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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Confessions of a Creative Brain


A developed brain regularly generates ideas outside of the direct interests of the host.

That only happens into a human brain, because other animals have no ideas (and they have no idea about that). For other animals their brain is a black box that receives signals and generates reactions. Those animals are no aware of the processes happening in their brains.

Humans is the only animal that can (after a certain training) be aware of the processes happening in their brains. 

No  one is ever born with a developed brain. But everyone is born with potentially developed brain. Who eventually gets it developed (and often is called smart) depends on how much of a good luck one has.

In us, humans, most of the processes happening in our brain, happen without our knowledge about them (exactly like in all other animals). Unless we deliberately think about something, we are not aware of what our brain is working on. Deliberate thinking is an exclusively human practice (e.g. The Deliberate Thinking v. Digging a Trench & The Importance of Early Exposure to Thinking). As any human practice, it can be trained to different levels of proficiency. As every human practice, it has its own side-effects. One of such side-effects is ideas that come seemingly from nowhere. There are many stories about people who came up with some important or unusual idea in their sleep. There are books on the role of an insight in science or business.

Every idea, every insight is the result of some processes happening in our brain without our knowledge, but then brought to us as a given statement – do this! Often, when this happens we feel excitement – eureka! I got it! A brain uses this emotion to tell us – pay attention to this statement, it’s important. It feels like a click – something clicked in our mind, and a switch was flipped from the state of confusion and frustration into a state of revelation and euphoria.

A note for all educators: this is what all student value the most – not fun, not a relation to everyday life, not a grade – but the feeling of excitement that comes together with “I got it! I did it!”. If your students do not have that feeling – quit the job. Want to be a better teacher? Learn from the best.

Imagine that you were cooking in your sleep. You wake up, and you see a dish. You have no knowledge about how did it get here, no recollection of making it, but it tastes great! This is what an insight is.

And exactly like in this example with cooking, an insight needs ingredients. Babies do not have insights because their brain has no information enough to cook up something very new (plus, they are not intelligent enough yet to express themselves in words). Their memory is not filled yet with sufficient amount of facts. When people grow up, their memory gets filled with more and more facts (or fakes, perceived as facts). An insight – any insight; every insight – is always based on a new combination of the information pieces (“atoms” of our knowledge) already (i.e. previously) existing in a memory. An insight also can be about information missing at this time – this is what I need to figure out!” But that insight is also based on the information pieces (“atoms” of our knowledge) already existing in the memory. That is why asking an anesthesiologist what does he/she think about a string theory metric tensor is useless (need further explanation? write a comment or send an email).

A note for all educators: that is why only highly experienced teachers can prepare activities and successfully guide students when the task requires from them inventing/discovering something they did not know before. And that is why making students to work in a group forcing them into solving a problem before they have learned all the information necessary for solving that problem is also useless; waste of time and effort; and the source of frustration – with the teacher, with the teaching process, with the school, and with themselves.

When we deliberately think about something, trying to solve a problem, trying to figure out something about something, we set in motion some processes in our brain that continue to happen even when we take a break from our thinking (stopped thinking about that thing). We do not think about it anymore, but our brain does – without telling us about it. And then, when our brain makes some new connections that makes sense for it (based on some internal criteria, like the proximity to what we expected during our period of deliberate thinking), it lets us know about the result. Click! An insight!

But a similar situation may happen also outside of the focus of our immediate interests. We have hobbies. We listen to radio, watch TV shows, read books. All that information accumulates and eventually may result in an insight that is not related to any deliberate thinking within our professional field.

This is what I call a side-effect of a functioning of a developed brain (developed in terms of a large library of facts, and also in terms of the ability to manipulate with relatively large number of mental items/elements).

During my professional life, I have collected many of such side-effects. Many of the posts on this blog are such side-effects. Sometimes, when I am stuck in a traffic, or swim in a pool, my mind is blank, but my brain is working and brings me an idea. Like a bubble under water, it moves to the surface of my consciousness, and grows to the size that does not fit in the brain anymore. When that happens, I start writing.

Sometimes, I may even have an idea about a specific device that I think could be useful for some people. But I do not want to change my profession from a teacher to an inventor. And I also do not want to let my idea to die in vain. So, I offer it to someone – usually to anyone/everyone.

As I wrote in The Biggest Fakes and Breakthroughs of The Next Decade, since 2004 I have been reaching out to hundreds of people, including venture capitalists. For them I prepared two short videos:  Free business ideas from Dr. Voroshilov: part 1”, and  “Free business ideas from Dr. Voroshilov: part 2”. My latest attempt is described in Is the Cat Worth Be Saved? or A Curious Case of a Risky Entrepreneur. That time I sent an email to MIT Media Lab and asked for a short meeting. Nothing happened. Then Mr. Ito stepped down and I decided to try my luck again. I sent an email to Prof. Pattie Maes. Her answer was – the lab does not work with people outside the lab. Even though my whole point was to try a new, pioneering, practice, as a matchmaker between people who have an idea but do not want to pursue it (e.g. yours truly), and people who can pick it up and lead to the development of a device.

In seventeen years of me living in Boston and reaching all across the U.S., I have not met any person who would be willing to take a risk to “step out their element”. This YouTube conversation between a smart-not-so-bad gay and an a very-smart-bad guy from the Billions” captures the essence of the current state of risk management” on all echelons of American enterprise. Taking a risk demands at the minimum an ability to see alternatives. Arrogance as “I'm so smart I know everything” blinds and the very foundation of risk-taking (the existence of alternatives) goes away. After not taking actual risk for a long time this ability degrades and dies out. No one wants to spend time on assessing the content of a message, everyone assesses the messenger - “if it's shiny, it must be gold”.

Investing into what you see right around a corner doesn't require a long vision (or even a long division). An investor is like a person who keeps one foot in the present (on a stable place) and uses another one to tap around to find the next stable place to put the foot on it, and then repeats the process.

In the previous quote, term “investor” describes any person who thinks about how to invest his/her time to advance his/her personal or professional life. And not one from the hundreds of people who I reached out in the last 15 years would take a risk.

Taking risk is not easy. I know that. I took a risk when I won a Green Card and decided to drop my great professional career and move to the U.S. – with no money, no English, no network. I believed in myself. But I also had a very strong incentive – if I stayed, my son would have been drafted in the Red Army. If that was not a case, I still would move, but I would be scared more.

My experience demonstrates that America does not provide anymore incentives to take risk to people who have already achieved some stable status – in science, in economics, in philanthropy, in government, in politics. I think this is one of the sources of the overall decline in American prosperity.

The idea I wanted to offer to the MIT has been brewing in me since 2009 (ten years!). I knew I would never do anything about it. But I wanted to hand it to people who could. And I failed. Twice. That is why I decided to give it away into the open.

Here it is.

A human brain is an amazing device. If a part of a brain gets damaged, it can rebuild itself in a way that new parts of a brain may compensate functions that used be performed by the damaged part (don't be lazy, google it). All it needs is (a) sensory inputs from the same sources that supplied those inputs to the damaged part (or, as a new human organ -  even from new type of sources); but (b) delivered to the healthy parts of a brain (for the purpose of citation - the Voroshilov's Principle of Brian Augmentation). 

Simple!

Let’s say a person is blind. Video signals can be acquired and processed using a camera and an interface. That interface may be local, or may be wirelessly connected to a mainframe computer. In any case, that interface transform video signals and delivers them to a sensory patch attached to a large portion of a skin (e.g. on a back; but theoretically, can be anywhere, even inside of a body). The patch induces sensations in the skin via a large number of point-sensors acting on a skin at many different points. A point-sensor may use an electric signal (using variable potential difference), or a pressure-signal (using small electromagnets with a moving needle-like core). Of course,  sensors/cameras/microphones can register and transform inputs from the spectrum outside of the regular human range (e.g. ultraviolet,  ultrasonic, heat-sensor/infrared-registrant, artificial “nose”, i.e. molecular registrant). Coupled with brain-reading and brain-influencing techniques we get a complete brain-augmenting technology.

With the right technological solution, and specifically designed training (this would be my field of expertise, especially when the experiments move from mice/cats/dogs/dolphins/monkeys to humans), a blind person will eventually develop a sensation similar to vision – of course, in a very rudimental form, but even that is better than nothing at all (do not believe? let's bet on it).

The same approach can be used to train solders or astronauts to “see” what they could not see otherwise (an actual functioning third eye to see outside of the visible spectrum or  behind them).

The same approach can be used to develop, re-develop, or enhance human hearing, sniffing.

I would expect DARPA would be interested in this project, but my past attempts to reach out to DARPA also failed. Which is not assuring, considering that DARPA supposed to lead America in taking risks.

Good luck!

Dr. Valentin Voroshilov



1. An idea that represents an expansion of already well-known practice. Scaling up an activity that is already present. An example is the GroundTruth project. There are places in America without local news – let’s install there a reporter.
2. A modification of existing practice. For example, instead of lecturing switching to a “flipped classroom” model.
3. Transferring existing practice from one technological platform to another. For example, modification of teaching using the Internet (transition from no technology to the use of technology), a combination of WWW and teaching; MOOCs (only the first MOOC was an exception and fell into the 5th category). Another example is transitioning from using coding algorithms to so-called AI.
4. Some combination of 1, 2 and 3.
5. A brand new original idea. It has no roots, no history, it does not grow from any previous project, it is basically based on an insight. Hence, there are no experts who could really assess the idea. “Experts” would divide between “this is just crazy”, and “I cannot say it will work, but I cannot say it will not”. The decision to support or not is based on a gut feeling, risk-taking ability, and a personal attitude toward the applicant(s). A project is often based on an idea of combining two already existing practices in a new non-existing yet. An example is x.com – an online bank co-funded by Elon Musk, i.e. the combination of banking and WWW. In the current environment such projects have no chance to get a support. Thetolerance for risk-taking is zero.
 

P.S.  

Which country was able to achieve a total world domination?

The one that developed the first atomic bomb?
No.

The one that developed the first hydrogen bomb?
No.

The one that placed the first man in cosmos?
No.

The one that placed the first man on the Moon?
No.

Future over-hyped technologies like “AI” with its various applications, augmented reality, controlled fusion, space travel, or else, also will not be able to give a significant advantage to one country over others (probably, for good). But there is one technology that can do that - the technology for unlocking human creativity en masse. This technology does not yet exist, but possible. And no country is working on it, just yet. The one that starts the first will have all the advantage.
 
Clearly, no one at DARPA (and all other places I tried to reach out) has ever read “Noise Level” by Raymond F. Jones (1952!).


Note: this post is a part of the series:

China v. The U.S.: The Battle Of Strategic Thinking




 

NOTE: A piece of history: http://news.mit.edu/2005/laptops-1005
Does anyone remember today this highly over-hyped project?


For more information about the project, visit laptop.media.mit.edu.
Try this link! 

Note: this page
provides links to some YouTube videos on different matters (most of my videos are my lectures, but some are on politics or whatever comes to mind).

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Biggest Fakes and Breakthroughs of The Next Decade.

The biggest fakes.

1. Artificial Intelligence.

There is nothing really intelligent about it.
I have written numerous papers on the matter and address everyone to this page.
What “AI” represents and will be representing for a long time ahead is an advanced pattern-recognition system with limited ability to self-adjustment. Nothing more. It’s not a trivial matter, but it is not going to get close to human intelligence any soon. Of course, AI-called systems will penetrate many different practices, because they can significantly speed up any pattern-recognition process. But that’s that. Writers who write about AI do not even have a definition of intelligence (I do). They do not even know the difference between “a definition” and “a description”. The core of intelligence is not pattern recognition but imagination (google - Einstein on intelligence), because imagination is the source of creativity (e.g. Confessions of a Creative Brain). The only option for a breakthrough in the field of actual artificial intelligence is to initiate a deep and targeted research into human intelligence, its functioning, its structure. But that would mean hiring people who have a deep knowledge in the field of human intelligence; how it functions, how it is developed. But that would need people who (a) have the access to top level of decision making, and (b) already have such knowledge. It will take another decade to have that people at those levels, hence – a decade of faking is upon of us.

Naturally, media tells a very different stories. It's because people in the field use a very powerful tool reduction/reducing. They say artificial intelligence but then ignore the true meaning of intelligence (because they do not know it) and reduce intelligence to pattern recognition and then say - we can do that. They say machine leaningbut then ignore the true meaning of learning (because they do not know it) and reduce learning to animal training and then say - we can do that. They say data science but then ignore the true meaning of science (because they do not know it) and reduce science to statistical analysis of correlations and then say - we can do that. Many of the methods for correlation analysis have been around for decades and well used in many fields beyond statistics (e.g. physics). All developed sciences are based on the detailed analysis of a vast amount of data and use the same method of reasoning - a scientific method of thinking. Data science requires first and foremost an ability to apply that method for establishing a strategy for the future search of relevant/important correlations. And only then apply a specific statistical method. It's like coding - first a coder needs to establish a set of actions (in a from of commands), and then to choose a programming language and apply it (of course, an experienced coder does it almost at the same time). But media do not tell public about all this. Media just fakes the level of achievements in all those fields.

2. Educational Technologies.

Computers, tablets, smart-phones, the Internet, MOOCs, online home-work systems, online lab systems, etc. – you name it. They all have failed to make any visible difference in education (except making tons of money for some players), and will be failing again and again. Granted, above the K12 level some technologies brought some convenience to some students. But that's that. Technologies have failed for K12 schools. Imagine bringing in a kindergarten the most advanced computers and giving them to kids. If you expect the kids would really benefit from that – you have no idea what learning is, and how it happens. But in this example, computers represent all technologies that are being pushed on to teachers, and kids represent teachers. Not all of them but the vast majority. In order to be able to use any technology effectively, a teacher has to be good at teaching in the first place. Otherwise no technology can make any difference. Of course, if we had robots as smart as good teachers, that would allow to replace bad teachers with machines. But this is not going to happen any soon (see the first fake). Hence, the only way technologies will make any difference if – first and foremost – schools will be getting lots and lots of good teachers.

Some additional publications on the matter:


3. Education Reform.

Reforming education has come to it’s failing end. EdReform is dead! Hail to EdReform! Naturally, politicians, the government, the NSF will revile very soon a new approach to reforming education. And that will be a fake. America simply does not have yet enough people who understand what education is and how should it function, hence have a sense of the change required by the new paradigm. The Department of Education is not responsible for reforming schools, it is responsible for establishing stable functioning. Reformation is the duty of the NSF. AS I pointed out in How much of the NSF funded fundamental scientific educational research is really fundamental? and Publicity v. The Mission; a tough decision For The NSF., the NSF does not have people who are capable to envision bold approaches and approve ideas that do not fall into work of already existing groups. For decades every single “innovator” was advocating for an “evidence-based approach” to reforming education. What they all meant, though, “our evidence-based”. Take physics, for example. If an experiment is done in one country, physicists in other countries do not reject it because of the territorial difference. In education there is plenty of evidence coming from Russia, China, Finland and many other countries for what works in education. But American “scientists” (in the field of education) simply ignore all that data. Despite the fact that all human are equally human independently of the place of living. And will keep ignoring, because that is the only way for them to defend their own turf, and to keep all those grant money (millions of dollars) they use to do the “research”, that is absolutely trivial (as described in this paper), and does not make any impact. American “scientists” (in the field of education) do not even know what “science” is. If they did, they would follow the scientific method of reasoning, including “deriving from the first principles”. Take physics, again. No one needs to perform more experiments with weights and springs to prove the second Newton’s law – that law now is the first principle, and is used to arrive at other conclusions about mechanical systems. Humans (in all countries) function according to the same physiological and psychological laws. Imagine an experiment with two groups of people who have similar physical abilities. For a month, one group will exercise both arms, and another just a left one. If in a month we measure the strength of the people’s arms – what do you expect to observe? The answer is trivial. And does NOT require conducting of an actual experiment, because it is based on a simple fundamental principle – when a muscle is being exercised, it gets stronger, otherwise it is not (or even gets atrophic). The same principle describes a brain development. In education, it leads to a simple rule – when a learner is immersed in a learning process learning happens; the absence of learning is an indicator of the absence of a learning process. Period. There are many similar rules that do not require exhausting specific experimentation – they require mass implementation (using a specific strategy, called Professional Designing for Teachers). The knowledge and the use of those fundamental principles makes the vast amount of the NSF “research” in education useless. But no one will ever confirm this as a fact. For at least two decades the “reform” was based on the

“idea” that schools are factories with assembly lines, and teachers are workers who have to be punished for every mistake and paid extra for something that reformers did not even know how to assess. But when Henry Ford developed his assembly line, he did not just open doors to workers and told - go, figure out how it works. No, he trained them. American teachers are badly trained, en masse. There is virtually no system of teacher professional development. It could exists, but no one wants it. Because if smart, educated, and powerful people would wanted it, it would exist already (another example of reasoning from the first principle). There is a specific governmental unit that is responsible for technological breakthroughs to keep America ahead of the world – DARPA. I have been advocating for such an “agency” in the field of education – since 2004 (Perimeter Institute for Learning and Teaching (PILT): the future of the future of education reform.). In fact, since 2004 (when my English became OK) I have been reaching out to politicians, officials, educators, philanthropists, venture capitalists, the NSF, altogether hundreds of people, not once I was able to elicit any response. From about 40,000 American visitors (from total of more than 87,000) of my blog no one found anything interesting to write a logical response to any conclusion, project, proposal. Despite the fact that the vast majority of my publications offer more than just a critical analysis of the issues, but also specific steps to resolve them. No one reflects on the logic of the publication; everyone dismisses it based on a simple fact – the author has no name. With this level of anti-curiosity and self-absorbedness the next stage of “reforming” will be just a next stage of fighting for the slice of the money-pie. And there will be no help from philanthropy. As I described in  Seven Reasons Why Rich Philanthropists Fail at Making Systemic Changes in Education, philanthropists like surrounding themselves with the people who like them. So, no room for “the team of rivals”, no competition of ideas. Till these days, philanthropy has never spurred any innovation. The best it can do is to preserve the status quo. Hence – stagnation. And the last possible force, venture capital, will not be able to make the turn in EdReform. As I described (in part) in “Will Artificial Intelligence Save, Replace or even Affect Education Practices? (a venture capitalist’s view)”, those people so strongly believe in their own powers, so they are absolutely convinced that their primitive view on education is the only way to approach education. My long-term experiment demonstrates that, although America has individuals who truly want improve mass education, she does not have people who want to do that. People (who belong to different social circles) want participate in continuous endless improvement of education. The end game does not interest anyone. “I am very good at teaching, I can teach more students”. “Thanks, but, no, thanks.”I have a unique experience that I can offer to help instructors and teachers teach better”. “Thanks, but, no, thanks.” This way of management is everywhere in educationall areas, all levels. For the next decade.


4. American Democracy.

Vast majority of Americans believe that “voting” is an equivalent of “democracy”. Of course, educated Americans know the difference, but the number of those people have been gradually decreasing for the last 30 years. The result is that three pillars of democracy – separation of powers (a.k.a. check and balances), free speech, and the rule of law – have been significantly corrupted. This corruption demonstrates the fact that American is in the stage of the elite change: the old elites have degraded and have become out of touch with the reality, the new elite does not yet exist, it is just in the process of being created. America is entering the period of ethnic battles; people on the conservative side have been preparing this for a long time, and now use all options to install their supporters to as many official places as possible (e.g. the judges who will not use their power to uphold the law, but will use the law to increase the power of the social group they belong to). America has now its own “state media” (e.g. FOX), and social media only strengthen that type of influence leading to further clusterization of American society. That will lead to even stronger polarization. The period of political and social chaos (plus the market crash in 2021/22) inevitably leads to the further weakening of democratic institutions and strengthening authoritarian tendencies.


The biggest breakthroughs.

1. Ability to grow and regenerate biological tissues and organs.

2. Ability to interpret electric impulses of a mind (“mind reading”).

3. Ability to use electromagnetic waves/beams to induce different states of mind. Combined with #2 it brings an ability to share states of mind directly between individuals.

4. Developing of a vast database of correlations between different teaching and learning actions and outcomes (the strategy for such approach is described here). 

5. Brain Augmenting Technologies 


Note: this post is a part of the series:

China v. The U.S.: The Battle Of Strategic Thinking