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Workshop - I've Changed My Mind
Written by Alex   
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 00:58

1. Terms and Conditions (What is Neurohacking?)

The definition of 'neurohacking' (n-hacking) is a lot more straightforward than that of 'intelligence'. 'Neuro', as in, 'pertaining to the nervous system, especially the brain', and 'hacking', from the now familiar colloquial computer-related term commonly defined as 'breaking into a system subversively to achieve a personal aim, hopefully undetected and/or unstoppable by anyone or anything which would prefer it if you didn't'. The relevance of this definition will hopefully become apparent as we go along.

Neurohacking, in the literal sense, means 'interfering with the structure and function of neurons'. Most people neurohack every day without realizing they are doing it (ever take an aspirin? Have a coffee to keep yourself awake? Taken alcohol or drugs? Used contraception?) You've been fooling the brain. Breaking into it and fooling biology. You know you don't have to put up with a headache all day long, or have a never-ending stream of offspring, and why should you? In a way, sex too is neurohacking, since you're knowingly changing your own (and someone else's) neurochemistry and consequently mood and behavior (with informed consent, of course).

There is a large division, however, between those who n-hack in these socially familiar ways, and those who do it privately on purpose for performance and/or experimental reasons. Those who decide to do it on purpose will probably want to do more than just eliminate a headache...how about removing the cause of those headaches? ...And how about improving...whatever. Anything we can. Let's upgrade this machine. This is Intelligence Augmentation (IA) and this is the sort of attitude this book will be helpful for. It uses a paradigm and map of the mind that gives an idea of the architecture of the brain's hardware and has for me been a software development kit. There are instructions on how to do things here, but they're not in the first part of the book because I am sometimes quite responsible in a pathetic sort of way, and to me if you want to walk any path it seems responsible to know it first.

How neurohacking is possible

Neurohacking on purpose uses a conglomerate of techniques, chemicals, technology, psychology and biochemistry. The brain is organized into processing networks (modules or systems), each with a specific focus. This enables parallel processing, which is a good thing, because a great many tasks need to be accomplished at once (largely due to the hardware and its maintenance requirements. In a non-biological system, we could have fewer, more powerful systems. We could also have faster systems; electro-chemical connections are slow and messy.)

Networks are all made up of synaptically connected neurons. They come in layers, and different layers do different jobs. The individual way your neurons are connected is unique to you; although we all have the same basic networks there can still be large differences between us, physiologically and psychologically. (We have noticed this throughout history, and indeed thrown wars to celebrate it). Vive le difference!

The synapses in most networks are capable of being modified physically through use or non-use. This means we can never alter function without altering form and vice versa. We can take advantage of this fact and interfere with the process by various means. We now also know enough (but by no means all) about the mechanism of memory to interfere with its processes somewhat. We have better biochemicals to play with than ever before, better imaging systems, better biofeedback and psychological programming. We have better tech. We have better communication with other researchers and faster access to the data and information we need. And of course, yip yip yip, we have computers. I've been doing this sort of thing for thirty-odd years and I find this the most exciting time ever.

Some of the things we can do

The main thing to remember is: a tiny change inside makes a large change outside (in both behavior and abilities). Here are some of the possibilities open to n-hackers:

Learning: Increase speed and memory.

Memory adjusting: Save, search, delete, edit, cut&paste, preview, refile, encrypt.

Emotion adjusting: Refile, edit, erase, write, encrypt, disable or enable.

Perceiving: Edit and enhance perception.

Fixing: bugs, erroneous programming.

Enhancing/controlling: creativity, imagination, cognitive ability, and sensitivity including thresholds, biological systems, input/output, and metabolism.

Compensating: For any past minor damage (see text) or erroneous programming.

Increasing: Cognitive efficiency, memory, lifespan (didn't expect that did you?)

Protecting: against brainwashing, psychological tricks, cons, deceit and erroneous programming, both foreign and domestic.

Surviving: Living on earth with humans, to our mutual benefit.

The inevitable health and safety lecture

I'm afraid I must get really boring right about here and go into ethics. Into what is and what is not acceptable. There is no total consensus on ethics currently between humans, which causes many problems, as we know. So if I state my own values and morals at the start it's maybe easier.

Make sure you understand my definitions before you approach my moral structure, however, or it will not compute.

The laws of an intelligence-based system:

1. Intelligence cannot deliberately harm either intelligence or potential intelligence.

2. Intelligence will consider it important to try to prevent anything that harms intelligence or potential intelligence, as long as rule 1 is not contravened by its actions.

3. Intelligence will consider it important to try to encourage anything that increases the Interactive Ability of any agent, as long as laws 1 and 2 are not contravened.

(A polite nod to Asimov there).


1. 'Agent'. An 'agent' is basically anything which is under consideration as some kind of intelligent (or not) entity. Thus a rock could be considered an agent, so could a tree, or a computer program, or a human, animal, or perhaps even an extraterrestrial/superhuman entity. We use the term 'agent' in order to avoid philosophical discussions about self-awareness, sentience, and other such tangential subjects.

2. 'Interactive Ability' is a numerical quantity, defined as the percentage of an agent's waking time that is spent displaying interactive behavior.

The distribution of interactive ability among the population of agents which display interactive behavior currently will likely follow some kind of bell curve, but note that not all agents are capable of displaying any interactive behavior at all. Such agents are 'off the scale', so to speak. Interactive behavior is defined below.

3. An 'intelligence' is any agent whose Interactive ability is currently greater than zero. (This may be established in practice by experimentation. See below.)

4. A 'stupidity' is any agent that is not an intelligence.

5. A 'chronic stupidity' is any agent that will always be a stupidity.

6. A 'potential intelligence' is any agent for whom the possibility exists that it's Interactive Ability will exceed 0% during its lifetime, but which hasn't got there yet.

Establishing whether a human agent is an intelligence:


7. If interactive ability is non-zero, the following will be true:

Physical/physiological: Using scanning techniques (or in post-mortem autopsy,) the brain will show distinct copious connections in the following areas: CC (corpus callosum), Right hemisphere to midbrain/limbic system, Temporal lobes to rest of midbrain/limbic system, Cerebellum to midbrain/limbic system, Reticular formation to rest of midbrain/limbic system, Anterior Cingulate Gyrus to PFC and midbrain. (Areas damaged, usually but not necessarily always indicatives of chronic stupidity are: Cerebellum, reticular formation, CC )

Neurochemistry/hormonal: An agent who is an intelligence will not have chronically elevated cortisol levels in the brain and bloodstream. Blood sugar/insulin levels will be stable within certain parameters. (A stupidity will usually have elevated levels of cortisol in the bloodstream and wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels). Strong emotion will not cause the cortisol level to remain high in the bloodstream of an intelligence for very long. (Strong feelings will cause such a condition in a stupidity).

An intelligence will have an efficient stress/relaxation cycle, which prevents the over-production of stress hormones. (Stupidities will not have this, and chronic production of stress hormones following a stressful event will continue for a long time, possibly permanently).

Psychological/behavioral: An intelligence will approach the unknown open-mindedly without fear but with adequate concern for safety, explore it with creative intellect, emotion and imagination, and be capable of interacting with and understanding it given enough time. This is interactive behavior. (A stupidity will not usually willingly approach the unknown due to fear, and if persuaded to will be unable to use creative intellect to explore it. No matter how much time is given, the unknown is unlikely ever to become the known, learning will be slow and difficult if possible at all, and understanding may never be achieved).

An intelligence will not be prone to immature or dysfunctional expressions of emotion, e.g., sulks, tantrums, physical or verbal violence, panic. (A stupidity may often be prone to these).


1. The presence of a stupidity will usually be harmful to all other stupidities and some (low level) intelligences, by reducing their interactive ability.

2. The presence of an intelligence will usually be beneficial to all other intelligences and some (high level) stupidities, by increasing their interactive ability.

3. In situations requiring precedence of opinion or action, the intelligence with the highest (proven) interactive ability takes precedence in any group of agents unless that intelligence voluntarily or by voluntary prearrangement waives its right to priority in favor of another or chooses to work as equals with one or more other agents.

4. Any agent can take priority in such situations by proving its interactive ability to be higher than that of its companions. Amongst intelligences, this may usually be ascertained by discussion.

So here are my ethics:

The weighting for making decisions based on these laws, definitions and assertions comes from my intellect and my emotion. I've sculpted these through neurohacking deliberately into a mindset that serves intelligence. I have no longer empathy for human sentiment; in fact it is my adversary. Human feelings in others are numbers; weightings themselves, and they are very important. But I believe we cannot continue to survive in a psychological format tied to biology's limitations, and I have had to abandon it as an inaccurate map of reality caused by current human dysfunction.

This is my own choice and I'm not expecting anybody else to make that choice (although there would be a helluva party if they did). We all go through a stage when we wish to impose our choices on the rest of the world. Some of us go through it at two years old, some at seventeen, some until the assassin's bullet, but sooner or later (hopefully sooner) we realize that's biology's con, too. Dictatorships, benevolent or otherwise, are not the breeding ground for intelligence; they stifle it.

Intelligence wants to be free.

I also believe I have a right to do anything I like to myself1, and I don't accept limits, but I do impose and accept boundaries, because what I am trying to do is enhance intelligence, not destroy it. Anybody's. My boundaries are my laws, and I make sure they are enforced. Everybody I work with I trust implicitly to make sure they are enforced upon me, if necessary. (We'll meet these laws again later). I enforce my own 'containment field' because I am aware of the power of what I am working with and I am aware of how much we don't know. I know well that I am renowned for having a wicked and weird sense of humor, but in n-hacking I have to be 100% serious inside, not just because my own life is at stake.

It is blindingly obvious to me that some people are going to do neurohacking research in the pursuit of IA (Intelligence Augmentation). (I have had similar thoughts to this before, about physical augmentation and the Human Genome Project)... Some of those people may be smarter than me, some of them not so smart. Smart or not, it is highly likely that a large proportion of such researchers will be working from a military or authoritarian or high financial basis and will be, by my terms, unscrupulous.

Civilians can also be unscrupulous, and are more prone to dive into things without adequate knowledge and create problems. This is why I have to refuse access to some of my research, until I know and trust whoever is accessing it. Some years ago I was subjected to what I can honestly describe as an unpleasant series of experiences at the hands of some 'unscrupulous' people, which taught me some of the most vital lessons about intelligence 'augmentation' that I have ever learned. I want to make those insights available to everyone who can use them responsibly. Here is why: IA will happen. If it is in the control of unscrupulous minds, we are all going to have a serious problem. Possibly a terminal one. Because I believe that people with such motives are not operating in the interests of intelligence, I am bound by my own rules to do whatever I can to prevent that.

If a bunch of deluded biochemists try to build a deadly virus, a sane mind in their midst is in a position to create an antidote. But if you're outside the walls, if you don't know what they're doing, you can't control it or defend against it. I feel a little bit like physicists must have felt about discovering nuclear energy...Hey! Wow! We can blast asteroids out of our way! Wheee! We can use this for rocket power...great! We can get electricity...We can...oh dear. Oh shit.

We must know what is possible with IA, what can go right, what can go wrong, how to interact with it, and how to use it to benefit, and enlighten, rather than harm, humans, before it is ushered in surreptitiously or hits us full in the face as the fait accompli of some loony cult or dictator. The same must be said of cryonics, nanotechnology, AI, cloning (ahem), and biotechnology. If the shit hits the fan via stupidity on any of these fronts we need to know how to protect ourselves, how to survive, and if you're nice, how to help those you care about. And yes, I did have a chip on the shoulder, but now it's a silicon chip.

If you think ignoring something or trying to discourage it will make it somehow not happen, you are not paying attention to either history or the world around you.

For the rest, you can decide for yourselves whether I'm trustworthy or not, as you choose. All I can promise you is, on the ethics front as far as I am concerned, a line has been drawn. It is drawn by intelligence. And it is about what not to do.

One of the most positive things about neurohacking from a scientist's point of view is you are doing ground-breaking research that nobody else bothers to do. Drug trials and tests are conducted on animals and the general public in pre-determined measures at preset intervals. Nobody ever tries giving a healthy person very small doses of something just once or twice. Medication wouldn't work like that. We can discover things that take the drug companies months or sometimes years to catch up with. Consequently, we sometimes find out things before the guys in mainstream research. Nobody thinks of doing this sort of thing, and if they do think of doing this sort of thing they won't get any funding for it. I mean, who cares what results you get for anything with one subject? It means nothing, compared with clinical trials involving hundreds or thousands of subjects. There's no money in it, and nobody is very interested (except people like you, who read books like this). A lot of the old 'scientific establishment' buffs believe that my kind of research brings science into disrepute. The professional-trusting public does not trust scientists who look like bikers turned Borg, or cyberpunks with pink hair and distance-learning degrees in higher mathematics. You either go 'with' the establishment or you go it alone. You can't neurohack and admit it publicly and expect to keep a straight job.

If you go it alone, don't expect to be taken seriously by many people just yet. The upside of going it alone, if you have the finance, is you get there faster. The downside used to be that you couldn't very easily share your discoveries for anyone else's benefit. These days we have the Internet of course, and that's changed a lot of things.

Now and again, some mainstream researcher will eventually discover the same things you have and they'll go public with it, write books, win acclaim, and take the credit. When you're sentiment-free you'll see this for what it is. It's great. It's absolutely marvelous. You won't ever feel possessive about your discoveries (although you may feel protective of them if you suspect the possibility of misuse). There can be no jealousy, envy or copyright problems where there is no stupidity. The truth should always be open source.

1. I have always been my own lab rat. Intelligence is the most interesting thing I have so far found to play with, in a creative scientific sense, and if I believe something will bring large rewards to my own intelligence I tend to take risks that some may find excessive, and some people have said they think I go too far. I think I don't go far enough. I use humor as my weapon against trepidation. I don't see anything wrong with this and I think every individual must set their own parameters for exploration as they see fit. This partial record of my own journey may be of interest, or at least a laugh, to other explorers. I welcome feedback, of any kind and in any form, (with the exception of threats to my personal safety or that of said experiments).

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 August 2009 00:59