[VIDEO] 600 Days & Counting: US Air Force’s Unmanned Space Plane, X-37B, on Verge of Breaking Record for Longest Time in SpacePosted: January 16, 2017
Why do people talk to themselves, and when does it become a problem?
Jerome Groopman writes: “Talking to your yogurt again,” my wife, Pam, said. “And what does the yogurt say?”
She had caught me silently talking to myself as we ate breakfast. A conversation was playing in my mind, with a research colleague who questioned whether we had sufficient data to go ahead and publish. Did the experiments in the second graph need to be repeated? The results were already solid, I answered. But then, on reflection, I agreed that repetition could make the statistics more compelling.
“Fernyhough concludes that ‘dialogic inner speech must therefore involve some capacity to represent the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of the people with whom we share our world.’ This raises the fascinating possibility that when we talk to ourselves a kind of split takes place, and we become in some sense multiple: it’s not a monologue but a real dialogue.”
I often have discussions with myself—tilting my head, raising my eyebrows, pursing my lips—and not only about my work. I converse with friends and family members, tell myself jokes, replay dialogue from the past. I’ve never considered why I talk to myself, and I’ve never mentioned it to anyone, except Pam. She very rarely has inner conversations; the one instance is when she reminds herself to do something, like change her e-mail password. She deliberately translates the thought into an external command, saying out loud, “Remember, change your password today.”
Verbal rehearsal of material—the shopping list you recite as you walk the aisles of a supermarket—is part of our working memory system. But for some of us talking to ourselves goes much further: it’s an essential part of the way we think. Others experience auditory hallucinations, verbal promptings from voices that are not theirs but those of loved ones, long-departed mentors, unidentified influencers, their conscience, or even God.
“Verbal rehearsal of material—the shopping list you recite as you walk the aisles of a supermarket—is part of our working memory system. But for some of us talking to ourselves goes much further: it’s an essential part of the way we think.”
Charles Fernyhough, a British professor of psychology at Durham University, in England, studies such “inner speech.” At the start of “The Voices Within” (Basic), he also identifies himself as a voluble self-speaker, relating an incident where, in a crowded train on the London Underground, he suddenly became self-conscious at having just laughed out loud at a nonsensical sentence that was playing in his mind. He goes through life hearing a wide variety of voices: “My ‘voices’ often have accent and pitch; they are private and only audible to me, and yet they frequently sound like real people.”
Fernyhough has based his research on the hunch that talking to ourselves and hearing voices—phenomena that he sees as related—are not mere quirks, and that they have a deeper function. His book offers a chatty, somewhat inconclusive tour of the subject, making a case for the role of inner speech in memory, sports performance, religious revelation, psychotherapy, and literary fiction. He even coins a term, “dialogic thinking,” to describe his belief that thought itself may be considered “a voice, or voices, in the head.”
Discussing experimental work on voice-hearing, Fernyhough describes a protocol devised by Russell Hurlburt, a psychologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. A subject wears an earpiece and a beeper sounds at random intervals. As soon as the person hears the beep, she jots notes about what was in her mind at that moment. People in a variety of studies have reported a range of perceptions: many have experienced “inner speech,” though Fernyhough doesn’t specify what proportion. For some, it was a full back-and-forth conversation, for others a more condensed script of short phrases or keywords. The results of another study suggest that, on average, about twenty to twenty-five per cent of the waking day is spent in self-talk. But some people never experienced inner speech at all.
“People in a variety of studies have reported a range of perceptions: many have experienced ‘inner speech,’ though Fernyhough doesn’t specify what proportion. For some, it was a full back-and-forth conversation, for others a more condensed script of short phrases or keywords. The results of another study suggest that, on average, about twenty to twenty-five per cent of the waking day is spent in self-talk. But some people never experienced inner speech at all.”
In his work at Durham, Fernyhough participated in an experiment in which he had an inner conversation with an old teacher of his while his brain was imaged by fMRI scanning. Naturally, the scan showed activity in parts of the left hemisphere associated with language. Among the other brain regions that were activated, however, were some associated with our interactions with other people. Fernyhough concludes that “dialogic inner speech must therefore involve some capacity to represent the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of the people with whom we share our world.” This raises the fascinating possibility that when we talk to ourselves a kind of split takes place, and we become in some sense multiple: it’s not a monologue but a real dialogue.
Early in Fernyhough’s career, his mentors told him that studying inner speech would be fruitless. Experimental psychology focusses on things that can be studied in laboratory situations and can yield clear, reproducible results. Our perceptions of what goes on in our heads are too subjective to quantify, and experimental psychologists tend to steer clear of the area.
Fernyhough’s protocols go some way toward working around this difficulty, though the results can’t be considered dispositive. Being prompted to enter into an inner dialogue in an fMRI machine is not the same as spontaneously debating with oneself at the kitchen table. Read the rest of this entry »
Paris (AFP) – The Moon, our planet’s constant companion for some 4.5 billion years, may have been forged by a rash of smaller bodies smashing into an embryonic Earth, researchers said Monday.
Such a bombardment birth would explain a major inconsistency in the prevailing hypothesis that the Moon splintered off in a single, giant impact between Earth and a Mars-sized celestial body.
“The multiple impact scenario is a more ‘natural’ way of explaining the formation of the Moon.”
In such a scenario, scientists expect that about a fifth of the Moon’s material would have come from Earth and the rest from the impacting body.
Yet, the makeup of the Earth and the Moon are near identical — an improbability that has long perplexed backers of the single-impact hypothesis.
“In the early stages of the Solar System, impacts were very abundant, therefore it is more natural that several common impactors formed the Moon rather than one special one.”
“The multiple impact scenario is a more ‘natural’ way of explaining the formation of the Moon,” said Raluca Rufu of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, who co-authored the new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Such multiple hits would have excavated more Earth material than a single one, which means the moonlets would more closely resemble our planet’s composition, said the study authors. Read the rest of this entry »
Is it Time to Make Our Fridges and Washing Machines Sign Non-Disclosure Agreements?
High-tech washing machines and fridges will soon be used by detectives gathering evidence from crime scenes, experts have forecast.
“Doorbells that connect directly to apps on a user’s phone can show who has rung the door and the owner or others may then remotely, if they choose, to give controlled access to the premises while away from the property. All these leave a log and a trace of activity. The crime scene of tomorrow is going to be the internet of things.”
The advent of ‘the internet of things’ in which more devices are connected together in a world of ‘smart working’ could in future provide important clues for the police.
Detectives are currently being trained to look for gadgets and white goods which could provide a ‘digital footprint’ of victims or criminals.
Mark Stokes, the head of the digital, cyber and communications forensics unit at the Metropolitan Police told The Times: “Wireless cameras within a device, such as fridge, may record the movement of owners and suspects.
“Doorbells that connect directly to apps on a user’s phone can show who has rung the door and the owner or others may then remotely,m if they choose, to give controlled access to the premises while away from the property.
“All these leave a log and a trace of activity. The crime scene of tomorrow is going to be the internet of things.”
The new Samsung Family Hub Fridge has cameras that carry a live feed of its contents, so shoppers can tell what they need when they are out at the shop. The dates and times that people logon to the fridge, therefore could provide alibis or prove people were not were they said they were.
Mr Stokes said detectives of the future would carry a ‘digital forensics toolkit’ which would allow them to analyse microchips and download data at the scene, rather than removing devices for testing. Read the rest of this entry »
Brushstrokes in paintings could help early diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases, according to a study published on Thursday of works by famous sufferers such as Salvador Dali and Willem De Kooning.
“Knowing that you have a problem sooner rather than later is always going to be an important medical breakthrough,” said Alex Forsythe from the University of Liverpool, one of the authors of the study.
Fractal analysis — a way to study patterns that is already used to spot fake paintings — was used to gauge the relative complexity of the works.
Fractals are often described as “fingerprints of nature.”
For De Kooning and Brooks, the study showed a sharp decrease in the complexity starting around the age of 40 — long before their Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
De Kooning received an official diagnosis in 1989 — the year he turned 85 — and Brooks when he turned 79. Read the rest of this entry »
It May Not Feel Like Anything To Be an Alien
Susan Schneider writes: Humans are probably not the greatest intelligences in the universe. Earth is a relatively young planet and the oldest civilizations could be billions of years older than us. But even on Earth, Homo sapiens may not be the most intelligent species for that much longer.
“Why would nonconscious machines have the same value we place on biological intelligence?”
The world Go, chess, and Jeopardy champions are now all AIs. AI is projected to outmode many human professions within the next few decades. And given the rapid pace of its development, AI may soon advance to artificial general intelligence—intelligence that, like human intelligence, can combine insights from different topic areas and display flexibility and common sense. From there it is a short leap to superintelligent AI, which is smarter than humans in every respect, even those that now seem firmly in the human domain, such as scientific reasoning and social skills. Each of us alive today may be one of the last rungs on the evolutionary ladder that leads from the first living cell to synthetic intelligence.
What we are only beginning to realize is that these two forms of superhuman intelligence—alien and artificial—may not be so distinct. The technological developments we are witnessing today may have all happened before, elsewhere in the universe. The transition from biological to synthetic intelligence may be a general pattern, instantiated over and over, throughout the cosmos. The universe’s greatest intelligences may be postbiological, having grown out of civilizations that were once biological. (This is a view I share with Paul Davies, Steven Dick, Martin Rees, and Seth Shostak, among others.) To judge from the human experience—the only example we have—the transition from biological to postbiological may take only a few hundred years.
I prefer the term “postbiological” to “artificial” because the contrast between biological and synthetic is not very sharp. Consider a biological mind that achieves superintelligence through purely biological enhancements, such as nanotechnologically enhanced neural minicolumns. This creature would be postbiological, although perhaps many wouldn’t call it an “AI.” Or consider a computronium that is built out of purely biological materials, like the Cylon Raider in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica TV series.
The key point is that there is no reason to expect humans to be the highest form of intelligence there is. Our brains evolved for specific environments and are greatly constrained by chemistry and historical contingencies. But technology has opened up a vast design space, offering new materials and modes of operation, as well as new ways to explore that space at a rate much faster than traditional biological evolution. And I think we already see reasons why synthetic intelligence will outperform us.
Silicon microchips already seem to be a better medium for information processing than groups of neurons. Neurons reach a peak speed of about 200 hertz, compared to gigahertz for the transistors in current microprocessors. Although the human brain is still far more intelligent than a computer, machines have almost unlimited room for improvement. It may not be long before they can be engineered to match or even exceed the intelligence of the human brain through reverse-engineering the brain and improving upon its algorithms, or through some combination of reverse engineering and judicious algorithms that aren’t based on the workings of the human brain.
In addition, an AI can be downloaded to multiple locations at once, is easily backed up and modified, and can survive under conditions that biological life has trouble with, including interstellar travel. Our measly brains are limited by cranial volume and metabolism; superintelligent AI, in stark contrast, could extend its reach across the Internet and even set up a Galaxy-wide computronium, utilizing all the matter within our galaxy to maximize computations. There is simply no contest. Superintelligent AI would be far more durable than us.
Suppose I am right. Suppose that intelligent life out there is postbiological. What should we make of this? Here, current debates over AI on Earth are telling. Two of the main points of contention—the so-called control problem and the nature of subjective experience—affect our understanding of what other alien civilizations may be like, and what they may do to us when we finally meet.
Ray Kurzweil takes an optimistic view of the postbiological phase of evolution, suggesting that humanity will merge with machines, reaching a magnificent technotopia. But Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and others have expressed the concern that humans could lose control of superintelligent AI, as it can rewrite its own programming and outthink any control measures that we build in. This has been called the “control problem”—the problem of how we can control an AI that is both inscrutable and vastly intellectually superior to us. Read the rest of this entry »
Japan is leaping into space resources, agreeing to work with a robotic-exploration company to create a blueprint for an industry to extract resources from the moon that would enable more extensive space exploration.
An end to grey hair and crows-feet could be just 10 years away after scientists showed it is possible to reverse ageing in animals.
“Scientists hope to eventually create a drug which can mimic the effect of the found genes which could be taken to slow down, and even reverse the ageing process. They say it will take around 10 years to get to human trials.”
The technique involves stimulating four genes which are particularly active during development in the womb. It was also found to work to turn the clock back on human skin cells in the lab, making them look and behave younger.
Scientists hope to eventually create a drug which can mimic the effect of the found genes which could be taken to slow down, and even reverse the ageing process. They say it will take around 10 years to get to human trials.
“Ageing is a plastic process and more amenable to therapeutic interventions than we previously thought.”
Dr Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, Salk Institute
“Our study shows that ageing may not have to proceed in one single direction,” said Dr Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory. “With careful modulation, aging might be reversed.
“Obviously, mice are not humans and we know it will be much more complex to rejuvenate a person. But this study shows that ageing is a very dynamic and plastic process, and therefore will be more amenable to therapeutic interventions than what we previously thought.”
“In other studies scientists have completely reprogrammed cells all the way back to a stem-cell-like state. But we show, for the first time, that by expressing these factors for a short duration you can maintain the cell’s identity while reversing age-associated hallmarks.”
Co-first author Pradeep Reddy, also a Salk research associate.
Scientists have known for some time that the four genes, which are known collectively as the Yamanaka factors, could turn adult cells back to their stem cell state, where they can grow into any part of the body.
But it was always feared that allowing that to happen could damage organs made from the cells, and even trigger cancer. Read the rest of this entry »
Officials in Japan have announced a plan to build the world’s fastest supercomputer in a bid to reaffirm the country’s place as a leader in technological advancement.
If all goes according to plan, the processing monster will cost 19.5 billion yen ($173 million) and will be cable of 130 quadrillion calculations per second, Reuters reports.
It is a rare thing to be able to use the word “quadrillion” in a manner that isn’t an exaggeration. Phrased another way, the planned supercomputer clocks in at 130 petaflops, which would decidedly surpass the current fastest in the world—China’s Sunway Taihulight which maxes out at 93 petaflops.
Satoshi Sekiguchi, a director general at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, had an intriguingly humble way of saying that it will blow the competition out of the water: “As far as we know, there is nothing out there that is as fast.” Which leaves the imagination to wonder about secret hidden supercomputers plowing through data in hollowed-out mountains.
The move comes at a time when Japan hopes to return to its glory days as top dog in technology. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recently pushed for his government to work more closely with private industry to assure that Japan leads the way in robotics, batteries, artificial intelligence and other key areas of growth. Read the rest of this entry »
It can reach an altitude of over 6,500 feet and travel at over 65 miles per hour.