Say Hello to Your Legacy Brain

by Melissa Karnaze

brawn and brainYou’ve got a legacy brain whether you like it or not.

No problem right, because “legacy” is a good thing?

In the eyes of some, it’s a bad thing. It’s actually kind of pathetic.

Because the legacy is in reference to your primate (read: immature animal) heritage.

Which is monkey-like, limited, dense, and annoying.

(Not to even mention the lizard part of your brain, but we’ll get to that later in this series.)

In my eyes, your legacy brain is just fine the way she is.

Why “legacy brain” is open to interpretation

Some people live with only half a brain. And some people can lift up cars at the Superman call-to-duty.

Your brain’s pretty awesome because it’s plastic, neuroplastic.

It can change, adapt, and grow.

But, that’s just one way to look at your brain.

Another way to see it: a three-pound mass of mostly water that’s lazy compared to your iPhone.

A hunk of meat that doesn’t really do much except for the four F’s: fighting, fleeting, feeding, and… mating.

It’s hard to objectively judge whether legacy brains win or lose.

Because the judges’ judgments are encased in, well, legacy brains!

And because winning or losing depends on how we do or don’t make it in the future.

A future that may even include a technological Singularity, which could really hamper our chances for survival.

The anti legacy-brainers

There are people who can’t stand the thought of their legacy brains.

Some of them are transhumanists, those Singulatarians who want to use technology and science to “improve” the human condition.

With their inventions, research, insights, and progress, they show just how bright the legacy brain shines.

But they’d rather not be bound to it, without a choice that is.

Because it’s limited.

Why transhumanists want to transcend the legacy brain

It slows them down.

Hunger and thirst drive get in the way of work. Anger clouds their clear thinking. Toxic fumes of love decommission their minds for days.

They’re convinced their science needs bigger, faster, and better brains to produce more results. (Which may entail artificial reinforcements.)

It’s the nature of their game. And they know they’re shortchanged.

The downside of transcendence

But there’s a downside to the quest for bigger, faster, and “better.”

It’s subtle, but a clear transhumanist theme: the escapist attitude of not wanting to deal with all the shortcomings of the brain (and the body) — constructively that is.

Instead of channeling research to look within, at what makes the malleable brain so remarkable — the troupe gropes for outside, technological solutions to what will remain at heart, human problems.

A discussion on legacy brains

When I sat down with AI researcher Dr. Ben Goertzel, he said he didn’t want to go near the social problems we face because they’re too hard to solve.

He’d rather do the “easy” programming stuff that makes my head spin. As well as continue developing models from which to create benevolent Artificial General Intelligence.

I was lucky to pick Ben’s brain at the BilPil 2009 Unconference last October. We talked about robots, emotions, emotional robots, and of course, what’s in a legacy brain.

I was especially keen to understand what makes the legacy so undesirable to brilliant minds like him.

Not to disagree with his points, but to agree with them.

And then to better understand where I part ways with in him in making conclusions based on those points.

Because at the end of the day, science doesn’t have all the answers. Your life is defined by the conclusions that you make — which can shape or break your response ability to life.

The Mindful Construct slant

In my eyes, your legacy brain is quite pretty the way she is.

Because my eyes are colored by optimism. And faith in the human capacity to steer its neuroplasticity in constructive, mindful ways.

I have faith that when we embrace their true heritage, mindful emotion regulation (which enhances mindful logic), it will bring us closer than we’ve ever been to solving the hard human problems.

Technology can help us get there, but it’s our job to fix our problems.

What you can expect from this article series

My conversation with Ben was a lot of fun, and it really baked my noodle.

But it was also casual (packed with tons of um’s on my part), and maybe even hard to follow by someone new to Singularity topics.

That’s why I’m picking out the most important parts from our conversation as they relate to this topic of legacy brains.

We’ll look closely at what Ben means when he uses the term, and how to reframe negative viewpoints into more constructive and response able ones.

Anything in particular you’d like to see addressed in this article series? Drop your comments, questions, and requests below.

Stay tuned for the next articles in this series, “Your Legacy Brain,” which will continue concurrently with other Mindful Construct articles.

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