Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bergson: Free Will through Subjective Experience

Advance in science always helps to promulgate new ideas for addressing long-standing multidisciplinary problems. Max Tegmark's recent book, the Mathematical Universe, is just such an example of new and interesting ways to apply science to understanding the problem of consciousness. However, before jumping into these ideas, it is important to have a fundamental knowledge of different theories of perception, cognition, and consciousness.
One place to turn for a basic theory of cognition is French process philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941). Although we might easily dismiss Bergson in our shiny modern era of real-time fMRIs, neo-cortical column simulation, and spike-timing calculations, Bergson's theories of perception and memory still stand as some of the most comprehensive and potentially accurate accounts of the phenomena.

Bergson's view is that there are two sides to experience: the quantitative measurable aspect, like a clock's objective ticking in minutes, and the qualitative subjective aspect, like what time feels like when we are waiting, or having fun with friends.

Bergson's prescription for more freedom and free will is tuning into subjective experience. In the example of time, it is to 'live in time,' experiencing time as duration, as internal themes and meldings of time.
We must tune into the subjective experience of time to exercise our free will. 
How this actually occurs is that we are more disposed to freedom and free will when we choose spontaneous action, which happens when we are oriented towards the qualitative aspects of internal experience, and see time as a dynamic overlap between states, not as boxes on a calendar.

Considering that we may espouse a futurist ethics that supports freedom, empowerment, inspiration, and creative expression of the individual in concert with society, the Bergsonian implementation would be ethics models that facilitate awareness of subjective experience, a point that Deleuze subsequently takes up in envisioning societies of individuals actualized in desiring-production.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Fundamental Advances in DNA Nanotechnology: Probes, Synthesis, Photonics, and 3D Printing

The focus of the 11th annual conference on the Foundations of Nanoscience (FNANO) held April 14-17, 2014 in Snowbird UT was self-assembled architectures and devices. The conference continues to be important in providing a comprehensive look at fundamental enabling technologies across a range of nanoscience fields and the eventual advent of molecular electronics.

The majority of the conference discussed self-assembled architectures and devices in the context of DNA nanotechnology (using DNA as a structural building block in nanomaterials construction). DNA is the material of choice for constructing nanoscale objects. It is a useful construction material because the interactions between complementary base pairs are understood, and can be designed and built to create frames and scaffolds that hold other molecules and create structures on their own.

The main technique in DNA nanotechnology is inducing self-assembly, where advances in different methods were discussed such as lithography, 3D printing, electro-chemicals, electronics, and photonics (controlled light interactions with matter).

The scale and required replicability of nanomaterials engenders a strong focus on tool development to determine and assess the progress and quality of self-assembly and other operations. New research was presented in tools related to working with DNA such as probes, detectors, samplers, nanopores, and nanochannels (i.e. waldoes). In silico modeling and prediction remains a crucial step, for example improving the prediction of DNA and RNA folding helps in targeting RNA interference.

Synthetic biology, biomedicine, energy, and basic materials continue to be the important application areas for DNA nanotechnology.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Big Data: Reconfiguring and Empowering the Human-Data Relation

A strong new presence in contemporary life is big data (the collection and use of personal data by large institutions). As individuals, we can feel powerless in our relation with data.

At present, the human-data relation is one of fear, distance, powerlessness, lack of recourse, and diminished agency. There is an asymmetry of touch in the human-data relation where data can see and touch us without our noticing or being able to touch back. What is missing from the human-data relation is the capacity for humans to touch data in a meaningful way. The asymmetry of touch leads to an incomplete subjectivation of both the human and the data: big data creates a false composite in trying to model and understand the whole individual from just a few electronically-traceable activities, while humans have almost no sight or conceptualization of the entity that is big data.

There are at least two ways to humanize and improve the human-data relation. One is reconceptualizing subjectivation and personal identity as a malleable and dynamic association of elements and capacities, and the other is reconfiguring the power relation between humans and data. To balance the power relation so that humans are more empowered, non-profit institutions, watchdog organizations, and community groups could be created for the defense of personal data, and privacy could be overhauled as a practical impossibility and recast into a system of access rights and responsibilities conferred upon the data.

Presentation: The Philosophy of Big Data
Video (in French): La reconfiguration de la relation humaine-données par le toucher

Sunday, April 06, 2014

New Fields of Research Defined by Open Science Visionaries

The purpose of an open-science non-profit research startup like DIYgenomics is research innovation.

The value is in being able to propose a unique and visionary research agenda of questions that are forward-looking and not the focus or interest of the institutional research industry.

Research innovation falls into two tiers:

First is preventive medicine questions, ‘medicine that matters to me’ (e.g.; small groups or individuals), and non-pathologies.

More importantly, the second tier is defining completely new fields of research such as athletic performance genomics, social intelligence genomics, cognitive performance genomics, and DIYneuroscience, and making progress on widespread philosophical and societal problems such as the destigmatization of physical and mental health issues, and the reduction of discrimination as a broad social problem.

DIY open-science, crowdsourced health social networks, and community biohacking labs are the early-stage startup/venture capital arm of the expanding preventive medicine ecosystem of health services, and are able to surface projects of interest that can then be pursued at the institutional level as relevant.