Focusing on What Matters Most
December 16, 2017
Wresting from nature future human evolution
Biotechnology now makes it possible to wrest from nature future human
evolution. This is the most far-reaching development in history since humans branched off from other primates some million years ago. The central challenge confronting humanity now is what ought to be done with this awesome power.
The prospect of genetic bifurcation of humanity
In the West, there is a recoil from using this gene-editing technology in order to go beyond disease prevention to enhancement and to go beyond treatment of an individual to make genetic modifications heritable. In China, in contrast, this technology is considered to be capable of enhancing the human condition. The initial focus appears to be on enhancing intelligence, which seems to be a long-standing cultural focus (see figure 1.2). If China would focus on genetically improving intelligence, then within 4-5 generations in a century, the genetic divergence would be substantial and perhaps insurmountable. By the end of the century China would be in the position of winning an undeclared world war. Unlike world wars of the past, this one would be inherently irreversible.
Innate human commonalities are the basis of human nature and conduct
Recent neuroscientific findings have proved Darwin right that humans possess both biological and psychological innate attributes. Thus, there exist innate commonalities of needs and desires that constitute the factual basis for human nature and conduct. As a consequence, ethical systems must be based on universals of human nature. Similarly, legal systems ought to be based on the doctrine of natural law rather than positive law.  Empiricism is the basis of the present-day theories of knowledge. The most basic assumption of Empiricism is the denial of the existence of innate sensations and cognitions, concluding that the newborn cannot have knowledge of the world prior to personal experience. We now know that the assumption and conclusion are factually false. These assumptions have contributed to the choice of ethical and legal systems in the West that are relativistic rather than universal. These relativistic systems do not provide common ground to address long-term global issues with differing cultures’ ethical and legal systems, such as making heritable enhancements to the human genome.
Updating the foundation of knowledge
It is therefore now necessary to acknowledge the scientific findings and update the foundation of knowledge. It will remain necessary to revise ethical and legal systems to make them universal rather than relativistic. These systems will have differences across cultures and countries but must be viewed relative to a common denominator. The ability to make heritable enhancements in the human genome is the most important challenge confronting humanity today. Meeting that challenge, in turn, makes updating the foundation of knowledge, ethics, legal systems, and public policy a matter of priority.
The philosophic community
It is for the philosophic community to take on the challenge of bringing the foundation of knowledge up-to- date. It is a unique opportunity for philosophy to take a central role in advancing the knowledge enterprise. However, setting aside 300 years of epistemological legacy by accepting the neuroscientific findings that prove correct Darwin’s theory of evolution in regard to biological and psychological attributes will take time. Max Planck noted that acceptance of a new paradigm often involves generational transition. In this case, it is in the public interest to avoid any further delay. In fact, it may prove to be a survival imperative.
The advent of the personal computer - an exercise in applied philosophy
This book exemplifies a new method of addressing basic problems of knowledge. First, it requires that the basic tenets of philosophy be empirical rather than otherwise philosophical. For example, innateness of sensations of color determines it to be a phenomenal, not physical property. It is outside the scope of philosophy to decide otherwise. Furthermore, the method takes interdisciplinary issues to be inaccessible to bottom-up scientific approach. Such issues are accessible to considerations on the level that is common to the different disciplines.
The method makes it possible to derive top-down scientific conclusions. Thus, both the method and the conclusions constitute departures from the mainstream. It is some decades now that I felt the personal need to validate these deviations from convention. Below are cited two such events.
Identifying the molecular determinants of subjective states. One area that is immune to bottom-up approach is the mind/body problem. Based on recent empirical findings and abstract considerations I filed in 2001 for a patent application for a concepts and a method for identifying the correlates of elementary mental states. It resulted in two US patents (Alroy 2010 and 2012).
The advent of the personal computer. A personal account relating to the introduction of the first single-chip microprocessor, the Intel 8008.
Semiconductor technology. The invention of the transistor in 1947 marked the advent of the semiconductor technology revolution. It was followed in 1958 by the invention of the integrated circuit. During the 1960’s the number of transistors per unit area quadrupled five times resulting in more than a thousand-fold increase in the number of transistors per unit area. In contrast, the production cost per unit area of silicon grew modestly. As a result, the increased transistor density represented about a thousand-fold drop in the cost per transistor.
The microprocessor. The first 8-bit single-chip microprocessor, the Intel 8008 was introduced in 1972. In December that year Q1 Corporation delivered the world’s first microcomputer system that utilized the single-chip microprocessor to Litcom, a Division of Litton Industries in Long Island, New York. I formed Q1 Corporation in 1970 while I was a graduate student in the doctoral program in philosophy at the Graduate Center City University in Manhattan. I am not a computer scientist. My actions were based on top-down inferences from philosophical considerations. That initial delivery and subsequent events validated, tome, the constructive power of philosophical thinking. This book exemplifies some of the philosophical methods used. In the forthcoming revision of this book I will illustrate how high-level considerations that are deemed philosophical provide top-down practical solutions that may not be accessible by the use of the more common bottom-up approach. Cited below is the improbable sequence of events that led to my involvement in the advent of the first 8-bit single-chip microprocessor.
IBM. Prior to the introduction of the microprocessor, the dominant information-processing paradigm was to use terminals to time-share a single multimillion-dollar computer. The dramatic drop in the cost of transistors implied, to me, that dominant paradigm is no longer viable. In 1967 I met with Jacques Maisonrouge, who was at the time the President of IBM World Trade Corporation, in his Manhattan office. I urged that IBM consider designing user-dedicated computers. Maisonrouge arranged for me to meet with J. C. R. Licklider. It turned out that Licklider was one of the main proponents of remote time-sharing computing: that meeting proved pointless.
Datapoint. Philip, Appel & Walden was at the time a Wall Street firm with a focus on funding start-ups in technology. From time to time I evaluated for that firm some start-up companies that sought funding. One such new venture was Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC) of San Antonio, Texas. That company’s initial product was the 3300 computer terminal. I met with Gus Roche, who was CTC’s Vice President for Research and Development. I made reference to the continuing dramatic drop in transistor cost, concluding that it would bring about computing at the point-of- use. I added whether then, or after the next quadrupling of transistors per unit area, it ought to be possible to implement the central processing unit (CPU) in a single-chip microprocessor. To my surprise and delight, Roche said that CTC’s next product would incorporate a computer. I later learned that the name of the company was changed from Computer Terminal Corporation to Datapoint to reflect the move away from the outdated concept of terminals to a more forward-looking perspective.
Q1 Corporation. On my return to New York I met with Jim Walden and conveyed to him my evaluation of CTC. I recommended that Philips, Appel & Walden underwrite the initial public offering of CTC, despite my view that their initial product the 3300 Computer Terminal was conceptually outdated. In response Walden suggested that I form a company to implement what I believed to be the right product adding that Philips, Appel & Walden would fund it. For me, it was a unique opportunity to subject my philosophical reasoning to a reality test. I accepted the offer.
Datapoint’s decision not to use the microprocessor. I was happy to see that Datapoint followed up on my suggestions to Gus Roche: it did develop the Datapoint 22000 that contained a computer, and it did provide the logic design of that central processing unit (CPU) to Intel, asking for proposals for the implementation of that CPU in a single-chip microprocessor. After evaluating the response Datapoint decided to continue to implement the CPU design by using discrete components rather than use a single-chip microprocessor.
Intel. Intel then shelved the Datapoint project. On hearing that, I met with Robert Noyce who was at the time the President of Intel. I conveyed to Noyce my view that the single-chip 4-bit processor that Intel was developing for Busicom, a Japanese calculator company, was a limited- purpose device (e.g. 4 bits are not sufficient to represent the alphabetic characters). I told Noyce that in contrast the 8-bit single-chip planned for Datapoint would revolutionize information technology. I added that Q1 Corporation would be Intel’s first customer for the 8-bit single-chip microprocessor. Noyce told me that Intel would implement that 8-bit chip project if it could obtain consent from Datapoint to use its CPU logic design. I told Noyce that I believed I could obtain for Intel that consent. I flew to San Antonio, met with Phil Ray, who was then the president of Datapoint, and obtained from him the consent for Intel to implement the Datapoint CPU logic design in a processor chip. I so notified Noyce.
Dawn of a new day. In December 1972, Q1 delivered to Litcom, a division of Litton Industries in Long Island, New York, the world’s first microcomputer system based on the 8-bit single-chip CPU, the Intel 8008. In 1973 Q1 received a pre-order for 4 microcomputer systems to be based on the next generation 8008 Intel processor (later named the 8080) from the Israeli Supply Mission in Manhattan, New York. In the spring of 1974 Q1 delivered the world’s first the 8080-based systems. In 1975 the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) ordered Q1 systems for the eleven bases around the world. That year the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) planned to hold its first international conference with a focus on the microcomputer revolution. At the invitation of IEEE, I organized and chaired the opening session. I lacked the formal qualifications to do that, but apparently after consulting Noyce, the IEEE chose to overlook that fact. The microcomputer revolution of the 1970’s would have taken place without my involvement, but the fact that I nudged it forward confirmed, to me, the power of philosophy as a unique problem-solving method.
The current situation. The current proliferation of information-processing devices with overlapping functions indicates that the field is again ready for a paradigm change. This situation is not resolvable by a bottom-up approach. In the forthcoming printed version of this book, I will propose how abstract, philosophical-type considerations may provide some top-down conclusions as to what ought to be done.
A Note About The New Foundation of Knowledge
Being conscious is the central fact of human experience. Yet, it is not presently known what consciousness is and what it does. For example, Physicalism, the currently dominant theory of knowledge takes the position that the non-conscious brain can do anything that the conscious brain can do. Artificial intelligence (AI) takes a similar view, that the digital computer can do anything that the conscious brain can do. In short, consciousness is deemed to be evolutionary fluke. This book shows that the innateness of mental faculties is an empirical fact and establishes the reality and centrality of consciousness. Physics is considered to be the most basic science. However, how we get to know the physical world is a more basic question. Until recently, the central issue was this: are sensations innate, or they imported from the senses into the brain? We now know that sensations are innate. They are not imported into the brain from the senses or from the outside world through the senses. Consider sound. Recently, children born deaf have been made to experience sensations of sound by the electrical stimulation of hearing-related brain areas. This fact proves that the sensation of sound is innate and that it is not a property of air vibration. Present-day neuroscience takes all sensations to be innate. Thus, the direct electrical stimulation of vision-related brain areas in children born blind would elicit sensations of light. I expect such experiments to take place within five years. It would prove that the sensation of light is innate, private, and not a property of electromagnetic radiation. For the last 300 years, theories of knowledge are based on the directly opposite assumption that no sensation is innate. It is now necessary to bring the foundation of knowledge up to date.
Two related patents for sale (Identifying the NCC)
June 9, 2017
In 2001 I filed with the United States Patent Office a patent application for concepts and methods for identifying brain cells that determine the qualitative aspect of simplest sensations. It resulted in two granted patents.
The first patent, Number 7,680,602 titled Concepts and methods for identifying brail correlates of elementary mental states was granted in 2010. It involves identifying locus-specific cells that determine the qualitative aspect of the simplest sensations. The second patent, Number 8,112,260 titled Methods for identifying protein specificity of brain cells that evoke a given mental state that does not contain smaller constituents was granted in 2012. It involves identifying methods for identifying the unique protein specificity of the so-identified cells.
The three basic tenets on which the patents are based are:
1. The simplest sensations are innate and are evoked by the brain.
2. Their qualitative aspects are determined by locus-specific cells.
3. The primary determinant of the intrinsic function of a cell is its proteome.
I review the involved conceptual framework in The New Foundation of Knowledge (2017).
I am now offering these two patents for sale. I would be willing to provide, for a time, consulting on how these patents can be the basis for additional related patent applications.
A 3-Part Project – Each Deserving its Own Nobel Prize
May 7, 2017
Neuroscience has established that sensations, including those by which the physical world is knowable, are innate. The implication that the sensation of color is innate and evoked by the brain, rather than received from the eyes or being an aspect of the electromagnetic spectrum, is counterintuitive. More jarring still is that the same applies to the sensation of light. Commonsense rebels against the notion that the sensation of light is innate and as such private, or phenomenal.
Even Newton, who conceded that experienced color is brought about by the “sensorium” and contending that achromatic white light is a combination of colors, could not bring himself to make explicit the conclusion that the sensation of light, like that of color, is “sensorium”- dependent. This reluctance or inability to make explicit the implication that since the sensations of color are innate and phenomenal, so are the sensations of brightness and lightness.
This is the very reason that identifying the molecular and cellular determinants of the sensation of light (i.e. applying the notion of neural correlates of consciousness to the sensation of light) will have a shocking impact on the knowledge enterprise.
The three phases of the undertaking
First, it is necessary to prove the sensation of light is innate. The direct electrical stimulation of the visual cortex of persons that are not cortically blind elicits sensations of light (phosphenes). This has been demonstrated in normally seeing persons and in persons who lost their vision. It remains to be demonstrated that the same is true in the case of born blind children.
Such a procedure is both possible and necessary in order to provide such children with cortical visual prosthetics. Such prosthetics have been developed (Dobelle 2000) and confirming that the electrical stimulation of the visual cortex does elicit the sensations of light in persons who lost their vision. Recently I urged some organizations to test such cortical visual prostheses on children born blind. I believe that by 2020 such tests would confirm that these cortical visual prostheses elicit sensations of light in the born blind.
Next, it is necessary to identify the locus-specific cells of interest. It is known that a lesion in the color area in the visual cortex can leave a person completely colorblind but leave intact the sensation of light and dark as well as visual sensation of motion direction. Current literature does not yet identify the brain locus that evokes the sensation of light
The following conceptual framework resolves this issue, making it accessible to empirical verification: any cells or circuits that create an illusion of a given sensation are those that evoke that sensation under normal circumstances.
Specifically, it is necessary to identify in the visual cortex locus-specific cells that are selectively activated if, and only if, the subject experiences a sensation of light through external or direct electrical stimulation. Anna Wang Roe, et al (2005) identified cells in the thin stripes of visual area V2 that are directly involved in producing a brightness illusion. Hence, visual area V2 is one of the areas of the visual cortex containing cells and circuits that evoke a sensation of light.
A cell type’s proteome is a determinant of intrinsic function. The morphology of a neuron, as in any cell type of a given organism, is determined primarily by its continually-expressed proteins. Thus, here exists a unique proteome characteristic of cells that evoke the sensation of light. Present day single-cell sequencing techniques make it possible to identify the unique proteome of the cells of interest.
Conclusion. I believe that meeting the challenge of any of the three phases would justify a Nobel Prize. Meeting all three phases would bring to an end the era that began with Locke and Hume, based on the denial of innate sensations emotions and cognitions, and mark the advent of a new era regarding the nature of consciousness.
Quote of the Week
Nicomachus (60 - 120 A.D)
“All things that have been arranged by nature according to a workmanlike plan appear, both individually and as a whole, as singled out and set in order by Foreknowledge and Reason, which created all according to Number, conceivable to mind only and therefore wholly immaterial; yet real; indeed, the really real, the eternal.”
Quoted in Number, The Language of Science, Tobias Dantzig. 4th edition 1954