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Two people everyone should know

Photo Dr. Demis Hassabis
Dr. Demis Hassabis, Credit: Debby Wong/Alamy Live News

In a sense,  you could call these two people “The Albert Einsteins of the present”. It is anticipated that they will have a huge influence on the future of the world. They are very highly regarded among experts in the field. But they are yet completely unknown to most people in the world. Both have focused their research efforts on intelligence and technology for decades. They are Dr. James V. Hardt and Dr. Demis Hassabis.

Understanding intelligence

Dr. Demis Hassabis, a British AI researcher, neuroscientist and co-founder of the company DeepMind Technologies, is most definitely one of the leading AI researchers in the entire world.

He and his team is working to develop a better understanding of human intelligence, to create artificial intelligence (AI) that is self-learning. He is striving to create strong AI, which can thus be used in overlapping areas in the same way as human intelligence.

It is Dr. Hassabis’ mission to create AI that helps humans to solve all other problems. His work is strongly inspired by the words of Nobel Prize Winner Richard Feynman on the subject of intelligence: “What I cannot create, I do not understand.”  

The global brain

Photo Dr. James Hardt
Dr. James V. Hardt, Biocybernaut Institute

Dr. James V. Hardt, an American physicist, psychologist and psychophysiologist, on the other hand, supports people in increasing their intelligence and their consciousness through the use of advanced technology. Dr. Hardt’s mission is to interlink the consciousness of all people, to create a super-consciousness, a global brain. To push an evolution of humankind towards a greater degree of wholeness.

In his book “The Art of Smart Thinking”, he quotes author Peter Russell: “The path we choose is up to us, the ‘neurons’ of the global brain. Do we continue to regard ourselves as separate individuals, everyone on their own with their own interests? Or can we see ourselves as part of a greater whole, an aspiring humanity in full bloom? It is our choice.”

Dr. Hardt founded the Biocybernaut Institute in 1983 and has over 40 years’ experience of research and clinical practice in the field of neurofeedback – brainwave training. What does brainwave neurofeedback training mean?

Brainwaves and neurofeedback training

German neurologist and psychiatrist Hans Berger discovered in 1924 that the human brain emits electric waves since it is an electrochemical organ. Its electricity is measured in brainwaves. Current scientific knowledge tells us that there are five categories of brainwaves: 

Gamma (100 – 38 Hz or cycles per second)
Gamma were detected later than the other brainwaves, less is known about them so far. They have been seen in states of peak performance (both physical and mental), high focus and concentration and during mystic and transcendental experiences. One of the characteristics of gamma waves is a synchronisation of activity over wide areas of the brain. 

Beta (13-40 Hz)
Beta waves are associated with our waking consciousness. We usually carry out our day-to-day activities in beta state.

Alpha (8-13 Hz)
Alpha waves are slower and only appear when we are in a relaxed state (light meditation, daydreams, rest, spending time outdoors etc.). If there is a lack of alpha activity over a prolonged period this can be a first sign of worry, stress and illness.

Theta (4-8 Hz)
Theta waves are even slower and are associated with the first sleep stage, dreams, deep meditation etc. People are “hyper-influenceable” in theta state. They are also capable of learning vast amounts of material in a very short amount of time. Theta is the state in which “super learning” takes place.

Delta (½ – 4 Hz)
Delta waves are very slow and are mainly emitted in the deep-sleep phase. A small number of people (e.g. Zen monks) can maintain consciousness even when they are in delta. Being in delta state whilst awake is also linked to mystical powers.

In brain-wave neurofeedback training, the brain is connected to EEG electrodes and as soon as the brain is in a state of meditation and produces e.g. alpha waves, the participant receives feedback via loudspeaker. The more alpha waves produced in the brain, the louder the feedback signal, which results in the brain producing more alpha waves.

Positive effects of brainwave training

In this way the brain learns in a short space of time to consciously produce the alpha waves that are so important. The patented training method at the Biocybernaut Institute scientifically proves that working with brainwaves boosts IQ, increases creativity by 50%, helps us get rid of anxieties and depression, encourages excellence, delays the ageing process, increases pleasure etc.

And after just 7 days of alpha training, the participant’s brain waves show a similar pattern to the brains of zen monks who have been meditating for 21-40 years.

Due to the complex technology used and the intense coaching participants receive, a 7-day alpha training course in the Biocybernaut Institute currently costs around USD 15,000 and is thus unaffordable for most people.

Meditation is much more than pure stress management

However, similar positive impacts can also be achieved through regular meditation (improved IQ, healing traumas, increased creativity etc.). This requires more time but is accessible to everyone. For this reason, meditation is not only a method for dealing with stress, but it also has a profound and positive impact on our brainwaves and thus our intelligence, our consciousness and our mental and physical health.

Using advanced technology to discover the potential in humans

Dr. Hardt also writes in his book that he has developed three complete programmes which are accessible to people with a low income and are awaiting investment and implementation:

  1. Programme for a wide range of people which is divided into two parts (curing disorders and nurturing talent). This programme includes treatment of people with drug and alcohol problems, eating disorders, personality disorders etc. and people whose talents lie in their subconscious and are still largely underdeveloped.
  2. Programme for key figures: According to Dr. Hardt, far too many people who act as leaders in our society, e.g. in politics, business, science, education, the media, the military etc. are led by an attitude of want, fear and greed. He claims that after alpha training they would be led more by their own feelings of compassion, understanding and forgiveness. They would still have their knowledge and influential position. But they could access an enhanced level of intellectual potential and thus could introduce rapid, positive changes using their position of power.
  3. Programme for delta-force people: People whose main concern is “the well-being of the many” and are able to stay awake in delta state.

It sounds like the time for this type of advanced technology has come. When – if not now?

From the game of chess to a company for artificial intelligence

Dr. Demis Hassabis began playing chess aged 4. Even as a child he was interested in the topic of intelligence. “How is it, that your brain is coming up with these moves, these ideas that allow you to play and win this game?” he asked himself. Aged 8 he began programming, at 13 he reached master standard in the game of chess, at 17 he wrote the AI video game Theme Park, which allowed players to design their own Disney park. Dr. Hassabis’ career continued just as successfully.

He returned to university, obtaining a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience to better understand the human brain and to find inspiration for new AI algorithms. In 2010 he was a co-founder of the company DeepMind, which was acquired by Google in 2014. However, the company’s headquarters remain in London.

The ideal playing field

This means the company has access to all Google resources (data and funding), does not have to make much profits, can focus completely on AI research and also maintains a safe distance from the parent company. These are ideal conditions for AI researchers. But distance does not mean independence.

In any case, these circumstances facilitated a playing field that also led to the creation of the software AlphaGo, which beat the best Go player in the world. The self-learning AI software AlphaGo Zero was also developed by DeepMind. This software is no longer dependant on human assistance and learns much faster and more efficiently without human assistance.  Listening to Dr. Hassabis speak about AI and intelligence, his outstanding expertise and his passion for this subject are immediately apparent.

AI Ethics Council

But this is about far more than just board games and video games. Dr. Hassabis is at the forefront in the development of a technology that will influence the entire world. This technology also involves considering the issue of security and ethics in AI. Dr. Hassabis is very aware of this. He was also one of the main initiators behind the Organisation Partnership on AI, which was founded in 2016 as an open platform by the big players in Western AI research and defines itself as an AI Ethics Council.

Fears concerning AI

However, during a Q&A after one of his talks at the Royal Television Society in 2015, Dr. Hassabis said that some worries that sound like science-fiction could be heard especially amongst philosophers and scientists in other areas. But it is a fact that many scientists who work with AI are raising their voices in concern, like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Stuart Russell etc.

What’s more – AI will affect all people. It is therefore essential that it is not only a small circle of experts who are informed about this topic but that instead the public is able to have a democratic and ethical influence on AI development. However, this is only possible if we raise awareness and conduct open debates on the topic where fears are addressed and not written off as science-fiction. Indeed, psychology tells us that when fears are ignored and instead suppressed, people needlessly feel increased fear.

What does E=mc² have to do with AI?

Einstein’s discovery of mass-energy equivalence, the famous formula E=mc², was a decisive theoretical prerequisite in the development of the atomic bomb.

Throughout his life, Albert Einstein was a staunch pacifist, but he still urged President Roosevelt to build the atomic bomb in 1939 out of fear that Germany could use it in the Second World War.

When he heard of the dropping of the atomic bomb, Einstein reportedly said “Alack”. Ten years later, on 9 July 1955, he published a famous statement alongside philosopher Bertrand Russell in which he warned us of the dangers of war with nuclear weapons.

One day, AI will probably be a comparable, if not even stronger force, than the atomic bomb. Thus, one day, the brilliant researchers of AI like Dr. Hassabis could end up in a similar position to Albert Einstein.

Let’s hope that humanity will have reached a higher degree of consciousness by this point in time and that we no longer regard ourselves as separate individuals but as part of one whole, as ‘neurons’ of one global brain.


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