I am not a robot. Because… (in a minute!)

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If you were trying to convince another human that you yourself are also human, what would you say? Probably something about emotions, right? That might work – but other humans are more likely to believe your humanity if you talk about bodily functions.

Specifically, the word ‘poop’.

At least, that’s the finding from a study that sought to determine a “minimal Turing test”, narrowing the human-like intelligence assessment down to a single word.

In a new paper, cognitive scientists John McCoy and Tomer Ullman of MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (McCoy is now at the University of Pennsylvania) asked 1,089 study participants what single word they would choose for this purpose: not to help distinguish humans from machines, but to try to understand what we humans think makes us human. The next part of the study involved figuring out which of those words would be more likely to convince other humans of humanity.

Unsurprisingly, the least successful word was robot. But the most successful – poop – was a surprise. This could, the researchers said, be because ‘taboo’ words generate an emotional response, rather than simply describing one. (1)

Ah those humans.

Amazing beings.

Trying to understand the cosmos.

Feeling love and hate.

Trying hard.

Looking at the stars.

Wandering.

In search for meaning.

Alone with their self.

At the hardest time.

Poop!

Yeah…

Coming out in a minute!

Brain. One with the body. Falling in love.

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At a small eatery in Seville, Spain, Alan Jasanoff had his first experience with brains — wrapped in eggs and served with potatoes. At the time, he was more interested in finding a good, affordable meal than contemplating the sheer awesomeness of the organ he was eating. Years later, Jasanoff began studying the brain as part of his training as a neuroscientist, and he went on, like so many others, to revere it. It is said, after all, to be the root of our soul and consciousness. But today, Jasanoff has yet another view: He has come to see our awe of the organ as a seriously flawed way of thinking, and even a danger to society.

In The Biological Mind, Jasanoff, neuroscientist at MIT, refers to the romanticized view of the brain — its separateness and superiority to the body and its depiction as almost supernatural — as the “cerebral mystique”. Such an attitude has been fueled, in part, by images that depict the brain without any connection to the body or by analogies that compare the brain to a computer. Admittedly, the brain does have tremendous computing power. But Jasanoff’s goal is to show that the brain doesn’t work as a distinct, mystical entity, but as a ball of flesh awash with fluids and innately in tune with the rest of the body and the environment. “Self” doesn’t just come from the brain, he explains, but also from the interactions of chemicals from our bodies with everything else around us.

To make his case, Jasanoff offers an extensive yet entertaining review of the schools of thought and representations of the brain in the media that led to the rise of the cerebral mystique, especially during the last few decades. He then tears down those ideas using contrary examples from recent research, along with engaging anecdotes. For instance, his clear, lively writing reveals how our emotions, such as the fight-or-flight response and the suite of thoughts and actions associated with stress, provide strong evidence for a brain-body connection. Exercise’s effect on the brain also supports this notion. Even creativity isn’t sacred, often stemming from repeated interactions with those around us. (1)

An interesting viewpoint. But a very limited one.

It is not just the brain connected to your body.

It is your body connected with others.

It is your mind connected with everything else.

Would you be afraid without your stomach?

Could you speak without your food?

Would you dream without your heart?

Could you cry without your daughter?

Your soul is connected with the cosmos.

Yes, you are your body. And your mind. And your brain. And your heart. And your mother. And your children. And everything around you. You are these things and these things are you. Look at the stars in the vast cold space. They are there. And you are here. And yet, you wouldn’t be able to fall in love without them. Look at the stars in the sky. You are here. And they are there. And yet, they couldn’t even shine without you…

Phantom reality… Affecting reality…

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In breakthrough research led by neuroscientist Olaf Blanke and his team at EPFL, Switzerland, the scientists show that phantom body pain can be reduced in paraplegics by creating a bodily illusion with the help of virtual reality. The results are published in Neurology.

“We managed to provoke an illusion: the illusion that the subject’s legs were being lightly tapped, when in fact the subject was actually being tapped on the back, above the spinal cord lesion,” explains Blanke, lead author of the study and holder of the Foundation Bertarelli Chair in Cognitive Neuroprosthetics. “When we did this, the subjects also reported that their pain had diminished”. (1)

Illusions in the mirror.

Affecting the reflection…

And yet the reflection is real.

Just don’t disturb the water…

Head transplant. Waves. Resonance. Life…

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Things didn’t go so great for Victor Frankenstein or his monster, but don’t tell that to Sergio Canavero.

The Italian doctor believes that it’s now possible to slice the head of off one person, stitch it to the decapitated body of another, and then reanimate the two-human mash-up. What’s more, he says the first head transplant operation could come in two years, New Scientist reported.

The goal of such an audacious operation would be to extend the lives of people whose bodies were too diseased or injured to keep the head alive. As Canavero told The Huffington Post in an email, “Go to any neurology ward, ask to see someone with muscle-wasting disorders, and the answer [as to why the surgery makes sense] will be crystal clear”. (1)

Western civilization has been attached to matter for so long. We crave for meat. We love our bodies. We want to be immortal and yet we care for the things which make us not.

If consciousness is a wave, then it needs freedom to oscillate.

It needs freedom to resonate at what is important. (2)

Take a glockenspiel and try to play with it while holding its keys. No sound will ever come out. Let go of your body. Let go of your brain. And the music will start over again…

Microbes, death, Universe…

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You have around 100 trillion bacteria living in your gut — and that’s a good thing. Known as gut flora or the gut microbiome, these microorganisms help your body digest certain foods, aid the immune system, and maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract, all in exchange for a constant food supply.

But when you die, your friendly gut flora quickly become your gut foe. Without food, the microbes escape your GI tract through the circulatory system and spread to your other organs, feeding on your dying cells and colonizing your body. (1)

Who defines that our boundary is our skin?

Who makes us so tiny when we are gods?

Stop believing your are just matter ready to be consumed by microbes.

You are the universe.

And you will live for ever…

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