JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 42 : May 6, 2001


Business, marketing & futures commentary.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
Stay e-tuned....

Contents:
  • Religion & the human brain
  • Book: The Quantum Brain
  • Genomics - the advancing revolution
  • Robotics futures
  • Erasing language barriers
  • eFeedback
    • CIA report on futures
    • Robotics web-links

Spirituality & the human brain

Just recently, more and more scientists are becoming interested in "neurotheology" the study of the neurobiology of religion and spirituality. Spiritual experiences reflect "peculiarly recurrent" events in human brains and recent imaging techniques allow visual analysis of religious "visions" and "states of consciousness.Ē

A recent book "Why God Wonít Go Away" discusses brain-imaging data collected from Tibetan Buddhists lost in meditation and from Franciscan nuns deep in prayer, to identify what seems to be the brain's spirituality circuit and to explain how religious rituals have the power to move most people. A new book (May 2001) "Religion in Mind" examines how religious practices act on the brainís frontal lobes to inspire optimism and even creativity.

All this new research is uncovering the neurological basis of spiritual and mystical experiences, discovering what happens in our brains when we sense that we encounter a reality different from, or "higher" than the reality of everyday experience.

In neurotheology, psychologists and neurologists try to pinpoint regions of the brain which turn on and turn off during experiences that seem to exist outside time and space. Earlier research found simply that brain waves change when you meditate, but not why brain waves change, or which specific regions in the brain lie behind the change. The recent studies identify the brain circuits that surge with activity when we think we have encountered the divine, and when we feel transported by intense prayer, uplifting rituals or sacred music.

It is clear that spiritual experiences are consistent across cultures, across time and across faiths, and this suggests a common core that is likely a reflection of structures and processes in the human brain.

Click Newsweek (May 7, 2001) cover story Religion and the Brain

Click Look at the Book Why God Won't Go Away

Book: The Quantum Brain

Some time ago, I suggested this new book which tech-visionary George Gilder acclaimed as "the most exciting book I have read in ten years and the first definitive 21st century book!" The book is now in the bookstores - and is available at Amazon, B&N and other on-line sources (published March 2001). I have just finished reading (studying) it and must tell you that it is significant. Though it covers some "biology" and unfamiliar topics, you can skip the tough parts and much of the book is relatively easy to read.

Written by Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, physicist, psychiatrist and eminent psychoanalyst, "The Quantum Brain" examines the convergence of brain science, biological computation and quantum physics, and what it implies about our minds, our ability to choose. Do we "decide" on our actions, or are we merely machines? Will rapidly advancing synthetic intelligence eventually have consciousness?

To answer these fundamental questions, Satinover first explores the latest discoveries in neuroscience, modern physics and radically new kinds of computing. He then shows how the brain embodies and amplifies the mysterious laws of quantum physics. The mind is not a machine, and simply building bigger and faster logic machines is not the same as creating minds.

Satinover makes two provocative predictions: We will soon construct artificial devices as free and aware as we are; and we will begin a startling re-evaluation of just who and what we are, and of our place in the universe. Then Satinover shows the possibility of synthetic brains so dynamic and with powers of perception so great, that by interacting with the world they will not only "learn", but will also optimize their own circuitry as a result - just as circuits in our own brains rewire themselves when we learn new skills.

Click Follow this link to look at reviews of The Quantum Brain

Genomics - the revolution is near

The complete map (source code) of the Human Genome is now available and biotechnology is one step closer to realizing phenomenal medical breakthroughs. Genomics holds the promise of curing or preventing some of the most common human diseases: heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes. A significant jump in life expectancy and quality of life will soon result when scientists are able to realize the promise of genetic drugs and therapies through new genomics techniques.

The Human Genome Project has been a massive undertaking in data collection. Mining the data for the important genes that cause, or predispose individuals to, particular diseases is the next step. Some genetic information, called "junk DNA", doesn't seem to have a useful purpose and needs to be filtered out. Medically relevant genes become targets for disease diagnosis and drug development. Diseases in humans are often caused by more than one gene. After identifying which genes are involved in a particular disease, scientists have to figure out how they interact. Dramatically improve gene and drug research will lead to sophisticated medicine targeted directly toward individual and specific ailments.

Genomics is expected to produce over 10,000 new targets that can be used for biotech-drug development. Compared with the current 500 or so targets that have been used mainly in synthetic-drug discovery, this represent a new surge forward that must inevitably yield significant results.

Upside magazine (May 2001) has a significant section that discusses the new technologies at some of the hottest genomics companies in the world and explores why these companies will be among the most profitable in the high-tech arena.

Click UPSIDE May 2001 article on Genomics

Click More information on the Human Genome Project

Robotics futures

Within 5-10 years, internet-controlled robotic devices will be affordably priced and will become fairly common. Intelligent appliances will begin to listen to what we have to say - to our words, and even our emotions - and react. We'll begin to see C-3PO-like "advanced personal robots" and robot-assisted surgery will become fairly common.

Biology and electronics are steadily coming together to allow prosthetic limbs to be directly controlled by the brain. We are gaining the ability to transplant and control additional organs, such as eyes. Within a decade or so, perhaps humans with artificial organs will be indistinguishable from robots with human extensions. We'll eventually have precise digital control of cells and biologically grown robotic add-ons will be available as "upgrades". When will a human legally cease to be human? Or, when will a robot legally become human?

Click Robotic Predictions from Leading Scientists

Click Scientists Start to fuse tissue and technology in machines

Erasing Lanugage barriers

Look at the thesaurus in your Microsoft WORD and you'll get a feel for what makes translation such a fusion of science and art: many different shades of meaning for a simple adjective like "soft" and nearly thirty for a word like "mark" that can be either a noun or a verb. With all the idioms and nuances of grammar, syntax and semantics that make a language unique, efforts to create computer programs that can translate one language into another continue to advance very slowly - but they ARE making progress.

Demand for such programs is high. The globalization of business requires endless translations; technical manuals and corporate documents have to be available in a variety of languages. English is dominant on the Web, but by no means worldwide. Machine Translation is getting better, improving global communications among ordinary people working in global environments.

The Language Analysis & Translation group at IBM Research is trying to solve these problems. Their system translates between English and Spanish, French, German or Italian and can translate Web pages on the fly; it is suitable for heavy use by Web servers. An independent comparison of leading English to German machine translation systems for Web translation has given it the highest rating.

Click Try the IBM online demo
Type in a url and see the translation
English, Spanish, French, German, Italian or Japanese

Click Try this language translation website
English, French, German, Dutch, Danish, Spanish, Finnish
Czech, Italian & Portuguese

eFeedback

On the subject of the CIA forecast, Jack Grenard [Jgrenard@aol.com] e-cautioned :
    "While this report was of mild interest, I think your readers should question any public information coming out of the US Central Intelligence Agency. These people are professional liars. Example: "...The latest estimates suggest that 80% of the world's available oil and 95% of its gas remain underground." Those estimates sound as if they came from the American Petroleum Institute, which would like us to believe the figures. Is it coincidence that the Bush administration just came out with its energy policy that says the same thing: Forget conservation and alternative sources - let's use up petroleum. Have we forgotten that both Bush and Cheney come from Texas?"

On the same subject, Cary Hillebrand [carycnb@juno.com] e-reminds us of unpredictable events that can change trends:

    "The CIA report is interesting in its depth. One weakness it has is that it fails to take into account the "wildcard factor". That is, developments that cannot be foreseen or are otherwise underrated change the whole picture, either regionally or globally. For example, ten years ago, who would have foreseen the meteoric prevalence of the Internet. Politically, examples abound. The US (seen with the wisdom of hindsight) foolishly propped up the corrupt Pavlavy regime in Iran, grossly underestimating the growing power and danger of fundamentalism, born as a backlash. Those who foresaw the quagmire that we willingly let ourselves be sucked into in Vietnam were few and far between. Sometimes an assassin's bullet is sufficient to alter the course of history. Examples abound from Archduke Ferdinand to Kennedy."

Eduardo Ballina [eduardo.ballina@wonderware.com] provided some excellent web-links to currently available robots :

    "In your last newsletter you touched on the subject of robots. One worth seeing, also developed in Japan is the Honda-P3. It's an incredible humanoid robot with amazing characteristics. I had the opportunity to see it live at a Robot Trade Show in Tokyo almost 2 years ago. You have to see it for yourself. Watch the movies, specially the one called "capabilities".

Click Honda Humanoid Robot P3

    "Certainly, things do not stop there. A newer robot called the ASIMO has derived from the P3 technology."

    Click Honda ASIMO Robot Technology (Movie)

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