The future of the mind? What is the relevance to business? It was the first question my girlfriend asked when I told her about this book. Have been scratching my head……
Future trends are important
Here is what I have come up with. Future trends are important for business to understand. Business is not about today, business is about tomorrow. Your vision and your plans for the future should be grounded in deep understanding of where trends are going. In particular understanding technology trends.
Change is coming
Once I reviewed the “The second machine age,” which is trying to explain exponential chance (we are on the second half of the chessboard), I figured it was time to read up on future trends.
Physics of the future
The last book I read about far out trends was Michio Kaku’s “Physics of the future”. It has to be far out because most business books now include science fact and it is simply amazing how fast technology is developing.
The mind as a subject is something particularly my colleague Alan Jordan has covered with “Thinking fast and slow,” “Coherence” and “This will make you smarter.” About cognitive illusions and delusions, decision bias, the amygdala gland managing your brain and the illusion of free will.
In our sessions with clients, we use “The Shallows” and “Future Minds” a lot. Which is about how technology is changing our brains and behaviour and why that is important to the workplace and product design.
Therefore the mind and how we make decisions is a subject our clients like and I figured this book would give me an insight into the future trends in that area.
Although it occupies only 2 percent of the body’s weight, the brain has a ravenous appetite, consuming fully 20 percent of our total energy (in newborns, the brain consumes an astonishing 65 percent of the baby’s energy), while fully 80 percent of our genes are coded for the brain. There are an estimated 100 billion neurons residing inside the skull with an exponential amount of neural connections and pathways. The same amounts as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
The book covers a wide range of concepts (all beyond proof of concept):
- Brain to brain interface
- The internet of the mind or brain net
- Mindflex and Neurosky (gaming with the brain)
- Matrioshka brains (the planet as a computer)
- Total immersion entertainment
- Programmable matter
- Memory and intelligence enhancement through genetics, electromagnetics, and drugs
- Brain download
- Space travel
- Negative energy
- UFO’s (don’t leave a UFO empty handed)
The mechanical brain
To build a copy of the brain with the current technology would not just need a single Blue Gene computer but thousands of them, which would fill up not just a room but an entire city block. The energy consumption would be so great that you would need a thousand-megawatt nuclear power plant to generate all the electricity. And then, to cool off this monstrous computer so it wouldn’t melt, you would need to divert a river and send it through the computer circuits.
It is remarkable that a gigantic, city-size computer is required to simulate a piece of human tissue that weighs three pounds, fits inside your skull, raises your body temperature by only a few degrees, uses twenty watts of power, and needs only a few hamburgers to keep it going.
But Moore’s law will ensure that in the coming decades, the power of neuroscience will become explosive. Current research is on the threshold of new scientific discoveries that will likely leave us breathless. One day, we might routinely control objects around us with the power of the mind, download memories, cure mental illness, enhance our intelligence, understand the brain neuron by neuron, create backup copies of the brain, and communicate with one another telepathically. The world of the future will be the world of the mind.
The magic is in the last chapter, which is mind blowing. Schrödinger’s cat, parallel universes, string theory and quantum physics. The conclusion is that the brain is a quantum device, constantly dealing with alternate universes. And it will take a while before we can build that.
Is it relevant to business
To go back to the original question. Is this relevant to business? Not sure. Is it mind blowing? For sure! And for that reason, every businessperson should pick it up and remove the cobwebs in the brain (while it is still in your skull).
I can’t help you but leave with some of the highlights of the last chapter:
When I look at myself in a mirror, I don’t see myself as I truly am. First, I see myself about a billionth of a second ago, since that is the time that it takes a light beam to leave my face, hit a mirror, and enter my eyes. Second, the image I see is an average over billions and billions of wave functions. This average certainly does resemble my image, but it is not exact. Surrounding me are multiple images of myself oozing in all directions. I am continually surrounded by alternate universes, forever branching into different worlds, but the probability of sliding between them is so tiny that Newtonian mechanics seems to be correct.
An experiment done by Dr. Benjamin Libet in 1985 casts doubt on the very existence of free will. Let’s say that you are asking subjects to watch a clock and then to note precisely when they decide to move a finger. Using EEG scans, one can detect exactly when the brain makes this decision. When you compare the two times, you will find a mismatch. The EEG scans show that the brain has made the decision about three hundred milliseconds before the person becomes aware of it. That means that, in some sense, free will is a fake.
Decisions are made ahead of time by the brain, without the input of consciousness, and then later the brain tries to cover this up (as it’s wont to do) by claiming that the decision was conscious.
Quantum physics and free will
According to Newton himself, the universe was some sort of clock, ticking away since the beginning of time, obeying the laws of motion. Hence all events are predictable. The question is: Are we part of this clock? Are all our actions also determined?