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Tag Archives: nootropics

Replying To James G On The Intelligence Gap

First the original post from Roissy/Heartiste:

1. How is the present automation and productivity conundrum qualitatively different than ones from the past (for example, the classic case of the auto replacing the horse and carriage)? If you do not believe it is qualitatively different, explain how we escape the “zero marginal productivity” worker trap, especially in an era when human capital is shrinking due to a combination of dysgenic birth rate differentials and mass migration of unskilled poor? Note: “Humans are fungible” is not an acceptable cop-out.

2. If, say, most of the profits go to the top 10% in society, while the bottom 90% are unemployed or marginally employed, how is it exactly that those top 10% will be able to extract profits from a customer base that doesn’t have the income stream to afford more than the basic necessities? Link

That’s a hell of a statement for anyone to make. Particularly if intelligence and training and the ability to create value that comes from it is being made easier and cheaper to obtain. If Einstein was born into the middle-ages and he spent his life as a banker, would his intelligence of been wasted? In which slice of history was our intelligence and ability to create value fully employed? With all of the resources at our fingertips, do you expect this 90% to just sit on their asses and not try to create something valuable? Or perhaps you expect a dramatic French Revolution ending to play out, with escape goats hanging from lamp posts? Do you really think that turning the US counter-culture into Hezbollah is anymore than dramatic masturbation that ignores the bloody reality of actual combat?

It was classic Tom Clancy stuff, all based on the idea you make war with stuff, not people. These guys just won’t face the fact that for the guerrilla, the key weapon, the only weapon that matters, is people—and starting a guerrilla war means sentencing most of the people in your address book to a very nasty death. Link

James G replies with Henry Hazlitt on how machines change value, you can read the entire piece here.

He then says:

Intelligence is efficient cross-domain optimisation; winning at chess requires efficient optimisation, but only within an extremely narrow domain. Chess is a restricted-domain problem, and a lot of man-hours have gone into developing chess AI, yet unremarkable humans managing computers can still lick an unaided machine.

Now consider a job that even the dullest human can do: supermarket cleaning. This is very cross-domain: it requires the ability to perform such diverse motions as walking, wiping, mopping, throwing, scrubbing and lifting. It requires the ability to communicate efficiently with humans. It requires the ability to change tasks on the fly. For sure, NASA could probably design a fantastically expensive self-cleaning supermarket; but what do you do if a kid throws up on the forecourt, or the roof starts leaking, or the stock layout needs to change? There’ll always be a need for human cleaners, at least until the advent of mobile human-level AI – which probably isn’t separable from the singularity, and a general end to this epoch of human civilisation.

I generally agree with this and think that a better, more correct definition of intelligence will include an individual’s resourcefulness. They will have to not only be able to find and integrate knowledge, but have good heuristics for validating it’s authenticity. “Who benefits?” must be asked constantly.

The new economy appears to be attention, and everyone is creating new and innovative ways of stealing that attention with emotional ploys for a variety of purposes, be it to secure a political campaign or to sell chicken sandwiches.

“this world is like three-dimensional chess, made more complex by the certain knowledge that there can be two things which are both true and yet which are mutually exclusive and contradict each other.”

But the interesting thing is that it’s getting easier and cheaper to close the intelligence gap. The bottom 90% may not have economic integration yet, but many of the important things that lead to value creation are being secured. The end game may involve the creation of a currency outside of the hands of a Nation-State, which isn’t that much of a stretch given how apathetic people are about their governments. Trust and legitimacy are two of the most important things in building financial relationships. At this point if there was an actual revolution in the US, people would be more likely to use GoogleBucks versus whatever the newly established state said was the currency. Any country that tries too hard to restrict the flow of vital information is guaranteeing it’s irrelevance in the modern economy, that’s the burden of an intelligence arms race.

Right now we’re doing very simple stuff with intelligence boosting, magnetic and electrical stimulation to promote cross-hemisphere communication, as well as searching for new nootropic drugs to boost performance. We’re also mapping out what parts of the brain are responsible for thinking,

The research team, led by lead author Shinji Nishimoto and professor Jack Gallant, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and computational modeling to produce videos of what participants were seeing — using only information about their brain signals. This may very well be the closest humanity has ever gotten to mind-reading.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the scientists gathered data on subjects’ brain activity as they were viewing scenes. In this case, subjects reclined in the brain scanner and watched 60 second clips of Hollywood movie trailers for several hours.

As the subjects watched, the fMRI machine analyzed their brain activity and produced something called the Blood Oxygenated Level Dependent signal, or BOLD signal for short. The BOLD signal is simply a measure of blood-flow to an area of the brain. This study focused on the brain area called primary visual cortex, which is responsible for early visual processing prior to consciousness. Link

There are also computer programs that have a limited effect like n-back (brain workshop can use the original Jaeggi parameters and is free) or speed reading training software. A lot of the computer programs are either free or low cost (or can be pirated).

This is from the unofficial n-back FAQ written by Gwern:

One of the nice things about N-back is that while it may or may not improve your IQ, it may help you in other ways. WM training helps alcoholics reduce their consumption28 and increases patience in recovering stimulant addicts (cocaine & methamphetamine)29. The self-discipline or willpower of students correlates better with grades than even IQ30, WM correlates with grades and lower behavioral problems31 & WM out-predicts grades 6 years later in 5-year olds & 2 years later in older children32. WM training has been shown to help children with ADHD33 and also preschoolers without ADHD34Lucas 2008 found behavior improvements at a summer camp. Another intervention using a miscellany of ‘reasoning’ games with young (7–9 years old) poor children found a Forwards Digit Span (but not Backwards) and IQ gains, with no gain to the subjects playing games requiring “rapid visual detection and rapid motor responses”35, but it’s worth remembering that IQ scores are unreliable in childhood36 or perhaps, as an adolescent brain imaging study indicates37, they simply are much more malleable at that point. (WM training in teenagers doesn’t seem much studied but given their issues, may help; see “Beautiful Brains” or “The Trouble With Teens”.) Link

The thing about nootropics is that they are very cheap, each generally costing less than $100 for 3 months of doses. You can build your own brain stimulator for around $30 or less. Modafinil will run about $80-250 for a month’s supply, though it could be substituted for cheaper nootropics from the -racetam family of drugs. They aren’t a miracle drugs, but they are better than nothing.

Genotyping is $299 right now, which can provide you with your genetic profile and a list of diseases you are susceptible too, you have to be pretty jaded to think that isn’t a major advancement (though the treatment costs obviously vary by country, see medical tourism).

Most of these nootropics are useful for at least slowing the effects of Alzheimer’s (Piracetam is the most well documented), and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure here. We haven’t seen the creation of super-expensive brain enhancements that would divide the rich and the poor, not if the poor here in America can afford iPhones and Air Jordan’s. The major exception for America is healthcare, which is a highly debated topic being milked for all of it’s political capital.

You should be able to up your raw IQ by at least one deviation with a combo of the above stuff, the guys at bulletproof exec used n-back and got 18 and 12 points boost respectively. You can’t buy any of this with foodstamps but the barriers to increasing intelligence is going way down. Access to knowledge has never been easier as well: edx, Khan academy, JOVE, Wikipedia and thepiratebay have made sure of that.

One item of interest: imagine what happens when you apply the chess tactical aid to science, I.E. having an AI design and perform experiments aided by a team of human scientists, keeping in mind that we’re getting closer to a real brain-machine interface. We can’t be sure of what the brain-machine interface or anti-aging treatments would cost, but doesn’t mean it would widen the actual gap between the rich and poor.

Electric Brain Stimulation: Links

For the most part, drugs only make you think stupid things faster. In my experience they make normal to smart people actually perform worse overall. Nootropics are the only exception, but even the cocktails I’ve tried were only so-so versus vanilla meditation. It never ceases to amaze me how many simple solutions are just laying around.

But now we have another option, electric brain stimulation:

Good article from Nature with this handy picture:

Forum filled with links and DIY instructions:

Another one:

Video from JOVE on it:

This is a promising start for the creation of a truely intelligent society.

Credit To Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Credit SMBC

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