Organic Augmentation

 

Steps Towards an Organic Augmentation in the 21st Century Enlightenment

Doug Engelbart is one of the most impressive men I have ever had the opportunity to study. As a pioneer of the digital age, Engelbart was able to think into the next paradigm. Engelbart’s “Augmenting Human Intellect,” aimed at setting the framework for the most interactive information storage ever designed. In order to create this ‘enlightened society’ mentioned in his introduction we must:

  1. Fully develop both hemispheres of the organic brain during educational development.
  2. Recognize and deter from media and technology’s negative affects on the brain.
  3. Redefine Engelbart’s ‘enlightened society’ to a practical, modern characteristic and form that satisfies the needs of today.
  4. Through The 21st Century Enlightenment: demand the revolution of the public school system to implement creativity, performing art, intensive musical training and psychologically beneficial practices such as mindfulness.

http://store.dougengelbart.org/DE/product.php?productid=1

In order to prepare for the inevitable step in the evolution of man’s joining with technology, progress can be made by combining knowledge gained of both the past and present. As we think of the future, we think of new ways to make progress, however practices of the Eastern religions have and are still currently beneficial. Mindfulness is a tool used to improve and maintain a healthy mind and body. Steps in mindfulness could potentially set a healthy foundation for the limitless power mankind will someday possess as we merge with technology. If the right hemisphere of the brain is not nurtured, we will fall short of the creative beauty that could be paired with technological power. We must fully develop the organic brain, as a whole, strengthening utilization of both right and left hemispheres—making them equals, as opposed to the current left hemisphere dominated society we see today.


Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of training the brain’s attention by strengthening neural connections in the brain. Practicing mindfulness triggers a chain of biological events resulting in positive benefits. Juliet Adams, a Strategic Learning Specialist of Cambridge, United Kingdom describes the biological process behind mindfulness in a video, embedded in “The Neuroscience of Mindfulness.”

This is a way to consciously maintain a healthy mind, resulting in a healthy body. This cognitive process benefits and supports a healthy body-mind connection, which has helped me prior to test taking. Specifically, by breathing mindfully, I am able to achieve a more peaceful and anxiety-free headspace for testing.

Mindfulness has gained popularity as the benefits of practice become better documented. It is now somewhat of a social movement occurring in the Western world with intentions towards improving health and cognitive abilities. Increasing society’s utilization of the practice would produce more mindful citizens. Mindful Schools  Executive Director Randima Fernando encourages the practice of mindfulness. Its integration into the school system will enable youth with improved attention, learning, emotional regulation, empathy and conflict resolution skills. Mindfulness allows for thought formation of wiser responses to stimuli in replacement of impulse reaction. (Fernando).

The practice of mindfulness would be beneficial in an interaction with a bumblebee. One who responds mindfully will realize, in order to avoid getting stung they must not respond with the impulse to swat the insect and move away.

The organization paired with the University of California Davis for one of the largest studies ever conducted on mindfulness and children in 2012. The results show significant behavioral improvement in paying attention, self-care, participation and empathy within 6 weeks. This study shows significant benefits in a short period of time and encourages the idea of long-term practice continuing to benefit students. This is a natural way to not only change our responses, but our physical state through the brain.


Technology and Media: The Brain Drain

The internet is the greatest source of media in the present day and today’s popular use of technology has already begun to change the way our brains think. Mitch Kapor, describes Theodor H. Nelson’s theory on media from Dream Machine: “He believed the importance of computers lay not in their capacity for calculation, but in the fact that they would enable new generations of media” (Kapor 301). . Rasmussen College’s blog published an infograph of the effects of multi-tasking on the brain.

Infographic

The Seattle Times’ article features in this infograph,Multitasking hurts brains ability to focus scientists say,” journalist, Matt Ritchel describes the downfalls to multitasking in his article as follows:

Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored. (Ritchel)

 

"The most important reward pathway in brain is the mesolimbic dopamine system" -Http://Neuroscience.mssm.edu

“The most important reward pathway in brain is the mesolimbic dopamine system” – www.neuroscience.mssm.edu

Social media induced multi-tasking has already shown to be detrimental and warrants concern. Society is becoming addicted to something that is altering thinking and behavior. The merging with technology has already begun and this does not support healthy functioning. . If this aspect of technology is incorporated into augmented intelligence, we are ensured dependency due to both addiction as well as declining cognitive abilities.


Cerebrum: Where Knowledge Lives

As opposed to acquiring knowledge, technology provides an excess of information because knowledge can only exist in the brain and is a biological process. This is described by Dr. Robert Leamnson in “Learning: Your First Job.” Knowledge is both the information and skills acquired through experience and education (Leamnson).This suggests that the progress made by augmenting the human mind, the utilizing of information provided by augmentation would not provide true knowledge. It would not be true knowledge because it would not fit the criteria of being acquired through experience and education nor would it exist inside of the brain. With this mind augmentation, we would have an excess of easily accessible facts. We would be processing the information, however we would not be attaining true knowledge.

The interconnectivity of the human mind must be strengthened prior to augmentation in order to avoid the foreseen dependence on technology for external information, combined with the previously mentioned negative effects of media on the mind. Imagine how powerless one would feel if that technology was removed or damaged, forcing one to revert back to their organic form after relying on the device for information in lack of retained knowledge due to media effects. How much growth and progress would have truly been made if the mind has not retained knowledge? None, dependence on the augmentation would create technology operative citizens; subject to multiple risks we currently see in computer devices today. These risks include: hacking, malware, viruses and spyware. It is important to resist augmentation until the organic mind has fully developed interconnectivity between the two hemispheres, in order to further mankind’s natural evolutionary development and avoid these technologic threats. We would be undoubtedly disconnected from an even larger part our humanity if the media was inside of our heads and not just on the cell phone our society currently can’t seem to put down long enough to avoid running into things.


A Definite Disconnect

There is currently a digital divide within society, some people are still not ‘tech-savvy’ due to lacking internet and technology access. The students who do have access are becoming less comfortable with social learning. As the digital divide slims in time and increased accessibility, we are also decreasing our intimacy by eliminating face-to-face interaction through the heavy use of technology. Students have become more comfortable asking Google to explain ideas rather than orienting an in-class discussion, myself included. A certain anxiety comes over me as I begin to raise my hand and I immediately withdraw. University of North Carolina-Greensboro’s Hephzibah Roskelly, Ph.D., explores composition, reading theory, as well as theory and practice of teaching. In “The Open Palm, The Cupped Hand,” Roskelly describes how extremely necessary social learning is and stresses that not much can be learned in isolation. If we, students, hide behind our computer screens, the process of learning becomes isolated. Students learn “by engaging in the world, understanding by coming to terms with what is around them-through talk, sound and movement” (Roskelly).

The idea of learning through movement and sound suggests that performing arts of relevant criteria could also be beneficial. If students are accustomed to social learning through performing and interacting with one another, it is possible to further open the concept space. “[…] you’ll illustrate how your knowledge gets stronger, better developed, more insightful and more complete the more you combine your knowledge with others” (Roskelly).


Art Integration

Arts are not entirely absent from schools today, but it’s rarity negates engagement in education. An example of arts being incorporated into the learning system is Bates Middle School in Annapolis, Maryland. The school is breaking new ground with their bold new strategy as students make notable improvement in behavior, math, reading and retention. Implementing the arts across the curriculum is paramount and has been proven to benefit students of all ages. Vanessa Vega of Edutopia: What Works in Education, provides a working example in “A Research-Based Approach to Arts Integration,” of art integrated into overall criteria, as opposed to learning about art.

For example, by creating a dance to represent the relation between climate change and atmospheric conditions, students physically act out meteorological concepts, which helps to strengthen memory for those concepts. Students also practice recalling concepts from memory during rehearsals and the final performance, which also helps to promote memory and is known as the generation effect (Vega).

Multiple cognitive abilities are involved through arts integration, providing a deeper understanding and retention of the criteria.

Why it works:

 

Developing the entirety of the organic mind is a process of increasing the interconnectivity between the hemispheres of the brain; without multiple approaches it would be difficult to achieve for individual learners as there is no one artistic media for all.

Another approach to whole mind development through the Arts is intensive musical training. In a World Post article, Kathleen Miles addresses “How Art is Crucial To Understanding The Human Mind.” in an interview with Antonio Damasio M.D. As Director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of California and professor of neuroscience, Antonio Damasio, M.D. is a leader in the field of cognitive neuroscience. The cognitive neuroscience field is part psychology and neuroscience, studying the biological nervous or brain system behind cognition and mental processes. Damasio conducted a longitudinal study on intensive musical training in children ages 5-11, through after school programs in LA and Venezuela, measuring musical progress, cognitive ability, affect and social skills that suggests intensive musical training supports the interconnection of both hemispheres in the brain. Music composure stimulates creativity, while improving math skills through familiarization of numbers and sound while having positive affects on social behavior (Miles).


21st Century Enlightenment

The 21st Century Enlightenment identifies a clear need for reform in the school system in order to educate the world’s problem solvers of the future. The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce  is dedicated to the formation, involvement and achievement of 21st Century Enlightenment.  The RSA is a platform for anyone with ideas of how to develop and promote new ways of thinking of how to face the challenges as a human race, while considering human fulfillment and social progress. The charity describes our current situation of today in a comprehensive video on the site.

Through this organization’s idea of enlightenment, I see an opportunity to combine influences from the Eastern Enlightenment, 17th Century Enlightenment, as well as the American Enlightenment. Practical experimentation and research are performed at the RSA Action and Research Center, public debate and discussion of new ideas are encouraged at RSA hosted Events, as well as social change and innovation through the organization’s global network – RSA Fellowship; consisting of over 27,000 members world wide.


The Knight of the Education Revolution Table: Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D., is a retired college professor as well as an internationally recognized and leading speaker in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources in education and business. Robinson is highly published and works with governments and education systems in the United States, Asia and Europe. His “How Schools Kill Creativity” TEDTalk is an excellent introduction to his logical approach to creating the world’s problem solvers as mentioned in the RSA video previously featured.

Intelligence is: 1) Diverse; we think about the world visually, sound, kinesthetically, abstract terms, movement. 2) Dynamic; the brain is interactive and not divided into compartments. Creativity, the process of having original ideas that have value, comes from the interaction of different disciplinary view of seeing things. 3) Distinct and unique to each individual (Robinson).

This definition would allow for augmented intelligence to be considered true intelligence if the human element of the H-LAM/T system described by Doug Engelbart was guaranteed to no be affected by the previously mentioned negative affects of media and multi-tasking on the mind paired with the influence of excess data processing. The human personality is very much a product of it’s environment and the augmentation would cause an major redirection in the perception of environment.

The discussion of how schools kill creativity lead the way for a follow-up TEDTalk on what can be done about the matter. In his updated TEDTalk on education, Robinson calls for a learning revolution, to recreate the system as opposed to evolving the current system. Like a farmer and his crops, we can’t predict the outcome of human development, but we can create the environment necessary for flourishing. Personalizing education to those being taught, in order to encourage the diversity of talents results in satisfaction and fulfillment of the spirits and energies that comprise passion. Doing what you are passionate about creates human flourishing. In order to create educated citizens, capable of solving the issues the world will face in the near and distant future, requires an education environment that aids in discovery of what ignites a spark within each unique individual.


Conclusion

The 21st  Century Enlightenment identifies a clear path towards the formation of Engelbart’s ‘enlightened society’ and provides a working example of a new enlightenment’s creation process. If we assume the responsibility of being active creators of the 21st century Enlightenment, we will participate in a necessary change to the world. The combination of these approaches to revolutionize education creates an opportunity for organic progress to be made within the minds of mankind prior to technological augmentation. The practice of mindfulness incorporated with the previously mentioned approaches to art education implemented into the reform of the education system.

Cognitive Neuroscience is the beginning of Engelbart’s discipline aimed at understanding and harnessing the power of human intellect, described as ‘neural power’ at the closing of his “Augmenting Human Intelligence”. It is likely that once the school system is revolutionized, changing the way in which we educate future generations will result in an organic evolution of the mind. Humans themselves can create an organic augmentation of the mind, producing the world’s problem solvers in just a few generations within schools as opposed to an earlier augmentation of the current human brain. The possibility of expanding the mind’s abilities organically is motivation to hold off on augmented intelligence to allow for an organic augmentation to first be made. It is our responsibility to the human race as a whole to create conditions inspiring creativity and further organic development prior to technology augmentation.

 


Works Cited

Adams, Juliet. “The Neuroscience of Mindfulness.” Mindfulnet. Web. 23 July 2014. <http://www.mindfulnet.org/page25.htm#NeuroRLmindfulness>.

Engelbart, Doug. “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework.” Doug Engelbart Insitute. Doug Engelbart Institute, Oct 1962. Web. 9 July 2014.

Leamnson, Robert. “Learning (Your First Job).” Dartmouth: UMass Dartmouth, 2002.

Fernando, Randima. “Measuring the Efficacy and Sustainability of Mindfulness-Based In-Class Intervention.” Mindful Schools (2013): 1-27. PDF file.

Miles, Kathleen. “How Art Is Crucial To Understanding The Human Mind.” The World Post, 22 July 2014. Web. 27 July 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/22/art-human-mind_n_5569280.html>

Nelson, Theodore and Kapor, Mitch. “21. Computer Lib/Dream machines.” New Media Reader. Redmont, Washington: Books/Microsoft Press 1987: 301-338. PDF file.

Richtel, Matt. “Multitasking hurts brains ability to focus, scientists say.” Seattle Times, 6 June 2010. Web. 23 July 2014. <http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2012049123_ webmultitask07.html>

Robinson, Sir Ken. “Bring on the learning revolution!” TEDTalk, Feb. 2010. Web. 20 July 2014. <http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution>

Robinson, Sir Ken. “How schools kill creativity.” TEDTalk, Feb. 2006. Web. 20 July 2014. <http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity>

Roskelly, Hephzibah. “The Cupped Hand and the Open Palm.” Evolving Ideas. (pg 125-135). Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Publishers, Inc., 1999. Web. 26 July 2014. <http://users.ipfw.edu/wellerw/mkng_peer_grps_wrk.pdf>.

Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce: 21st Century Enlightenment. RSA. Web. 28 July 2014.

Vega, Vanessa. “A Research-Based Approach to Arts Integration.” Edutopia: What Works In Education. The George Lucas Education Foundation, 29 Aug 2012, Web, 26 Jul 2014. <http://www.edutopia.org/stw-arts-integration-research#chart >.