For centuries, philosophers have been attempting to explain the roots of memory. Plato made a distinction between two types of memories: a priori, which is inherited memory and knowledge that we possess without direct experience and sensory memory, a posteriori, which is memory that we attain through experience, the latter which more closely aligns with materialism and the writings of David Hume, which in itself became the basis of Skinnerian behaviourial psychology, that states that everyone is essentially a blank slate, who can be conditioned to become anything.
But are we just blank slates that can be rewritten with positive and negative conditioning? Wouldn't that defeat our will? Our self-agency?
In the postmodern world, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, psychoanalysis attempted to examine the roots of memory and Carl Jung developed a theory of the collective unconscious; in which everyone possesses the same archetypes of memory and his argument with Sigmund Freud diverged in that Freud believed that the roots of memory were derivative of our subconscious behaviours, the id that controls our "impulses," mainly of a sexual nature. This would become our contemporary architecture of how we view our self, our identity and of our self-agency: Nature vs. Nurture, but there was something else that would eventually eclipse that theory.
The psychoanalytical theories of Carl Gustav Jung (left) (1875-1961) and Sigmund Freud (right) (1856-1939), have shaped our contemporary view of the self and identity.
On the fringes of science were the events that people couldn't easily explain- which were dismissed as illogical and more derivative of imagination than in reality. Although I've always had a fascination with religion in mainly a historical and sociological context, many researchers and scientists of the early 20th century disregarded religion as "unscientific" and perhaps even "radical," as the institution of religion had been primarily used as a political tool to control the population between the 11th-20th centuries, which eventually paved the way towards a reactionary rebellion into atheism in our contemporary era.
Entry of the Crusades at Constantinople, 1840, Le Louvre. In history, religion was utilised for political power and The Crusades (1095–1291) was a war between political factions, between Christians and Muslims in 11th-12th century Europe and Asia, not unlike our contemporary era of war between the West and Middle Eastern nations. Depicted by French artist Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863).
However, as we enter the 5th Industrial Era, science is becoming more closely aligned with eastern philosophies of the past, in which current research leads to evidence or possibly, conclusions as to why people often have had "mystical" beliefs.
I remember when I visited London and Tokyo for the first time, I had felt as if I had been there before, although in my waking memories, it was the very first time I had visited the cities as a university student. As I was walking around, I distinctly had the recollection that I had lived in these cities before, and everything seemed familiar to me, whilst at the same time, they were new. In addition, listening to certain languages I've found had a profoundly soothing effect on me- for instance, Russian and German, both languages which I have never studied before but in a state between half-awake and half-asleep, I found momentarily that I could completely understand both languages, until I became consciously jolted awake and realised I had actually never studied these languages before.
The hippocampus (in red) in the brain, is responsible for much of our memories of past experiences and ability to develop new memories.
Everyone has experienced these feelings of familiarity before at least once in their lives. In the past, these feelings of déjà vü were easily dismissed by researchers as a double firing of neurons in your brain- which made you feel like you were familiar with a certain place, or had known a person before, or felt a strong affinity towards a certain culture or language, although you had never previously had experience with the object of your déjà vü. It was certainly easy to dismiss these kinds of occurrences as something out of the ordinary, but probably something that one shouldn't develop an obsession about- like those crazy occultists or lunatics who believed in past life regression and other such nonsense.
So it is interesting to consider these anomalous events in the present context, and be able to assess them from the emerging viewpoint of epigenetics, in which the study of inheritable changes in gene expression that is not directly coded in our DNA could now explain how our life experiences may be passed down to our children and our children's children.
According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up [in particular circumstances]— all carry with them more than just memories.
Perhaps eastern philosophy's ideologies of karma and past lives, and Arthur Koestler's the roots of coincidence and synchronicity could now be explained in a tangible way. Even in Western philosophy, Plato had attributed memory to past life experiences in which he determined that we all inherently had knowledge before birth that had been passed down to us, this a priori knowledge could all have a basis in how we can now explain in cognitive neuroscience as forming memories in the hippocampus and thalamus, and in epigenetics, the methylation process of our DNA which we inherit from our ancestors.
Non-stop likelihoods, 2010, Saatchi Gallery. Conjoined twiglets in resin that resemble DNA chromosomes by the London-based artist Jack Strange.
Plato believed that memories were dormant until a catalyst brought them out into consciousness, not unlike Freud and repressed memories or the process in epigenetics in which certain factors in our environment become catalysts for gene expression.
As we enter this brave new world, a world in which ancient beliefs merge with current scientific and genetic research, we have to consider that what we used to dismiss as "magic" and "fantasy" in the past, we can now consider with an open-minded, new perspective.
Demis Hassabis, one of the founders of DeepMind Technologies, wrote in his PhD thesis at University College London that "patients with hippocampal amnesia cannot imagine new experiences," or in other words, people with dementia cannot imagine a future.
So much of our perception of memory is linear, in that we experience the perception of past, present and future. Without this fabric of time organisation in the hippocampus, much of our lives would seem as chaotic as in a dreamstate, where multiple timelines occur at once, and many sequences of events move in a non-linear way; there would be no "future" per se, because the future would also become the present and the past. However, these multiple timelines is also what seems to be emerging in research in quantum physics, in which there exists parallel events on an atomic scale, but our human perception sees it as a singular event.
Atomic qubits can be made to exist in two states at the same time, a disturbingly strange property that not only underpins the power of a quantum computer, but also the sensitivity of qubits as nano-sensors.
Einstein called this event, a "spooky coincidence" or quantum entanglement, a state where two particles or groups of particles are simultaneously affected by the other, despite time and space.
Long-distance connection: quantum entanglement posits the theory that two particles are connected beyond space and time and simultaneously affected by the other.
I always recall that anytime I was in a particularly distressed state, my mother would ring me at that particular exact moment when I was in distress. Despite being thousands of miles apart, across different continents, she would always magically know that exact moment when I needed to talk. In the past, people would've dismissed this event as simply coincidence, but according to current research, this could be an event that can be attributed to quantum entanglement, and perhaps both quantum physics and epigenetics can now paint a bird's eye view of these occurrences that we had easily dismissed in the past as simply, "crazy" or perhaps even "strange."
By Sierra Choi
America is in a rather curious predicament: with its citizens protesting: "Not My President," in every city across the United States, as British academics are theorising (or rather hoping) that the President-elect will be impeached in his first few months in office, whilst world leaders have expressed concern over the President-elect's short fuse and penchant for stepping on the toes of everyone from someone's grandmother, to the French President to Saudi Royals.
But somehow, the elite in Silicon Valley has decided that Mr. Trump, the reality TV star figurehead is their choice as the next President. So let's take a closer look at how the President-elect's new fiscal and foreign policies might impact the United States and the global economy.
War on the European Union
The President-elect has made no secret about his anti-EU position. Along with Brexiter Nigel Farage, who has tweeted on "bringing down the EU," the two have colluded together with their antics of fearmongering and racial divide in what Mr. Farage calls, "post-Brexit values."
The U.S. President-elect Donald Trump with Nigel Farage, Leader of the U.K. Independent Party wants to take down the E.U.
These "post-Brexit values" also predominantly include dismantling the unity of the E.U. which had been put in place after WWII, and also puts Silicon Valley tech corporations in a favourable position of retribution at a time when the European Commission under the leadership of Jean-Claude Juncker has been clamping down on U.S. multi-national corporations by proposing tighter regulations on on tax loopholes. In addition, anti-trust charges have been filed against Google, and privacy violation charges against Facebook came to a landmark decision last year. Furthermore, price fixing structures have been filed against Amazon and numerous other U.S. multi-national tech corporations (Intel, Qualcomm, Oracle, Microsoft et al) are all under scrutiny as they have been charged with tax avoidance and manipulation of prices.
In effect, Silicon Valley tech giants have been accused by European consumer groups of stockpiling user's data for commercial ends and Mr. Juncker has proposed a new E.U. internet plan that could potentially dismantle their collective power. Critics in the U.S. have said the European Commission is using tighter regulations against Silicon Valley companies in the hopes of creating regional versions of Google and Facebook.
In summary, an integral part of the President-elect and Nigel Farage's "post-Brexit values" would be to deliberately obstruct the E.U. and in support of keeping the current dominant power structure of Silicon Valley tech giants in Europe.
"The election of Trump poses the risk of upsetting intercontinental relations in their foundation and in their structure." -European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
In comparison, Hillary Clinton's "Stronger Together" campaign had proposed a solution to work with both E.U. regulators and Silicon Valley tech companies to negotiate a compromise that does not alienate either party.
Anti-Globalism: Isolationist Tactics Against East-Asia
On the campaign trail, the President-elect has spoken in favour of the idea of nuclear proliferation among U.S. allies and to call on Japan and South Korea to pay more share in expenses of security cooperation with the U.S. Furthermore, the President-elect has threatened to "punish" China for its currency manipulation and limit trade by pushing tariffs. This is coinciding at a time when the previous administration had been attempting to assuage tensions over disputes in the East and South China Seas.
Bite the hand that feeds you?
With China as the #1 holder of U.S. debt, with Japan as #2 holder of U.S. debt, this could send a clear message of impending isolationist tactics that could also threaten U.S.'s trade relationship with both nations.
In 2014, for the first time in 140 years, China overtook U.S. as the world's largest economy. China is also the largest holder of U.S. debt.
The President-elect's plans call for withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and his plan to put tariffs on every product that is imported into the U.S. from China could potentially face a backlash against many American companies that are dependent on the production of goods in China. The further irony of this is that the President-elect also has many products in which the "Trump brand" is Made in China.
The Donald J. Trump Collection: Made in China.
To further his agenda, the President-elect wants to leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which Hillary Clinton had worked to propel as Secretary of State. From a security perspective, the approaching breakdown of the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be a loss of American credibility in Asia, as Asian nations begin to accelerate their own defense security.
The Russian-Syrian-Iranian Quotient
The President-elect's alliance with Vladimir Putin could endanger the U.S. diplomatic relationship with the U.K., in addition to the rest of the nations in Europe. Several U.K. political leaders, including Former Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind has accused Russia of having "blood on its hands" after vetoing a United Nations resolution which had called for a ceasefire in Syria. An emergency meeting was called in over the weekend by European foreign ministers to discuss what the President-elect's policies could mean for the European Union's current bloc on Russia. The President-elect has also said he would end an agreement with Iran that scaled back its nuclear programme.
More than 6.6 million Syrians are displaced, and more than half are women and children. The extermination of people in Syria has drawn comparisons to Hitler's Final Solution of Jewish people in WWII.
The slaughter of people in Syria has been compared to the extermination of Jews during Nazi Germany. Russia has a strong financial stake in the survival of the Assad regime in Syria and is blocking international action against Syria.
To add more woe to this dialogue, aside from the President-elect's compliance and open support of Russia's foreign policies, his stance on immigration would ban Syrian refugees from entering the United States. It is estimated that 6.6 million people, of which more than half are women and children, are displaced in Syria.
Trump, Uber and Peter Thiel: Propagating a Debt Society
Although Peter Thiel is known for his prescience in his early investment in Facebook and PayPal, Peter Thiel's hedge fund Clarium Capital shrank from $8 billion in 2008 to just $211 million today in 2016. Is it has been reported that Clarium's assets under management made a series of unprofitable investments and client redemptions which have declined by 98% in recent years. In a similar comparison, the President-elect has a long list of financial and business failures, some of which still in litigation and and due to having a high amount of debt compounded by business losses, Mr. Trump openly spoke about not paying any tax at the Presidential Debates last month as "being smart."
Some of the President-elect's list of failures include: Trump Steaks, Trump Airlines, GoTrump.com, Trump Vodka, Trump Mortgage, Trump: The Game, Trump Magazine, Trump University, Trump Ice, Tour de Trump, Trump on the Ocean, The Trump Network, Trumped! talk radio, Trump New Media, Trump Casinos et al.
Although one has to give the President-elect credit for being persistent, and America's entrepreneurs are admirable in that they do not fear failure, it is clear that there is a distinct pattern of behaviour that extends beyond the American philosophy of entrepreneurship and more towards a philosophy of wanton gambling.
Uber pulled out of China in August of this year and was reported to have $1.2 billion in losses for the first half of 2016
Uber, the unicorn company currently valued at $50 billion, was reported to have lost $1.2 billion in the first half of 2016, which have lead analysts to say that this is now entering "uncharted territory"; as the largest losses during the early dot-com boom in the early 1990s does not compare to the current losses that Uber is facing as a single company. Like the President-elect, Uber used its brand recognition in an attempt to integrate different services: UberRush (delivery service), UberEats (food delivery service), UberSelect, UberX, UberPool et al, all without much success in order to expand its userbase and services. Whereas early Uber competitor, Hailo, a UK based taxi hailing company, sold 60% of its company in a successful exit to German car giant Daimler in January in what is considered a smart move; Uber has been postponing any attempts to exit or launch an IPO because the majority of the latter funding series has been through debt refinancing, in which they are liable to pay off debt with future earnings.
As Peter Thiel is set to join the President-elect's transition team, if anything can be predicted from their combined history of investment and business strategies, there might be reasons why Americans are feeling nervous about what their economic policies might mean for the average American.
The Ramifications for U.K. Startups
As tensions between U.S. tech companies and the E.U. grow, in addition to the tensions between the U.S. and Asia; and U.S. and the U.K., a pattern is emerging of the United States' transformation into an increasing isolationist nation with the new President-elect.
A potential highlight is the postponement of Brexit by Parliament declaring that it alone has the power to trigger Brexit, as this gives U.K. politicians and legislators time to consider a second referendum on an unpopular decision that could derail the U.K.'s future relationship with the E.U. and Asia.
Simon Segers, CEO of Arm Holdings (left) with Masayoshi Son, Founder of Softbank (right). Masayoshi Son will team up with Saudi Arabia to launch a $100 billion tech fund, the largest fund in the world.
However, as the tides of power shift and with Japan's Softbank, which recently acquired Arm Holdings for £24.3 billion and the iconic Masayoshi Son teaming up with Saudi Arabia to launch an unprecedented $100 billion Vision Fund, it seems more likely that for U.K. startups and companies, looking towards the East for funding would be in line with its future than looking towards its American cousins.
Mass Exodus of Americans
As the negative sentiment grows in response to the new President-elect figurehead, many American celebrities have previously said that they would leave the country if Mr. Trump becomes President. Even such political figures such as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joked in an interview with the New York Times in July that it would be time to leave for New Zealand if Mr. Trump were to win.
Michael Moore, the documentary filmmaker who had predicted Mr. Trump's win, also predicted that he doesn't think the President-elect figurehead will last through his first term while others have predicted Mr. Trump as a one-term President. As protests of the Presidential election gain global traction in the public, petitions have been signed to abolish the electoral college, and to secure voting polls to prevent electronic hacking of the results. It has even been circulating in the media that Hillary Clinton will run again in 2020. Whatever the state of the world may be, keep calm and carry on.
By Sierra Choi
tDCS headset from focus
Currently, there are a lot of startups focused on hacking your body or your brain for optimal performance. Companies that focus on tech wearables such as Halo Neuroscience, yBrain, Focus and Thync have all designed wearable transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) headsets that have generated a lot of hype, but not yet delivered on their promises of brain wellness and enhanced performance or memory. Despite ybrain receiving $3.5 million funding to utilise their tDCS headsets for Alzheimer's research in 2014, and Halo Neuroscience receiving $9 million in funding, and also utilising their headsets for dementia and Parkinson's research, neither company has yet come up with a breakthrough in clinical trials.
tDCS wearable headsets have been reported to instigate headaches in anecdotal information on the internet due to overstimulation. Scientists warn that tDCS devices for consumer markets can actually inhibit and impair brain functions due to reversed polarisation of neurons in the brain via overstimulation.
Why is this? The answer is simple: tDCS doesn't work for neurological diseases. Although tDCS can be utilised for deep brain stimulation (as opposed to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) which is limited in its capacity of deep brain stimulation) and successful cases have been reported of using tDCS for temporarily waking up patients from comatose states, tDCS has little to zero effect on neurological disease states; and I will even extrapolate has zero effect on athletic performance or memory and cognition.
Certainly one can jumpstart a car battery using electrical shock, and the same could be said of tDCS, but a continual direct current stimulation isn't going to enhance brain functioning or able to alter the mitochrondria of neurons or stimulate them to make new connections; it might do exactly the opposite. In fact, it could potentially impair the brain's function as opposed to enhancing its function by reversing the polarity of neurons in the brain. Anecdotal information of people using tDCS devices on the internet have reported headaches; known risks also include seizures and mood changes.
Although I tend to think tDCS wearable devices and the funding behind them is mainly due to hype, I also do think there are other innovative technologies that do in fact, accelerate the brain recover from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and neurological diseases which I will not go into detail here.
Cells and neurons in our body need potassium (K+) for optimal action potential.
However, despite any advanced treatment, the best way to hack your brain and body is nutrition and exercise. One way to increase the action potential of neurons and cells in your body is through intake of potassium (K+). All the cells in our body in the resting state need potassium to maintain homeostasis. Two British scientists, Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley received the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1963 for their research a decade earlier for their discoveries in ionic mechanisms involved in excitation and inhibition of the cell membrane and documenting the roles of potassium and sodium. An increased consumption of sodium opens the channel in the cell to release potassium to achieve a resting state and has an inhibitory effect on the cell membrane. When excessive sodium is consumed, more potassium is released, leading to fatigue, bloating, weight gain. If we examine all the pre-packaged foods available to us for purchase in our daily lives, they all have excessive amounts of sodium. This sodium-potassium imbalance prevents cells from optimal performance. When cells are at an optimal resting state, there is more potassium in the cell than is released outside the cell.
Coconut water is a food source with the highest amount of potassium (K+) which enhances the action potential of cells and neurons in our bodies.
Foods high in potassium include coconut water, spinach, avocados and bananas. Many Olympic athletes consume multiple banana smoothies a day because it is the consumption of high potassium K+ content that leads to energy, strength and endurance. I personally drink 2 litres of coconut water a day, and drinking about a cup half and hour before a run enhances my strength training and ability to run longer and faster.
Another way to hack your body is by limiting your protein intake. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an excess protein consumption leads to many disease states including kidney disease, cancer and osteoporosis. In addition, many studies have linked heart disease and stroke with too much dietary protein. This is because the key issues are the rate at which the gastrointestinal tract can absorb amino acids from dietary proteins and the liver's capacity to denaminate proteins and produce urea for excretion of excess nitrogen.
"Dangers of excessive protein, defined as when protein constitutes > 35% of total energy intake, include hyperaminoacidemia, hyperammonemia, hyperinsulinemia nausea, diarrhea, and even death." -Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
It is estimated that Americans and the British already consume excessive amounts of protein in their diets and that a person who weighs 80kg (176 lbs) should ideally consume only 176g of protein per day (approximately 3/4 cup of protein per day). With the available foods today that is focused on excessive protein consumption, most people will not suffer from a bereft of protein from plant and animal sources. In fact, the danger is too much protein in the diet.
Marketing campaigns for milk have been misleading consumers for decades by utilising celebrity endorsements. Human milk does a body good due to its low levels of phosphorus; however cow's milk contains high levels of phosphorus leading to inhibition of the body to absorb calcium. More recent milk ads have switched from "does a body good" to "high source of protein".
For those of us who grew up in the U.S., we were probably all inundated with the "Milk does a body good" campaigns of the 1990s and early 2000s. For years we were told to get our calcium from milk or cheese or other dairy sources. Although these dairy products do have a good amount of calcium, the problem is that they also contain high levels of phosphorus, which inhibits the body's ability to absorb calcium. Whereas dairy products from cows have a high level of phosphorus (94g in one cup); in human milk, there is little phosphorus (15g in one cup). Ingesting high amounts of phosphorus limits the body's ability to absorb calcium, and creates a physiological condition ripe for allergies and lowered immune responses. Milk does a body good, but only human milk. Our bodies do not work optimally ingesting high amounts of phosphorus from cow's milk. That is why many people who suffer from osteoporosis often wonder what went wrong although they consume high amounts of dairy products from cows.
Popeye, the cartoon, made its debut in 1929. Popeye achieves his strength, energy and endurance from consuming spinach, not heavily salted, high protein-fatty foods, such as meats and cheeses as in our contemporary era. Our ancestors knew then spinach was a superfood with high levels of potassium, vitamin K and calcium which is what the body needs to achieve optimal action potential.
For the body to properly absorb calcium, the body also needs vitamins K and D. Spinach is a superfood, not only because of its high potassium content, but also due to its vitamin K and calcium content. It is an ideal food to consume on a daily basis because it enhances energy in the cell membrane, and creates a state of optimal athletic performance. One way to eat more spinach without having to consciously think about consuming more spinach is by replacing lettuce with spinach in sandwiches and burgers.
A lot of marketing tactics in food use "fresh" "high source of protein" and "does a body good" campaigns to make the consumer think what they are consuming is healthy. Most of these products are laden with sodium, high fructose corn syrup (a sugar that the human body cannot metabolise and leads to impaired pancreatic function), and excessive amounts of protein or phosphorus.
No marketing campaign ever tells you that a product is high in potassium K+ and vitamin K, which is what the body actually needs for energy and absorption of calcium. In our current era, more than 68.8% of the U.S. population of adults and in the U.K. 61.7% of adults are considered overweight or obese.
Let's us think about why that is.
By Sierra Choi
[Disclaimer: This article is intended for educational purposes only and not to treat nor diagnose any diseases.]