Can we end violence? Can we create greater emotional well being and intellectual equality for the greater well being of humanity? Will we be able to keep up with machines? How can we augment our intelligence? Could we cure mental illness? After advancements in aging the next major area of research from a standpoint of eliminating personal and global suffering would be upgrades in intelligence. Transhumanist values at their core want to eliminate suffering and existential risk to people’s lives. With well founded logic, these goals are not completely out of reach, it is possible but as usual, we will have to take the complex issue from many angles and from the standpoint of a systems engineer, but let’s look at some fun stuff before we get into the heavy stuff.
The Benefits of Intelligence Upgrades
So, what is the benefit for intelligence upgrades for every day people? We live in a time of exponential technology and vast amounts of face paced information, breakthroughs and invention. So, the most obvious answer to what is the benefit of intelligence upgrade is dealing with the massive amount of information one needs to keep up with daily to be on top of the game for work, for research or for business. Sometimes it can be our mere storage capacity that limits us in our abilities to interact with this information, at other times it is our processing speed, and most fundamentally the rate at which we can interact with new information. In 2012, a prosthetic chip was invented that uses electrodes to expand one’s memory storage. (1) Now, with biotechnology predicted to move more quickly in 2016 and Google ready to back more companies in biotechnology, it may be possible to augment or program selective photographic memory. This is just an example of what one could imagine and begin working with, when combining electronics and gene editing. Many big breakthroughs in enhanced intelligence could be achieved in the future. The implications for business professionals, scientists, and the progress of technology would be astounding if upgrades like these were available. Personally, I can’t wait for the day when me and my personal A.I. through my Google Glass or some sort of eye wear or ear piece could read my brainwaves so I can type and do all my work through what would be a virtual form of telepathy. I could store everything I will need later instantly in the cloud and exactly where I want on my computer, there would be almost no delay because, well, how could there be? (2) Time is everything.
Adversely imagine if mental health clinics that were more scientifically advanced. What if we could take patients with PTSD and put them in a system like Adobe Premiere Pro but for their memories? Imagine a patient sitting in a chair, watching their memories and editing out the traumatic ones with the help of a trusted professional just by focusing on them and watching them on screen? When it comes to PTSD we know it’s all about the memories, give someone the option to “blank slate” neurons and we’ll be able to cure anyone of any traumatic events from their lives. Memory has always been a question of consciousness until recently when MIT researchers displayed for the first time ever that memories are stored in specific brain cells. This was a major breakthrough and already they know what it will take to develop cures. The solution is gene editing, and the only thing that holds us back in the U.S. for developing these therapies are law. (3)
Genetic Vs. Environmental Influences on Emotional Well Being and Mental Health
Overall, the emotional well being of a human is a complicated matter, there are both environmental and genetic factors at play and with the activation and de-activation of genes that occurs through an organism’s lifetime matters only get more complex. When a toxic environment is presented and and underlying genetic tendency exists, stress can activate the diseased portion of the genetic code of which can become a serious traumatism to an organism during its lifetime. According to The National institute of Health, these five major mental illness’ are directly linked to variations of the same four chromosomal sites, major depression, bipolar disorder, autism, ADHD, and schizophrenia.(4) These major illness all share genetic roots and effect many people a year, for example, “Schizophrenia is a neurological brain disorder that affects 2.5 million Americans and an estimated 40 percent of individuals with the condition are untreated in any given year.” (5) In cases of mental illness, victims of the disease will go through cycles where the individual will go through either long periods without exhibiting behavior related to the genetic disease, or others where they exhibit behavior for long periods of time or short periods of extreme behavior. To show the seriousness of this process, here is an example from “How Genetic Switches Work: Molecular Biology of the Cell.”(6)
See how when a repressor protein is switched off and how easily it can affect an individual who was until then been carrying a nascent code for any disease, mental or otherwise?
and that is not all…
In another study, maybe a scientist’s worst nightmare, James Fallon, a neuroscientist studying what causes psychopathic behavior found he also fit the profile for a psychopath. Psychopathic behavior can lead to many negative behaviors but James had a really great upbringing and home environment, he did not exhibit the explicit behaviors of a psychopath but when scanning his own brain, a similar lack of activity associated with the brain of a psychopath was also found in James.
“Compared to a control brain (top), neuroscientist James Fallon’s brain (bottom) shows significantly decreased activity in areas of the frontal lobe linked to empathy and morality—anatomical patterns that have been linked with psychopathic behavior.” (7) If James had grown up in an environment that was devoid of love, and filled with violence, say a war zone, James could be a much different individual from whom he is today. In cases where violence is exhibited, we can safely say that both environment, and genetics are at play but determining precisely and editing out the psychopath gene entirely in germ cell lines could not only make us smarter but make violent tendencies less prevalent in society.
Now we have an understanding of how violent tendencies are linked to lower IQ and that higher IQ leads to higher emotional intelligence overall. In 2013, a study of 152 Vietnam Veterans were examined for emotional and general intelligence. “The study found significant overlap between general intelligence and emotional intelligence, both in terms of behavior and in the brain.” (8) So, it’s reasonable to assume that emotional intelligence and general intelligence are without any doubt inextricably linked. But is there also a real link between violence and a lack of intelligence?
The answer is yes, there is a definite link, and it is called the IQ/aggression connection. In a study at UT Dallas scientists found that a prison inmate’s IQ, as well as the average IQ of a prison unit played a predicting role in violence and prison misconduct. (9) The lower the average IQ of the unit the more violent outbreaks ensued. If violence is a product low IQ, thus we can conclude that low IQ is an existential risk to all life on earth. When the availability of these treatments become a part of your normal physical/well being check up, systemic issues like war that are created by, low brain activity, psychopathy and genetic pre-dispositions could all but be eliminated.
From a moral standpoint I believe that it is very crucial that if the human race is to live longer that we also upgrade our intelligence and ability to empathize. Before journeying out into space I believe it is our civic duty to upgrade our emotional and intellectual intelligence, especially now that we know they are so intertwined. An updated review of the Drake Equation shows that the chances of finding advanced civilizations are actually much higher than we expected. (10) So if we are to journey out into space we must upgrade our intelligence. The main realization here is that we are biological machines, when looking at cell biology, tRNA, mRNA, and other proteins responsible for moving or hauling things around it’s undeniable we are machines but the fact is that we’re just not very good ones. So upgrades to the DNA are much like adding upgrades to a computer where the process of the organismal evolution happens within its lifespan. Since we’ll be living much longer soon these treatments will be highly valuable to us as individuals, and as a species. We must be able to learn and to understand the inner and outer picture to live harmoniously here on earth or among the stars.
As an unfortunate Neuroscientist who discovered he carried the traits of a psychopath found, a lack of connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and the rest of the brain gave him the same traits as the very psychopaths he was studying, if we can prevent this gene from passing on or ever ending up in a situation where it’s traits would be activated such as extreme poverty or war zones, we could save lives and create more well balanced, empathetic, whole human beings. We know that poverty creates violence but so do genes and, the fact is we cannot know for certain what someone’s environment may be like but we can do our best to make our world a better place to be and to find preventative solutions, much like preventative medicine, and the same goes for even the problem of gun violence or domestic terrorism.
Jason Christopher Palazzolo is a systems engineer, he is practical and open minded and examines problems holistically to discover the best solution. Jason believes in a world without war, or militaries, he understands that when it comes to uniting the planet under a single banner, militaries and lack of personal defense and public safety is all that holds us back. Jason argues that, “In this new age of terrorism, we must have a new age of public defense. It would be much safer if individuals owned their own personal and intelligent defense system, than for the entire world to depended on separate militaries. There has to be another way, and that is why I believe in personal and public defense.”
Jason’s solution is a Humanitarian one, and it’s an intelligent gun accessory called the “Justifire” that see’s, hears, records and senses. When it comes to personal defense it’s important to have justification for having to use lethal force.
Some advice from Jason : “Remember, always treat a gun as if it’s loaded, no matter what, along with proper gun education and intelligent guns, a family could learn to respect the seriousness of guns and it’s real purpose, defense.”
If you would like to donate to Jasons IndiGogo campaign please do so here.
So, can we solve global violence? The answer is Yes, with sensible gun laws, gene editing, and citizen policing we can but the real questions is…. will we decide to do so or will a false moralism, the economic fallacy that war is good, and the inability to change our thinking keep us from creating these breakthroughs? The rest is up to you. Looking forward to our next intellectual journey, another important globally impacting article is already on it’s way.
- Scientists Create First Memory Expansion for the Brain http://gizmodo.com/5813821/scientists-create-first-memory-expansion-for-brain
- Texting by Thinking, The Future of Communication http://hubpages.com/technology/Texting-By-Thinking-The-Future-of-Communication
- “Erasing Memory ” http://www.sciencedump.com/content/want-erase-memory-mit-researchers-have-discovered-where-theyre-stored
- Five Major Mental Dissorders http://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2013/five-major-mental-disorders-share-genetic-roots.shtml
- Consequences of Non-Treatment/ Schizophrenia http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/problem/consequences-of-non-treatment/schizophrenia
- “How Genetic Swithces Work” Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. New York: Garland Science; 2002. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26872/
- The Neuroscientist Who Discoverd He was a Psychopath http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-neuroscientist-who-discovered-he-was-a-psychopath-180947814/#wCJ7pyBhjKHEuJcE.99
- Researchers Map Emotional Intelligence in the Brain. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-01/uoia-rme012213.php
- Study on Prison Inmate Intelligence Influences Misconduct http://www.utdallas.edu/news/2012/5/1-17541_Study-Prison-Inmate-Intelligence-Influences-Miscon_article-wide.html
- “Astrobiologists Revise the Chances of Finding Advanced ET Civilizations.” http://www.technologyreview.com/view/543231/astrobiologists-revise-the-chances-of-finding-advanced-et-civilizations/
- Justifire Video http://www.justifire.com/