One of the most promising transhumanist goals is to increase the mental abilities of humans to new levels. This can be done using various cognition enhancing drugs (nootropics), bionic enhancements, uploading, information management strategies or ancient methods like mnemonics, training or efficient thinking.
Another goal is to be able to modify our minds; to change our personalities, memories, skills or thought-patterns to suit the situation or our ideals, see the Mental Enhancement Page for this.
The development of intelligence doesn't just change ourselves, it also changes everything we touch and perceive.
Innate Talents: Reality of Myth? by Michael J. A. Howe, Jane W. Davidson and John A. Sloboda. Are talents something we are born with, or can anybody acquire a high level of skill? This review studies the question and suggests that early experiences, preferences, opportunities, habits, training and practice are the real determinants of excellence. This is of course good news for us transhumanists, although an innate basis might also be possible to replicate using technology.
Education and Learning to Think by Lauren B. Resnick. Can higher order thinking be taught, or at least cultured?
Thinking With Machines: Intelligence Augmentation, Evolutionary Epistemology, and Semiotic by Peter Skagestad. On the links between intelligence amplification and epistemology.
There are very many methods of improving our intelligence, and fortunately many proven cognitive tools such as mnemonics, problem-solving heuristics, creativity techniques and decision-making tools.
Learning to Learn. A course in improving one's cognition, with many well-written modules.
Problem Solving and Analytical Techniques from MindTools.
Common Sense Problem Solving and Cognitive Research by Howard C. McAllister
Universal Intellectual Standards by Linda Elder and Richard Paul (at the Critical Thinking Community). A short list of standards which must be applied to thinking whenever one is interested in checking the quality of reasoning about something.
Valuable Intellectual Traits by Linda Elder and Richard Paul. The virtues of thinking.
Resources for Independent Thinking Educational tools to help people think for themselves and increase their critical thinking skills.
One of my favorite methods, useful for making notes, preparing talks, organizing ideas and observing one's mental structures. Its usefulness is probably due to the combination of both affording the associativity of the human mind, and a visual presentation.
Mind Mapping FAQ. A very useful method for structuring information, improving learning and recall.
Mind maps in the Creativity Web.
The Buzan Centres (Memory, learning and mindmapping). The "official" mindmapping centre.
The Concept Mapping Homepage. A close relative to mindmaps (presumably not "owned" by Buzan), with software reviews and links.
Concept Mapping. A description of the technique with links to other resources.
There are many ways to make learning more efficient (especially academic studies since they tend to be highly formalized). It is also possible to increase one's reading speed and comprehension quite drastically.
Cyborg 101 - The Warriors Guide to the Blackboard Jungle by Angus T.K. Wong. In my opinion one of the best and most original study skills handbooks in existence. Based on personal experiences and experiments, it uses the Terminator films, military strategy from Sun Tzu and onwards and the idea of living as a cyborg to show how to optimize ones studies and life.
Cognitive Factors in Academic Achievement (HEES Review). A review of factors affecting learning, pointing out many areas that could be improved using transhumanist techniques.
Study Skills Self-help Information from Virginia Tech. Much good advice.
The SQ3R/SQ4R/PQ4R methods of study. Simple but natural methods of studying a text.
Strategic thinking involves high-level planning of what problems to solve and what to do. The classic texts on this subject are (quite naturally) about military strategy, but can often be applied to other situations.
Sun Tzu's The Art of War (translated by Lionel Giles). The classic text about strategy.
The Thirty-six Stratagems of the Chinese Art of War. A classic list of 36 basic stratagems; the names are unfortunately very stylized, making them hard to understand without knowing their historical referents.
Journal writing is an useful way to develop self understanding, record things and to analyse events, in addition to provide a record of how we change over time. It seems to be common among creative people, helping to identify important ideas, connect concepts with each other and develop them over time.
The Veech Journal Pages. A good introduction to journalling.
We always have to make decisions on uncertain, possibly biased information and incomplete understanding of how the world works. This makes it extra important both to find out more and to apply probabilistic reasoning to our decisions. As a general rule, we make systematic errors due to our mental architecture (which was suitable for our evolutionary past) such as overestimating the danger posed by rare but large dangers while underestimating the danger of everyday dangers; here knowledge of cognition and statistics can help us cope better.
Risk and Decision Making: Perspective and Research by the Committee on Risk and Decision Making of the National Research Council. An online book about risk.
Methods for improving or extending memory have been known since ancient times: rhymes, writing, mnemonics and other memory techniques have been found in most cultures. This area has a tremendous tradition, and actually works extremely well once you have l earned it. New developments may also introduce computer support for our memories.
"In One Ear ... and Out the Other" by Grant M. Bright. How to make sure you remember things.
About Memory Techniques by Doug Hafen. Short and good.
Human Memory: What It Is and How to Improve It by Silvia Helena Cardoso.
Amanda's Mnemonics Page. Mnemonics are surprisingly effective, and are a proven tool for improving memory.
Mnemonic aids for medical students. A lot of mnemonics for medicine. Relevant for non-specialists as examples of how a mnemonic should work, by being surprising, graphic and often rude .
Memory Web Connections. Links to memory sites.
Mnemonic Memory System by David Mitchell. A fairly complete overview of several mnemonic memory systems.
Total Recall, a memory training educational program with some useful explanations of basic techniques on the page.
Learning with light. A somewhat pseudoscientific method for increasing learning, which nevertheless may have some merit (essentially it works more due to self-hypnosis and concentration on reviewing the material than the light).
Software and Hardware
Augmented Memory. Research at the MIT media lab about Remembrance Agents, search agents that work alongside the user to find information in a database which serves as an e xtended memory.
Remembrance Agent: A continuously running automated information retrieval system by Bradley J. Rhodes and Thad Starner. Distribution
Intellectual Collectives Through Use of the Remembrance Agent (or "Serendipity is too important to be left to chance") by Thad Starner. How users could share skills using remembrance agents.
"Forget-me-not" Intimate Computing in Support of Human Memory. A prototype device for memory support, an example of Context-Based Information Systems.
Creativity is one of the most important (and ill-defined) areas of human thinking. It involves the ability to change, to invent and to see new and unexpected things despite previous conditioning.
Creativity Home Page. A very good resource about creativity and creative techniques.
Creativity, Innovation and Problem Solving. Some Guidelines with Linked Historical Examples.
Precis of "The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms" by Margaret A. Boden. What is creativity? How does it work? And can it be replicated by a machine?
Breaking through barriers to creativity by Beth Azar. We tend to get stuck in our experiences of the world around us and ourselves.
The Oblique Strategies. A system of cards developed by B. Eno and P. Schmidt intended to come up with random ideas. Could work as inspiration for a personal deck of cards.
Enchanted Mind. Well designed website about creativity. Caveat lector: while many of the techniques and ideas are good, the "scientific" claims are often unfounded or plain wrong (as in the case of the fallacious "we are only using 10% of our brains").
Laterally my dear Watson by Wolf Seufert (New Scientist 970719). About how lateral thinking works in science.
Computer Aided Creativity
Computer aided creativity might be a good idea. The computer can provide things to associate from, or random ideas which can provide a source for inspiration (see for example the poem produced by the program disc ord), which then the human can develop further, discard or use to something completely different. However, the human (or transhuman) part of the system is still the most important level.
Brainlining means brainstorming online, with computer support:The Basics of Brainlining by Peter Lloyd
Brainstorming with Your Computer by Peter Lloyd (HOW Magazine, October 1995, p. 16)
Computer-Assisted Brainstorming and the Global Think Tank by Robert L.A. Trost.
Papers by Denis Lalanne on computer-human collaboration (many in French).
Nootropic drugs are an area of great transhumanist interest, although still controversial. The main question is whether there exists drugs which enhance cognition beyond the normal level in healthy people, preferably with little side-effects.
One common idea is "smart drugs": by supplying the brain with precursors to neurotransmittors, its efficiency can be increased without risks for major side-effects. Other drugs might act by influencing chemical balances or by actually stimulating the brain in various ways.
At present there does exist some positive results with cognition enhancing drugs in healthy animal and human subjects, but how useful the drugs really are remains uncertain. The most well understood paradigm is the cholinergic systems, which seem to be involved in memory encoding and attention. More research is definitely needed, and some is underway (although mainly involved in treating dementia or age-related loss of function). Most drugs are much less powerful than the marketing hype.
A short introduction so smart drugs by Samu Mielonen.
Keys to the Doors of Perception. About brain chemicals.
Smart Drugs FAQ (from the Megabrain report)
A user's guide to smart drugs by Justin Pearce (from Mail & Guardian).
Nutrients For The Brain by Roberta and Brian Morgan (Nutrition Science News June 1995). About how what we eat affect our brains.
SmartBasic Newsletter Archives (A commercial newsletter, sometimes containing useful information)
Drugs and Human Memory by H Allain, A. Lieury, S. Lebreton, D. Bentue-Ferrer and J.M. Reymann. A good review of the subject.
Ginko Biloba extracts appear to have vasodilatory effects, and have in some studies shown promise as a way to ameliorate Alzheimer's disease. They also appear to have some effects on short term memory.
ALC is a chemical that normally takes part of cellular metabolism by helping transfer fatty acids into the mitochondria. There seems to be quite a bit of intriguing papers about ALC and its cell-repair effects; most likely it works by increasing the amount of available energy.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine:The King of Carnitines (Nutritional News).
Therapies to Slow Brain Ageing. Promotes Acetyl-l-carnitine and Deprenyl to prevent age-related loss of mental function.
The cholinergic systems of the brain are deeply involved in memory and attention. There is evidence that drugs that stimulate them improve certain memory tasks, and there is much speculation that adding extra choline to the diet would lead to better general memory performance.
Lecithin and Choline Supplementation. How much to take, and in what form?
Not strictly a smart drug, but probably relevant anyway. Simple, relatively safe stimulats are just as important as cognition enhancement to get something done.
It appears that the memory improvement due to arousal is mediated through several steps; the increased amounts of adrenaline releases glucose from the liver which in turn increases the amount of acetylcholine in the medial temporal lobe. Glucose has been shown to improve memory when given in certain dosages in association with a learning task; how to exploit this to improve cognition in general is a more complex problem.
Glucose, memory and the brain. Work page of Ewan McNay, studying how glucose is influencing memory.
It seems that smoking can improve some aspects of cognitive processing; nicotine is known to have memory enhancing and alerting effects. Of course, smoking is probably a very bad way to use it, since it both decreases the oxygen supply to the brain and causes severe health problems. The benefits of nicotine appears to be largest in users, which also limits its usability.
Can Smoking Speed Cognitive Processing? by Michael E. Houlihan, Walter S. Pritchard and John H. Robinson.
Other Cognitive Enhancer Websites
Collection of articles from Internet about nootropics by Johannes Gronvall.
There are of course a lot of commercial companies selling "smart drugs", but unfortunately not many organizations working on academic research to give the area more credibility.
Thorne Research. Contains an interesting library of medical abstracts.
I'm somewhat sceptical to this area (too much dramatic claims and handwaving, no obvious reason why it would work), but I think it merits further research.
Neurofeedback Archive. Articles and abstracts (including reprints from peer-reviewed journals) about neurofeedback.
Xochi's DIY Mind Machine Archive (The maintainer has become rather sceptical about the field, and his introductory essay is well worth reading)
Mind Gear Inc.. Has links to useful resources, introductions etc.
Tools For Exploration. Large catalogue containing everything from serious EEG equipment to Positive Energy Pet Tags! Much scepticism and humour needed.
Electroencephalographic Driven Stimulation (EDS) by Len Ochs, Ph.D. A passive process of biofeedback.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Enhances Short-Term Brain Plasticity, Finding Suggests Ways To Improve Recovery from Neurological Disorders. A more direct approach: stimulate the brain directly to become more plastic.
MindMan, a Windows tool for creating mind maps.Mind Sports Worldwide. About all forms of games and creativity.
How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and Rodney R. Cocking, Editors; Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning, National Research Council, 1999.
Anders Sandberg / email@example.com 2000-03-11