimate forms of symbiosis in the forms of AR, VR, and IR. One could call the next unit of selection memetic because it will be mentalistic, but both adjectives here fail to do it justice. To dwell on memes for too long distracts from a more important endeavor, which is learning how to bundle, tailor, and manage them to create better head space for ourselves. Selection will not only take place in forms of consciousness, but networks of entities possessing it, enormous arrays of multiple mega-clusters; not just in clumps of interconnected minds, but in the ways these sprawling swarms are managed. The final unit of selection will be Being itself. What this will mean in twenty or two hundred years can only be speculated upon.

Works Cited

Brady, Paul. “MindMaze Introduces Thought-Powered Virtual Reality Game System.” — SAN FRANCISCO, March 4, 2015 /PRNewswire/ —. PRNEWSWIRE, 4 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 Jan. 2016.

Graham, Gordon. Philosophy of the Arts: An Introduction to Aesthetics. London: Routledge, 1997. Print

Miranda, Eduardo R., and John Matthias. “Music Neurotechnology for Sound Synthesis.”

A.J. Rocke (1985). “Hypothesis and Experiment in Kekulé’s Benzene Theory”. Annals of Science 42 (4): 355–81. doi:10.1080/00033798500200411. Jump up ^

Young, Liane, et al. “Disruption of the right temporoparietal junction with transcranial magnetic stimulation reduces the role of beliefs in moral judgments.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107.15 (2010): 6753-6758.