The New Renaissance

Yuri Barzov
Feb 3, 2018 · 8 min read

This all began in September of 2016 with the idea of making people human again. For us it has been reduced to the Game for Humanity. Humanness Learning turns out to be a too broad challenge for our single narrow project to meet. You can join us or try to address it on your own. It will take you only a few minutes to learn about the rest.

Prologue

Many people are afraid of change, but not all. Some people embrace change as an opportunity instead of avoiding it as a threat. In times of great changes there were always winners and losers. The progress of humanity can be measured by the increase of the number of winners after each subsequent great systemic change similar to the one which we are experiencing right now.

The increase of the number of winners in the past was not achieved automatically. Redistribution of wealth required hard efforts to keep it relatively peaceful but often resulted in bloody revolts and wars. Now hard efforts are required from all people of good will once again. While many of us agree on the need for doing something, our views on what should be done differ a lot.

Should we all try to agree on one united course of actions? Is it worthwhile even to try? Marketeers dealing with youth today had to quickly abandon the notion of multi-platforming that was yet innovative just a while ago because their target audience demonstrates just one strong new unifying trend — individuality.

In order to share the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution more evenly and more peacefully we need not to introduce a new centralised model of sharing. We have to enable as many people as possible to take their fair share of knowledge — the free yet the most valuable asset of information economy that unlike fossil fuels increases but not diminishes through sharing. There is a way to do it proven by history and science.

Recent incredible advancements in performance of artificial neural networks publicly hyped as Artificial Intelligence had proved that our schematic perceptions of functionality of the brain were right. It is impossible to overerestimate the importance of this breakthrough. Theories which only several years ago were considered to be closer to religious beliefs than to scientific knowledge are now passing the reality check successfully.

Now we know that the human brain can be stimulated to embrace uncertainty and to enjoy exploring new paths and ideas. Ability of all humans to switch their brains to spatial thinking means that the majority can become able to do creative jobs expanding our shared knowledge and leaving all repetitive physical and intellectual routine to robots. Making tools which work for humans will foster greatly the development of human-like and human-friendly AI. Further you will see how it all can be achieved.

Use Case

Once upon a time, about the middle of 16th century, a passion for the new conversational parlour game based on the plots of old fairy tales spread through aristocratic salons in Paris. The salonnières were invited to retell old fairy tales with a modern and somewhat subversive subtext added. Ideas of female emancipation and critique of court life were the most common topics then. The salonnières elevated the genre from bedtime story to bonafide work of literature, and were responsible for printing the oral tales for the first time in France. Revitalized printed tales had found their way back to the people and began spreading further by the word of mouth. Historians of literature many times pointed out the important role that subversive fairy tales from salons played in spreading the ideas of the Renaissance.

Writer Charles Perrault, who attended the salons, published later his sanitized versions of fairy tales with a Catholic moral takeout at the end of each. How could he possibly imagine that his alteration of texts could not erase a secret code hidden behind the words? It was the encoding of unexpected uncertainty that made old fairy tales such a perfect tool of liberating of human minds.

Researchers of tales, myths and storytelling for long have believed that there is a hidden code in fairy tales. They have noticed that magic and ordinary worlds are so masterly stitched together in fairy tales that we start believing miracles and questioning ordinary events while listening to or reading them.

Now, with all the new knowledge provided by machine learning and neuroscience, we can consider plausible the hypothesis that the encoding of unexpected uncertainty spread by means of an innocent aristocratic amusement could provoke the Liberation of Mind that was at least as important as the Scientific Revolution in paving the way for the Enlightenment and the Modern Age.

The Challenge

Today, at the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, when outstanding breakthroughs in science and technology promise either abundance or turmoil the Liberation of Mind becomes once again absolutely necessary to help as many people as possible to become beneficiaries of this revolution not its victims.

The words of Ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras,”Man is the measure of all things,” which once became the motto of the Renaissance are more than relevant today with their meaning that the individual human being, rather than a god or an unchanging moral law, or science, or technology, is the ultimate source of value.

The Science

Vast and mounting research in neuroscience demonstrates that the humankind is divided into two tribes by a strategy which tribesmen spontaneously prefer to apply in learning and thinking:

  • spatial learners tend to initially associate several stimuli with each other and to link them to a response later to eventually achieve better understanding and bigger rewards. They prefer to explore.They create cognitive maps of physical and abstract spaces which give them more freedom of choice in selecting their paths. It is harder to predict what they do and to control them;
  • response learners focus at short stimulus-response feedback loops with quick rewards and learn their paths as sequences of turns. They like to be instructed. Their freedom of choice is limited to learned paths only but they can master their performance to the level of habits which they perform automatically. They are easier to predict and to control.

Anatomically, spatial strategy is associated with hippocampus, the core of the mammalian brain. Response strategy is linked to caudate nucleus, the core of the reptilian brain. Both centers control and modulate wide networks involving vast areas of cortex, the native human brain. As they both compete for the same areas of cortex only one strategy can be activated at a given moment of time.

Hippocampus acts as a selector between two strategies. If it detects only familiar thus expected level of uncertainty in the environment it turns on ‘autopilot’ — the response strategy. When it spots an unexpected spike in the level of uncertainty — the unexpected uncertainty — it needs to turn on the spatial strategy to establish a longer loop of associations between several outliers and to interpret it as a signal of a severe change in the level of uncertainty of the environment. This function is vital.

The Problem

All healthy people can spontaneously apply either strategy depending on the situation but under modern, economic, cultural and social conditions the number of people who prefer spatial learning constantly decreases with maturing: children — 84%, young adults — 47%, older adults — 39%. In a relatively stable and predictable environment people tend to apply response strategy more frequently at the expense of spatial strategy. As a result their hippocampus shrinks and their caudate nucleus grows.

In the long run it’s dangerous because the shrinkage of hippocampus below a particular threshold may lead to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease.

In the shorter perspective greater caudate nucleus makes people intolerant to uncertainty. Shrunk hippocampus as a selector gets jammed in the position of response strategy. A positive feedback loop emerges that enables the reptilian brain to hijack the human brain.

Furthermore, inclination towards response strategy leads to emotional microdosing because it employs only short reward loops and develops habits which work without emotional rewards at all. Lowered level of emotions disrupts human ability to make decisions because our brain needs emotions to trigger decision making processes — bigger the decision, stronger the emotions are required for it to happen.

To even more reinforce the above vicious circle, economical, cultural and social environments are instilling into human heads mental models which develop aversion of any uncertainty and block natural ability of 90% of adult people to differentiate uncertainty, in particular, to detect unexpected uncertainty.

Thanks to the progress our environment becomes more and more predictable stimulating more and more automated behavior. That leads to spatial thinkers’ share decline with maturing. The media and the entertainment industry are only reinforcing this trend by eliminating unexpected uncertainty from their products for the sake of giving the audience more of short stimulus-reward loops. Even fairy tales have been corrupted, modified to exclude unexpected uncertainty — the very code that helped them to spread over all languages and all continents by the word of mouth and to survive, as scientists recently suggested, for thousands of years.

The Opportunity

Research shows that inclination towards the response strategy driven by the environment can be balanced with the explorative behavior of people in virtual environments enriched with unexpected uncertainty. This behavior, which some scientists call roaming entropy, produces a regenerative impact on hippocampus by launching a successful neurogenesis process in it.

Spatial learners are enjoying unexpected uncertainty and roaming entropy because of stronger emotions generated by them. The very detection of unexpected uncertainty in the environment provides them with significant emotional rewards.

The overwhelming majority of currently available entertainment and media is designed for response learners. Spatial learners can consume these products but they leave them unsatisfied. This discrepancy between the need and the supply creates a unique window of opportunity.

We started our project with an intention to capture this market opportunity and to do good in the same way. We keep working on an entertainment product that will incorporate unexpected uncertainty, roaming entropy, model based response learning and other ridiculous algorithms which will allow us to:

  • entertain spontaneous spatial learners (84% of kids and teens, 47% of young adults, 39% of older adults),
  • help spontaneous response learners to restore their spatial learning capacity and rejuvenate their hippocampus,
  • prevent and, in some cases, revert hippocampus linked neurodegenerative disorders,
  • develop artificial agents with human-like and human-friendly behaviour,
  • provide to online retailers, entrepreneurs and makers new highly effective channels for sales to spontaneous spatial learners.

Fairy tales in their original non-corrupted form also provide an excellent source of unique product qualities which we wish to reproduce.

***

Only a cultural movement of the scale of the Renaissance may successfully dismantle mental models which block spatial strategy in human heads on the global scale. Indeed, it will be another Renaissance because atop of eliminating threats it will open unparalleled opportunities. Reactivation of spatial strategy is a mandatory prerequisite of exponential growth of human self learning capacity. The vast self learning capacity, in its own turn, is absolutely necessary to make the enormous knowledge accumulated by humanity equally beneficial for all. Self learning, self thinking, self reliant moral individuality — man as a measure of all things — should thus become the next grand narrative of the human civilisation. With our ridiculous algorithms we are only taking a small step in this direction. Together we can do more.

We share our concept with you because the size of the opportunity is huge and will accommodate many projects and initiatives. We work hard to make our product successful but we are interested to fast track the success of the ultimate mission — launching the grand narrative of the New Renaissance.

We are positive that many other people are tackling same global challenges as we do. The grand narrative of the New Renaissance should become a shared agenda of many, not a proprietary knowledge of few.

The team of Humanness Learning

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