JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success
No. 42 : May 6, 2001
Business, marketing & futures commentary.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
- Religion & the human brain
- Book: The Quantum Brain
- Genomics - the advancing revolution
- Robotics futures
- Erasing language barriers
- 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
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
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.
Newsweek (May 7, 2001) cover story Religion and the Brain
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
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.
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
UPSIDE May 2001 article on Genomics
More information on the Human Genome Project
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?
Robotic Predictions from Leading Scientists
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.
Try the IBM online demo
Type in a url and see the translation
English, Spanish, French, German, Italian or Japanese
Try this language translation website
English, French, German, Dutch,
Danish, Spanish, Finnish
Czech, Italian & Portuguese
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 [firstname.lastname@example.org] 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 [email@example.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".
Honda Humanoid Robot P3
"Certainly, things do not stop there. A newer robot called the ASIMO has
derived from the P3 technology."
Honda ASIMO Robot Technology (Movie)
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