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March 20, 2007


Xavier Ochoa

For another nice example of SciFi exploring the issue of instant learning, read Profession by Issac Asimov (http://www.abelard.org/asimov.htm). Once instant learning is available, will we forget to learn any other way?

Wayne H Hodgins

Hi Xavier! Thanks for the reminder about Asimov. He was a real futurist and has some outstanding work that remains very prescient to this day.

Hope your work on LACLO is going well and Erik will be talking with you soon about connecting you with the ILCE consortium.

Al Machum

The "new science" of neuroplasticity is essentially all about the mechanics of UNLearning. Fascinating overview available in new-ish (2007) book, "The Brain That Changes Itself", Norman Doidge, M.D. Highly recommended.

Wayne H Hodgins

Quite right re the promise of neuroplasticity Al. I've been fortunate enough to have a bit of an inside track on this as the son of a very long time friend of mine is one of the leading researchers in this field and has been working on this with his colleagues in Paris for quite a few years now. In my discussions and meetings with him I’ve been fascinated to learn of the promise of their work with enzymes and amino acids (as I understand it) that they believe will enable us to return portions of our brain to that “plastic state” (which is also how they describe it) that is the same as when we are such learning dynamos as infants. The “plan” would be to enable us to momentarily put a specific part of the brain into this plastic state such that it can shed its previous state (the Unlearning part) and take on a new set of knowledge, skills, abilities, etc. and then be returned to its “regular” state to lock this in. Pretty wild to be sure but they assure me this is already happening within their research and they, admittedly biased I’m sure, have no doubt that this will work. What is in doubt is just how soon this could successfully be applied to humans. In the interim and as per my closing comments and questions, this type of coming capability puts the burden on us to start to think about these kinds of future enablers NOW and start asking and answering the critical questions of how this would be best applied, consequences, misuse, etc.

I have a little familiarity with Doidge’s book which you noted, though my understanding is that his focus is mostly on the equally fascinating and promising capability of brain “healing”. Perhaps most important of all of this is the need for us to change our previous thinking and supposed understanding of the brain from one where we’ve thought if it more as a fixed machine like organ to the emerging understanding that the brain is an extremely adaptive, flexible and plastic structure that can take on most anything. The impact on enabling all of us to realize so much more of our full potential is what excites me the most.

As with most profound and powerful new discoveries this bring with it equal opportunity to be used for good or for bad and thus it is appropriate that this probably gives most of us very mixed feelings of both fear and excitement. I’m still placing my bets on the fact that there is more good than evil in the world and that the future is ours to determine. With the inevitable exponential advancement of things such as neuroplasticity anything really is possible and so we’re back, thankfully, to being limited only by our imagination. Imagine if …….

Al Machum

“What will we do with these enablers (be they technical, chemical or cognitive) when they arrive?" and how will we apply them in ways that produce very positive effects and outcomes for our learning and performance?"

To a limited extent, they have arrived. Over the past few years I have experimented with, and due to postive results adopted the consistent daily use of, a variety of enzymes, co-enzymes and co-enzyme precursors, amino acids and phospholipids (phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylcholine, and inositol) to enhance memory, mental crispness and "traction", and capacity for multi-tasking. The effects are profound and remarkable.

Could I trouble you to provide links to the son-of-long-time-friend's research to which you refer, if you have time, and if available for public perusal?

michael jones

Eating and cooking are two really close processes. When you discover the satisfaction of the food you have prepared yorself, you will be very happy.

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