What would it be like to be totally free to do, think and concoct just
about anything your mind can conceive of? This is my new mission… to
figure out the boundaries of our intellects.
This is also a question of total freedom, not just political freedom, but a
kind of intellectual freedom. So let us ask ourselves what it means to
be intellectually free to do what you want, to conceive of what you
want? I think this has been a goal that has completely been ignored by
the greatest minds in human history. At least I haven’t come across it
in my pursuits.
To be intellectually free is to “not be limited by our intellect”. It
is the ability to intellectually grasp and to be intellectually
capable of doing anything we want in a trivial amount of time.
Want to speak German… well go and do it.
Want to understand Nanotechnology, well do it, and then build nano
Want to build the next facebook. Well conceive of the idea and just do
Want to stop Global Warming. Why not, just get on with it.
Anything else is to be limited in our ability to act. To be limited by
our intelligence. It is to be controlled by what we can understand.
And that is a horror to me.
I look all over this world and see people
controlled and limited by what they can conceive. These limitations
are very apparent in my own life.
It is the equivalent of being a fish in a bowl, unable to conceive of
the larger Universe. Limited.
I think more than ever, we as a species feel this inability to act. We
have been flooded by a complex environment of our own making, where we
can’t consceive of escape. All the major problems, of Poverty,
Environmental Destruction, Desease, War, etc… are still unsolved.
So the question is reasonable ask what would a total intellectual
freedom look like.
It is reasonable to first look at our physical selves. Human beings
obviously cannot fly, cannot lift boulders or cut rocks without
instruments. We can then look at our biological physical limitations
and augment them with machines.
It is equally obvious that in our intellectual lives, that we cannot
compute 100!, imagine 10 dimensional spaces or learn the 3500 or so
actively spoken languages directly. What we need is brain
augmentation. And, to that end, we have created computers, the
computer is an embodiment of an abstract machine that can “think” for
us where we cannot think ourselves.
So in the quest for intellectual freedom, we need to create certain
types of machines that we can conceive of and then command to do our
Some of the problems that I have found with modern computers is that
their architecture is now so complex that, a very few of us can
actually understand what our computers are up to. Even fewer amongst
us are capable of actually commanding these machines to do anything
Most of the time we rely on Software created by others to perform a
limited set of computations. Ones that were preconceived by the
So the idea has to be that we set on a mission with a two pronged
1) Learn to augment our minds directly, through a better understanding
of the world around us.
2) Learn to build machines / software that can augment our minds.
So how are we going to do this.
As for directly augmenting our minds we will leave the question of
medical solutions out completely. I am not overly aware of them or
So how do we go about getting smarter?
The answer doesn’t seem to be by brute force, a brute accumulation of
facts. In some instances that seems to be unavoidable, in learning a
language we need to learn about 3000 words of vocabulary and a lot of
grammar. In any domain specific language, whether it is chemistry or
religion there are a certain amount of facts that need to be learnt.
However there does seem to me to be a middle road, a road whereby we
learn to first learn how to learn within the domain we are interested
in. Reading the works of several polygots, I have come to the
conclusion that we can develop a ‘knack’, to learn what we need to,
without overly brute force methods.
A large part of this will be to take a abstract scienctific and
artistic approach. It is the underlying patterns that have to be
learnt first, and upon the patterns do we apply the brute.
As for the second part. Learning to build machines that bend to our
will. It hasn’t been done yet. There is no computer on earth that is
easy to learn to master. Some ‘hackers’ have done it, but they are
Just how to go about this has eluded me. I have currently embarked on
a course called Nand2tetris. Which aims to instruct the student on how
to build a computer from NAND gates all the way up to a tetris game.
Can it help? Not sure but I sure hope so.