I Know What You're Thinking...

“What I hate is ignorance, smallness of imagination, the eye that sees no farther than its own lashes. All things are possible. Who you are is limited only by who you think you are.”
~ Egyptian Book of the Dead, written between 2000 – 1500 B.C.

Yesterday I watched two amazing videos. One was the Ted Talk, “Can we create new senses for humans?” by speaker David Eagleman on the technological developments being made that allow us to expand our human sensory systems. From his sensory vest to prosthetic limbs, neuroscientists are pairing with engineers to completely change the way we live in this world.

As humans, we can perceive less than a ten-trillionth of all light waves. “Our experience of reality,” says Eagleman, “is constrained by our biology.”

The same goes for the electromagnetic frequencies that surround us. Every living thing continuously emits signals. Our bodies have developed in such a way that we tune much of it out. Yet as neuroscience progresses, what we discover is that much more is going on around us than our brains are letting on.

The second video I watched is one about Smartstones: Headsets for the non-verbal. This short video is one of the most heart-warming advertisements I’ve seen in a while. Click on it above and see what I’m talking about. Essentially, people who have no voice can wear an EEG headset that will transmit their thoughts to a smart device that will then use a speech app to send texts and messages to others, allowing those who’ve been left out of our communication, a place in society in a whole new way.

Essentially, our brains are base stations, transmitting and receiving data at a constant rate. That stream of consciousness that runs through your head, guess what? It’s not just in your head. Every thought creates an analog signal that can be read by any device tuned into the right frequency. Right now you assume that those thoughts are private, but soon, they won’t be private at all.

This isn’t a new idea. There are plenty of documented cases of people being able to read another’s mind. While most of us write these cases off as nonsense, it appears that perhaps what these people have is an expanded sensory system. That instead of needing machines to take the analog signals emitted from people’s minds, their own brains have the ability to tune into the spectrum in which the frequency of thoughts exists. Perhaps it’s a genetic thing, some gene is flipped that gives them this extra-sensory experience.  If this is the case, then our thoughts really haven’t been private from the start. It’s just that only a few of us have had access to them.

For now.

But if we can create headsets that convert these brain signals into frequencies that our machines can receive, like cell phone signals, then we won’t even need to be concerned with ESP or clairvoyance as a fact. Instead, any one of us will be able to access one another’s minds. Which means our thoughts will become very, very important.

Sages through the ages have long taught us that our thoughts create our reality. From the Tao Te Ching to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, books so old we’re not really sure when they were written, the ability to control the mind is applauded. Later we have the Buddha advising us to cultivate, Right Thought. And even Jesus states, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” Oh, that quote is also found in the Temple of Luxor. Perhaps he got the idea there?

Regardless, to know thyself has never been more important. What does the Kingdom of Heaven really mean? Perhaps it means that the way you experience life is directly related to the way you talk to yourself. That the messages floating around in our brains all day long actually shape our reality. If we see life as positive, it is. If we see life as fearful, it is. This is truly the most powerful human skill—the ability to change our minds.

The only thing you can change is your mind, not someone else’s mind, nor their behavior. This is the way of things. Get pissed a lot, life is full of piss. Let go of the need to control, life is pretty good. And it all starts with how you think.

For millennium, we’ve been taught to think upon these things. To take the time to sit with one’s thoughts and observe them. This will eventually lead you to knowing who you are and what you stand for. But it will also make you question the very core of what you believe. To participate in Right Thought, as the Buddha prescribed, is to be disciplined enough to see your thoughts, and know that even they don’t represent your true self, rather they represent your opinions in that moment in time. Eventually, even your thoughts can be let go and instead, one becomes a receiver and observer, rather than a transmitter spewing their stream of consciousness out on the airwaves without regard.

As we’ve seen with the online troll phenomena, when humans think they have some sort of anonymity, they spew trash. Cruel, evil nonsense. The stuff of madmen. But when we all have the ability to read one another’s minds, anonymity is gone. Poof! The separation between us will disappear, and what we considered private will be open source for all to know. Of course there’ll be some sort of permission granting that takes place, and you can always take off the EEG. But with time, I can see this technology taking flight in a whole array of products and it will be next to impossible for any man to think he’s an island unto himself.

This scares people shitless. Most of us are ashamed of what goes on in our minds. Perhaps this is why we’ve rejected the idea of ESP or telepathy for so long—because the mere idea that someone could have that ability violates the most intimate part of our lives. Better to believe it’s impossible, and call anyone who claims the ability, insane or a fraud.

Yet with advancements in neuroscience, and the related sensory enhancing technologies that are starting to come of age, the impossible will become reality. And that’s really what technological development does—what was once considered magic becomes a part of everyday life.

Want to be prepared for the future? Then start within. Listen to your mind, and begin the work of programming it to reflect the world you wish to see.

Math is Beautiful--Don't Give it Up!

Lately I’ve seen a lot of blogs and articles claiming that the teaching of Algebra is holding our kids back. Many students are failing the subject and it’s often listed as the number one academic reason for high-school drop-out. Considered the gatekeeper for students’ careers, many are beginning to call for it to be removed from our curriculum. Roger C. Shank, a cognitive scientist and education reformer makes a simple argument for this in his Washington Post op-ed piece. While I agree that our educational system leaves much to be desired when it comes to truly preparing our students for the future, removing higher mathematics and related sciences from our studies will move the subjects once more into the realm of mastery and the elites, and this will significantly limit us as a society.
The study of the natural world, and mathematics, the language to describe these systems, were actually developed within the structure of mystery schools. Only those with the qualifications were allowed entry. They followed strict rules about how they lived their lives and in return worked together to solve some of the greatest mysteries of that time.The famous Greek mathematician, Pythagoras' school is a perfect example of this. Their science was treated like a religion and entry into their cult was incredibly difficult. Their information was tightly guarded, shared only with initiates, yet all they were really doing was satisfying their curiosity. Like the research labs of our universities, these men were looking out at the world around them and studying it, learning from nature and then trying to describe it and prove it with their equations. While the rest of the world toiled with everyday living, the masters and elites understood how life really worked, how it was created and how we ourselves are a part of this greater mystery.
Mathematics is so much more than simple arithmetic. We can all agree that sixth grade math is something we use, from balancing our bank accounts to building a garden bed. But higher mathematics gives us a peek at something bigger—the construction of the universe itself. Geometry shows us the basic forms of matter. Spheres, squares, rhomboids and cones. Each of these govern how life appears in its physical shape. Understanding Pi, or 3.14159…, allows the student to begin to see that while everything has order, things are also irrational. When we open our eyes to the beauty of these shapes, we begin to appreciate life on Earth and the harmony in which matter exists.
Higher mathematics also teaches us about the unknown. Solving the quadratic equation is not something I’ve done since college, I agree. Yet learning how to take variables and solve for them, to look for data and search for balance in my equations, made me a much better software engineer. A typical software application deals with the mundane, but how you code it, how much memory it takes, the speed in which it runs, and what sort of functions you will call, are all unknowns that you must make manifest. Years studying higher level mathematics enabled me to do just that. Once you’ve studied vector spaces, everything else looks easy.
I hear you. You’re not going to be an engineer so enough of the STEM stuff. Well, there are the practicalities that go with this. Algebra I and II as well as geometry are required to get into most colleges. However, a recent study also found that algebra isn’t just for the college bound. Most careers such as an electrician, plumber or upholsterer--jobs that will pay you enough to feed your family but don’t require a college degree--still require freshman college level math skills to succeed. But that’s not reason enough to study the subject. Life itself follows patterns, it grows and replicates according to mathematical principles and knowing these patterns makes you a better citizen of Earth.
Take the pine cone, whose growth pattern follows the Fibonacci sequence. As a matter of fact, most plants do. This leads us to the Golden Mean, a proportion after which even the human body is modeled. Knowing how you’re built, how a seed germinates, how a tree grows its branches shouldn’t be left to those who are the smartest. These aren’t elite subjects, for each of us is a part of nature and has every right to learn about it. And it’s beautiful. Check out Vi Hart’s work on these subjects, Doodling in Math Class. These videos alone show how amazing math is and it’s relation to our lives.
                I believe that the issue here isn’t that we can’t learn algebra and geometry, it’s that our schools have killed the curriculum. It was a gift when our country decided to teach as many as possible the subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic. There is power in all three of these things and their study leads to a more open society. However forcing kindergarteners to read and learn their multiplication tables isn’t the solution. Five year old children weren’t admitted to Pythagoras’ school. A person had to learn to live in the world physically before they were shown the mental mysteries of the universe. As a result of our pushing early academics and standardizing our teaching methods, we’ve removed the awe and wonder that is natural to the study of math and science, and as a result, many kids are failing these very important subjects.

Rather than remove Algebra from our lives, why not change the way we teach it? Inspire children to learn about the world around them, rather than scare them into learning a subject. Show them how the pine cone grows and how the ancients used the chord functions of a circle to figure out how tall the Great Pyramid was. Without ladders and precision equipment we’re able to know these things because matter follows mathematical principles. We shouldn’t give up simply because we’ve forgotten how to teach others how to learn. It isn’t just the “smart kids” who benefit from these subjects. We all do.