Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Dangerous Child Curricula: Part V

Fifty Dangerous Things is really about providing an antidote to the overprotective parenting style that seems to becoming the norm in our society. _Wired
Gever Tulley's book 50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do, is about breaking through the suffocating wrap of risk aversion that threatens the future of modern societies. But most of the activities presented there would not have been considered dangerous just a few decades ago.

If children are not taught to responsibly, creatively, and ethically deal with risk, they will go out looking for risky activities on their own. Drugs, delinquency, drunk driving, and worse. If you think you are protecting your child by keeping them away from all forms of risk, you may be in for a big surprise before too long.

The idea behind this new book by Gever Tulley and Julie Spiegler is that by allowing our children some exposure to slightly dangerous things (with supervision and care, of course) we can help foster creativity, teach problem-solving, and have some good old-fashioned fun at the same time. After going through much of the book with my 7-year-old son, I’m fully on board with this theory. My little guy was thrilled with most of the activities, had many “aha” moments of accomplishment, and eagerly paged through the book checking out what our next dangerous activity would be.

The suggestions are presented in a clear and straightforward manner, with each topic getting its own illustrated description with a requirements list, possible hazards, estimated time for the activity, safety tips and some supplemental information related to the topic. There’s space to enter your own field notes and observations for each activity, giving it a sort of “lab book” feel, which my son seemed to really like. By including areas for kids to write about their experiences and take notes, the book became a cherished guide that my son wanted to keep handy and turn to regularly.

Some of the suggestions feel like pretty typical kid activities that I assumed every kid would just naturally do as they grow up, like throwing rocks or climbing a tree. But as we went through the book I found myself repeatedly surprised at how many of these kind of activities my son hadn’t actually ever tried. _Wired
More from the John David Garcia early childhood curriculum:
Physical Biological
Physical Theory Physical Practice Biological Theory Biological Practice
7.00 9.00 Consolidation of Greek
mathematics and geometry
using modern notation;
practical chemistry in
purifying common
elements from their ores
and making chemical
compounds such as
sulphuric acid, nitric acid,
hydrochloric acid, aqua
regia, and gun powder
Use geometry and
mathematics to design a
cathedral using Roman
arches, vaults, and
buttresses; isolate elements
from their ores; make acids
and simple compounds,
gun powder, and paints;
make mortars and cements;
continue modification of
sailing ship
Further study of
microscopic life, protozoa,
mites, worms, and other
microorganisms that live
on and in mammals;
diseases they cause and
symbiosis they provide
Microscopic observation of
classification in modern
terms; observe sea
plankton, sponges, and
hydra, and observation of
their life cycles
7.25 9.25 Mathematical modeling of
nature through advanced
algebra, geometry, and
trigonometry; derive
solutions to quadratic and
cubic equations; advanced
navigation, the compass
and the theory of the
sextant; advanced
geometry, trigonometry of
arches, domes and vaults
Masonry work, making
stone arches & vaults;
begin construction of small
wooden house with some
masonry; continue to work
with lenses and practical
optics, make large
reflecting telescope, make
better microscope; make
additional chemical
compounds, acids and
paints, dyes and cements;
construction of an
astrolabe; practical
astronomy; finish
modifications on sailing
Animal systematics,
invertebrate zoology,
comparative organ
systems, organ structure
and function, cell theory of
animal structures
Laboratory dissection and
study of the invertebrate
phyla in an evolutionary
context; detailed
experimentation for
function of organ systems
and microhistology
7.50 9.50 Mathematical modeling of
nature continued; quartic
equations; heliocentric
model of solar system
compared to Ptolemaic;
comparison of Viking
ships as fast raiders to
more seaworthy sailing
ships; prepare for two-week ocean trip, theory of
Continue work with wood
and masonry in house;
begin construction of
accurate water and
weighted clock; begin
construction of
astronomical telescope
with instruments;
alchemical preparation for
isolating elements and
making compounds; the
alchemical symbols as
Continue classification of
invertebrates for all
remaining major phyla,
specifying organ functions
and histology; show how
all metazoa have same
types of cells and all start
as single cell, simple
embryo egg
Laboratory dissection and
microscopic observation of
major invertebrate phyla;
tissue and embryology;
transition species to
vertebrates, tunicates, and
7.75 9.75 Begin study of conics and
analytical geometry; begin
study of the dynamics of
falling bodies and the
pendulum; continue study
of alchemy, showing how
acceptance of wrong
hypotheses impeded
progress; consider
measurements of time,
temperature, and position
Finish wooden house;
using telescope and clocks,
begin observations of
movements of planets and
earth relative to sun, and
deduce Kepler's laws; take
a two-week ocean trip;
begin construction of
Continue classification of
invertebrates; compare
with anatomy of simpler
vertebrates; study all
organs and their
physiology and function;
identify cells common to
vertebrates and
Microscopic observations
and dissection of simple
vertebrates and their
organs; observation of
simple embryology and
comparison to invertebrate
embryology; full dissection
of shark
Psychosocial Integration
Psychosocial Theory Pyschosocial Practice Integrative Theory Integrative Practice
7.00 9.00 The Roman Empire and its
interaction with
Christianity, the Greco-Roman disdain for manual
labor, the Christian disdain
for the natural world, the
Gnostic Christians, the
stagnation and
disintegration of the
Roman Empire until the
rise of Islam
Write speculative essay on
how Roman Empire might
have endured and what the
world would be like if it
had; write speculative
essay on how Christianity
would have developed if
the Gnostics had not been
The ethical decay of Rome;
Roman bureaucracy; how
the Catholic bureaucracy
established itself; Catholic
intolerance of deviant
views; persecution of
heretics; inferiority
complex about pagan
knowledge; the destruction
of Alexandrian library;
Finish design of cathedral;
paint Christian symbols
that express what is best in
Christianity; sing
Gregorian chants in Latin
after studying translations;
do an art project
expressing the meaning of
the Catholic church
7.25 9.25 The rise of Islam; read the
Koran; early history of
Arabia to 7th century;
relationship of Islam to
Zoroastrianism, Judaism,
Christianity, and the
surrounding cultures; the
political vacuum in the
Middle East
Essay on why so many
Jews rejected Islam; essay
on why Islam was able to
grow and expand so
rapidly; essay on the
ethical contradictions
within Islam compared to
Judaism and Christianity
Islam as a closed system;
how Islam induces
fanaticism; its comparison
to Christianity; why
Christianity is more open
in spite of church
bureaucracy; Islam and
creativity; the reason for
Islam declining as
Christianity rose
Islamic abstract art; how
lack of representational art
diminishes creativity; draw
abstract designs in the
Islamic style; Islamic
mandalas; paint
representational art of
Islam; compare to Persian
and Mogul art forms
7.50 9.50 The great theologians, St.
Augustine, St. Gregory,
Averroes, Avicena,
Maimonides, St. Anselm,
Abelard; show their depth
and breadth of vision; the
weakness of having
orthodoxy to defend; the
Holy Roman Empire and
its relationship to Islam,
India, and China;
Charlemagne and his
Essays on the "proofs" of
the existence of God and
the ontological arguments;
essay on the humanizing
role of the Church while it
bureaucratically decayed;
essay on priestly celibacy
and its implications; write
your own ideas about God
The dominance of ideology
and bureaucracy over
ethics and truth, the
preservation and distortion
of the teachings of Jesus,
the fundamental power of
the teachings of Jesus in
spite of the negative
Compare Byzantine with
Western religious art and
paint a synthesis of the
two; paint a synthesis of
Christian, Chinese, Hindu,
and Muslim art of the
period; begin study of the
7.75 9.75 St. Thomas Aquinas and
the rise of the Holy Roman
Empire; the feedback
produced by the great
schism; the decline of
Byzantium relative to the
newly emerging West;
Roger Bacon and the rise
of science; the apparent
cultural superiority of
Islam, India, China, and
Write essay on the
theology of St. Thomas
Aquinas, indicating the
holes in his arguments;
essay on Thomistic ethics;
the schism analyzed in
theological and
bureaucratic terms, why
schism was so important to
Western progress
The relationship of rational
theology to mathematics;
the church as an arbiter of
power between barbarian
states; the moral authority
of the church in a world of
brute force; the cathedral
as the synthesis of Western
technology, art, and
Study and do detailed
drawings of major
cathedrals; plan to
implement construction of
cathedral design; begin
construction on scale
model in stone
Gever Tulley's 50 Dangerous Things are not truly dangerous. But doing them with your children may be early steps in the creation of dangerous children. At this stage in the decline of the west, there is no greater need than the need for the dangerous child.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Dangerous Child Curricula: Part IV

Modern societies tend to shelter children from experiences and responsibilities which would be invaluable training for the future. Most of us live in a risk-aversive culture which protects children from "dangerous" learning situations which might eventually save their lives -- and the lives of many others -- in the future.

A movement of sorts is growing in opposition to this overprotective culture. From Gever Tulley's Tinkering School to Hal Iggulden's Dangerous Book for Boys to a wide variety of wilderness adventure programs for youth, several people and organisations are pushing back against the stifling atmosphere of a risk-free upbringing.

Dangerous children must learn to accept and deal with risk responsibly and ethically. There is no rational alternative to this approach, in a world that grows more dangerous -- thanks to governmental decay, malfeasance, and corruption -- by the minute.

More from the John David Garcia curriculum for early childhood:
Physical Biological
Physical Theory Physical Practice Biological Theory Biological Practice
6.00 8.00 The geometry of Euclid
using modern algebraic
notation, introduction to
algebra as it applies to
geometry, use of geometry
and vectors to sail against
the wind; give many
examples of the practical
applications of geometry in
many fields; the Atomic
Theory of matter of
Democritus; other Greek
theories of water, earth,
air, and fire
Use geometry to calculate
size of the earth, distance
to the sun, size of the sun;
use geometry to construct
and use a large catapult;
build a bridge by geometric
design; work with glass
making lenses and mirrors;
begin design of ship that
can sail against the wind;
practice sailing the ship
built last year
Internal anatomy of
vertebrates, fish, frog, rat,
and pig; the true role of
each organ and what
Aristotle and Galen
thought they were for;
Greek theories of evolution
compared to modern
theory; point out how
dangerous it is for
authorities to be wrong; the
value of doubt
Dissection of fish, frog,
rat, and pig; identification
of all major organs and
bones; practice in meat
processing, packaging, and
preservation without
refrigeration; continue
practice in caring for
young infants in first year
6.25 8.25 Continue the previous
work and continue with the
geometry and science of
Archimedes; use modern
algebraic notation and
point out how difficult the
work of Archimedes was
because of notation; theory
of pullies and parabolic
mirrors; show how abacus
gives answers to the
notational problem
Construct a system of
pulleys and a block and
tackle; construct parabolic
mirrors to collect solar
energy by heating water,
and work out schedule for
how mirrors should be
aligned as function of time
of year and day; finish
design of ship
Detailed survey of Greco-Roman medicine and the
modern versions of these
beliefs; the complete guide
to the use of herbs and
medicines for curing and
preventing illnesses;
taxonomy of herbs; review
Greco-Roman theories of
Plant a garden of medicinal
herbs, take field trips to
collect medicinal herbs,
prepare poultices and
medicines as have been
verified by time and
modern usage
6.50 8.50 The works of Archimedes
continued, the school of
Alexandria, and the
continuation of Greek
mathematics, science, and
technology; full
development of algebra
and trigonometry using
modern notation; solid
geometry and
trigonometry, applications
to navigation, the
construction of lenses
The design and
construction of water
pumps, the design and
construction of steam
turbines; practical lens
making continued; begin
modification of ship made
in fifth year to sail against
the wind; glass blowing
Study of preventive
medicine; germ theory of
infection and how hygiene
can prevent it (although
Greeks had lenses, no one
discovered germs for 2000
years), parasites and their
life cycles, the danger of
eating meat, the
importance of cooking and
Use lenses to study small
organisms, examine
parasites in intestines of
animals, show how
maggots hatch from fly's
eggs; basic entomology
observed; use microscope
to study basic parasitology
6.75 8.75 Continuation of the study
of the science, technology,
and mathematics of the
School of Alexandria
Continuation of the above;
make crude telescope and
The study of microscopic
life; how lack of scientific
method inhibited medical
practice for 2000 years;
how to prevent the spread
of disease; viruses as
submicroscopic organisms
not to be discovered for
2000 years
Study of amoebas and
major human parasites;
animals as sources of
infection for humans; the
parasitic worms

Psychosocial Integration
Psychosocial Theory Pyschosocial Practice Integrative Theory Integrative Practice
6.00 8.00 Greek history from Thales
to the Roman conquest, the
Dialogues of Plato, a
survey of Aristotle, a
survey of the Greek plays
and the fables of Aesop,
the ethical teaching of
Socrates, the Macedonian
interlude and Alexander
Perform one play by
Sophocles and one by
Euripides; write a critique
of Greek culture and why it
failed; write a critique on
Socrates' life and on
whether Socrates should
have drunk the hemlock;
write an epic poem on
Ethical analysis of the
teachings of Socrates,
Plato, and Aristotle; show
how the lack of love and
the will to power forced
Greece to destroy itself;
consider that the great
thinkers of Greece never
had power nor were they
free of tyrants except at
Write a play in the Greek
style on Greek themes,
critique one another's
plays, finish sculpture in
the Greek style, do a group
art project on the meaning
of Greece
6.25 8.25 Greco-Roman history from
the start of Rome to the
time of Jesus; analysis of
the works of Lucretius;
what the Romans had of
their own and what they
learned from the Greeks;
Roman ethics and theories
of government; how
tyranny can always replace
a democracy by promising
to take from the rich and
give to the poor
Learn Greek and Latin
roots to English and
scientific and technical
terms, emphasis on nouns;
the Greek alphabet, brief
survey of Greek and
Roman grammar and its
complexity; show how
English grammar is
simpler, more practical;
show how as vocabulary
expands grammar can be
simplified; write essay
comparing Greek and
Roman culture
Sexual ethics and how the
Greeks and Romans
related to them; pleasure as
an end in itself; the
exploitation of women,
exclusion of women from
all important decision
making, women as sexual
objects, the absolute
authority of the father;
Roman law and
evolutionary ethics,
subservience to the state
and ethical principles
Design a domed and
vaulted building made of
wood and masonry,
calculate stresses, and
show the use of the arch
and dome; play Roman
music and practice sports,
do a group art project on
the meaning of Rome
under Augustus
6.50 8.50 The history of the Jews;
read all of the Old
Testament, the ethical
principles derivable from
the Old Testament, the
mixing of ethics,
techniques, and ritual; the
Jewish interaction with the
Aryans after the
Babylonian captivity, the
resistance to Hellenization,
the conquest by Rome, the
Jewish bureaucracy,
sampling of the Talmud
Essay analyzing Old
Testament as a historical
account and as a myth;
compare to Iliad and
Odyssey; Jewish laws are
analyzed in terms of their
ethical value and their
political implication; essay
on Judaism as an ethical
Ethical analysis of the Old
Testament, personal ethics,
health implications of
many of the Jewish laws;
show how the means
became the ends and how
ritual destroys ethics; the
destructiveness of
becoming specialized in
one's own religion
Jewish abstract art in the
form of the Menorah and
the Star of David; paint an
art work using Jewish
symbols to express a
Jewish theme without
including the human form
or animals; Jewish music
and Passover songs
6.75 8.75 The New Testament and
the life of Jesus, the ethical
teaching of Jesus, Jesus as
a Jewish reformer and
rabbi, the deification of
Jesus, the teachings of
Jesus in relationship to the
Greco-Roman religion, St.
Paul and Christianity as a
synthesis of Judaism,
Jesus, and Greco-Roman
religion and philosophy
Write an essay on Jesus
and the meaning of his life
and death, essay on the
criticisms of Jesus against
traditions and the Jewish
bureaucracy, essay on
whether Jesus could have
studied in India and/or
Tibet, essay on Jesus'
teaching and the school of
Ethical analysis of the New
Testament, the high ethical
content in the teachings of
Jesus compared to their
corruption by St. Paul, the
mythification & deification
of Jesus in the Roman
tradition by those who did
not know him, analysis of
synoptic gospels showing
how they were all derived
from a simpler, common
Draw and paint art
showing the unification of
Judaism, the teachings of
Jesus, and the Greco-Roman religion
(Michelangelo's Sistine
Chapel is best model);
write a poem expressing
this synthesis; do a group
art project expressing the
essence of Christianity

The children of tomorrow must be well trained and well-rounded. They must be able to work independently, confidently. They must also be able to work together in teams and organised groups, to accomplish larger and more complex goals. They must be able to see through the media, academic, and PR smokescreens coming out of corrupt and established institutions which control most public discourse.

What they will do about what they discover, will remain a mystery until it happens. That is what will make them dangerous.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Dangerous Child Curricula: Part III

For a child to be dangerous to the powers that be in a decaying society, he must be creative, knowledgeable, competent, and ethical -- all wrapped up in a framework of both independence and responsibility.

Most of the important things a child learns in life, are learned by the ages of 5 to 7. These things are learned by example -- for better or for worse. Raw native intelligence is important, but it is only a small, though important, ingredient of the whole. More important than intelligence is executive function -- grit, patience, fairness, honesty, openness, persistence, conscientiousness, etc.

If a child has intelligence and good executive function, it is crucial that he be given the tools of knowledge and competence -- that is how true self-confidence is built.

More from the John David Garcia Curriculum for Early Childhood:
Physical Biological
Physical Theory Physical Practice Biological Theory Biological Practice
5.00 7.00 The smelting of iron and
simple steels, forging iron
and blacksmithing; simple
astronomy and navigation,
advanced sailing ships that
might have crossed the
Atlantic; the iron forging
necessary for controlling a
horse in battle; pre-Greek
geometry and arithmetic
using Arabic numbers,
advanced theory of the
Babylonian abacus
Smelt ore, forge from iron
a complete set of tack for a
horse, plus horseshoes;
forge and make iron sword
and spear; make large clay
jars for storing grain, oils,
and wine; begin one-year
sailing ship construction
project for group; show
how geometry and
arithmetic help in the
above projects, build a
Babylonian abacus
Advanced study of
equestrianship for war,
shooting a compound bow
while riding horseback, the
use of the lance and the
sword from horseback;
mammalian reproduction
in detail, nursing and care
of young mammals;
processing milk into cheese
and yogurt
Horse handling, training,
and riding; grooming and
care of horses, shodding
and equipping the horse,
the use of different bits,
saddles, and stirrups;
mammalian reproduction
and breeding; comparisons
of dogs, cats, sheep, goats,
cows, and horses; cheese
and yogurt from cow's
milk; extract oil from fruits
and nuts; make and store
wine; optimal physical
training of the human body
5.25 7.25 Continue with projects
begun previous quarter
Continue with projects
begun previous quarter
Continue with projects
begun previous quarter
Continue with projects
begun previous quarter
5.50 7.50 Advanced metallurgy,
casting bronze sculptures
through lost wax process;
making of hard steel
alloys, nails, bolts, and
screws; making advanced
presses and catapults;
fractions and decimals,
empirical basis of
Pythagorean Theorem,
right triangles, circles,
spheres, and
Continue work on sailing
ship, do precision bronze
castings; make knives
using hard steel alloys;
make nails, bolts, screws,
presses, and catapults;
show applications of
mathematics and geometry
to the above
Human reproduction,
comparative male and
female anatomy, hormonal
cycles, fertility cycles,
puberty and emotions,
lactation and nursing, care
of infants, normal patterns
of growth for young boys
and girls
Advanced breeding of
animals and plants,
extraction of fats and oils
from vegetables, fruits, and
seeds; extract animal fats
from carcasses and meat;
work in nursery caring for
small children 1-2 years
5.75 7.75 The geometry and
mathematics of
Pythagoras, several proofs
of his theorem, the
Pythagorean solids, the
harmonics of vibrating
strings and the physical
basis of music; geometry
applied to navigation,
astronomy, building and
surveying; the technology
of glass, glass blowing
Construct the Pythagorean
solids, use several
approaches to making
dodecahedron and
icosahedron; construct
navigational computer,
advanced abacus; construct
glass bottles, mirrors,
parabolic mirror; finish
sailing ship
Human health and the
Greek medical tradition,
Aesculapius and
Hippocrates; a healthy
mind in a healthy body;
physical culture and
optimal health; diet,
exercise, and health
Gardening and preparation
of food for optimal health,
an exercise plan for
lifetime health, strength,
and energy; construction of
a glass still; care of young

Psychosocial Integration
Psychosocial Theory Pyschosocial Practice Integrative Theory Integrative Practice
5.00 7.00 The story of Zarathustra;
how he changed the
Persian people and how
they went on to create the
world's greatest empire
until conquered by
Alexander; the Zoroastrian
religion and myths in detail
Analysis of ancient Persian
history and religion; write
a story of how Persian
history might have been
different if the religion had
been different
Ethical analysis of
Zoroastrian religion and
ethical system, strengths
and weaknesses, and how
it was doomed to failure
Ancient Persian art,
architecture, music;
analyze and reproduce
style according to your
own feeling about this
culture; do a group project
expressing ancient Persian
5.25 7.25 The story of Confucius and
his teachings and how they
changed China; the books
of Confucius are read,
discussed, and compared to
the philosophy of Lao Tse;
the interaction of Taoism
and Confucianism in
Chinese history is
Written analysis of each of
the books of Confucius and
stories about Confucius; an
analysis about Lao Tse;
writing of imaginative
stories about life in China;
essay on how you
personally feel about
Confucius and Lao Tse
Ethical analysis of
Confucianism and Taoism
as ethical systems, as ways
to knowledge, and the
civilization they produced;
what was right and what
was wrong and predictions
Ancient Chinese art to
Tang dynasty, analyze and
reproduce style in
sculpture, painting, and
music; use Chinese style to
express your feelings about
classical Chinese culture in
group art project
5.50 7.50 The story of Buddha and
his teachings and how they
changed India and the
East; emphasize the basic
ethical nature of Buddhism
and its tolerant compassion
toward others; show how
Buddhists became
psychosocial specialists
and stopped innovating in
the natural world; compare
to Hinduism
Write essays on the
meaning of Hinduism and
Buddhism and how they
relate to you; how
Buddhism and Hinduism
relate to each other, how
you would feel and act if
you were suddenly put into
a Buddhist or Hindu
society; give evidence for
and against reincarnation,
what impact these societies
have on the world,
Hinduism and Buddhism in
light of the evolutionary
ethic and the eight Ethical
Principles; the historical
impact and consequences
of those religions; the
ethics of the caste system;
why Buddhism is more
successful as an export;
common Aryan origins of
Hinduism, Buddhism and
Experience directly
Buddhist and Hindu
meditation and its
comparison to autopoiesis;
Buddhist and Hindu art;
draw mandalas of your
own, sculpt in Buddhist
and Hindu style, make up
mandalas, learn to play
Buddhist and Hindu music;
perform dances, do art
works expressing how you
feel about Buddhism
and/or Hinduism
5.75 7.75 Early Greek history to
Thales; the Iliad and the
Odyssey; the story of
Thales and Pythagoras and
how they laid part of the
foundations of Western
civilization; the rational
and mystical as reflected in
those two men; Thales and
ethics; Pythagoras and
Write an essay on the
ethics of the characters in
the Iliad and Odyssey, the
ethics of the mythical
characters and gods, the
attitudes toward women
and their role in Greece;
make up a Greek-style
myth of your own
The warlike Aryan
tradition and how it led to
Greek culture, the
obsession with domination
and personal freedom, the
oppressiveness of a slave-based culture, the extreme
military specialization of
Sparta; why a love of truth
and intelligence is not
enough if there is no love
for others
Geometric art using
Pythagorean and Greek
principles, composition of
music using Pythagorean
theory of harmonic scales;
begin a sculpture project in
the Greek style; Greek
music and dances including
those of Sparta

Children require a lot of experimental activities, preferably as part of semi-serious play. Children are strongly influenced by adult influences and opinions at this stage, and are eager to build and display competence in a manner that will impress adults and older children.

It is an adult's task to design a learning sequence that educates, strengthens, and trains the wide capacities of a child, and allows for the development of both competence in designed areas, and for self-expression in a manner that allows for open-ended development of competence.

Dangerous children are dangerous to a decadent and corrupt society. In such societies, power and wealth gravitates to those closest to the seats of power -- where it is jealously guarded.

Dangerous children, on the other hand, constantly come up with all kinds of ideas, inventions, innovations, questions, and constructs which continually threaten the always delicate balance of power between the haves and have-nots.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Dangerous Child: Curricula Part II

In modern government education, students are meant to be receptacles of a consensual wisdom. They are meant to accept and conform to the consensual wisdom du jour, as communicated by designers of government school curricula.

Many children are destroyed by this approach, falling by the wayside without having achieved the correct credentials for a modern pigeon-holed success. Of those who "succeed" in government education, very few will have anything uniquely significant to contribute to the shaping of a better world or better society. The uniqueness and creativity of almost all those who pass through the system will have been processed out and disposed of.

Children who are too creative, who think "outside of the box," who ask too many questions that are difficult for factory trained teachers to answer -- these are very dangerous children. It is best for the system if they would simply drop out . . . .

More of the John David Garcia early childhood curriculum:
Physical Biological
Physical Theory Physical Practice Biological Theory Biological Practice
4.00 6.00 The concept of the wheel;
smelting metal from ore;
making a simple calendar
from astronomical
observations; counting and
use of Arabic numbers to
1,000 for calendar making,
time-keeping, and other
Making a potter's wheel
and using it; making an
advanced bellows driven
by a pedaled wheel to heat
a charcoal, earth, and clay
oven; making a spinning
wheel, a sundial, a simple
Advanced gardening; the
making of cloth from plant
and animal fiber; advanced
care and management of
sheep and goats; gourmet
cooking with spices and
herbs using ovens; making
more advanced permanent
shelters of wood and stone
Spinning fiber; simple
weaving of cloth with no
loom; wheat and corn
cultivation; making bread
with & without yeast;
breeding sheep and goats
with seasons; training
dogs; constructing small
stone and wood huts
4.25 6.25 More advanced metallurgy;
the saw and how to use it;
how to cast bronze tools,
nails, the chisel, and metal
hammer; advanced use of
wheels; simple arithmetic;
adding and subtraction
with Arabic numbers;
simple geometry
Construction of wheeled
push carts; construct
bronze tools and show how
inferior they are to steel
tools; use steel tools in all
construction; use pick and
shovel and push cart to
build small irrigation
system and buildings;
show how arithmetic and
simple geometry help
construct these projects
Group design of large
irrigated garden, suitable
for self-sufficiency of 16
persons; advanced looms
and weaving; advanced
animal husbandry and
selective breeding of sheep
and goats; care of chickens
and cattle
Construct and plant
garden; advanced cooking
and preserving of food;
fermentation to produce
alcohol, distillation of
alcohol with copper still
4.50 6.50 Advanced bronze-based
metallurgy and smelting of
other similar metals;
identify related ores and
other rocks; simple glass
technology; building an
oxcart from wood, leather,
and bronze; simple
multiplication with Arabic
numbers; more simple
geometry, right triangles,
and the circle; advanced
calendar-making & time-keeping; how to make a
simple boat with sail and
Smelt and cast advanced
bronzes and similar
metals; make and cast
glass sheets; make mirrors
of metal and glass; build
an oxcart; show how
arithmetic and geometry
are useful; use detailed
astronomical observations
to make a better calendar,
and show how arithmetic
and geometry help; build a
small sailing and rowing
Show how to use a simple
plow and fertilizer to
prepare land; show how to
make fertilizer from
minerals and organic
substances; show how to
cross-pollinate and
hybridize plants and trees;
show how to use advanced
fermentation techniques to
produce wine and alcohol;
discuss effects of alcohol
as preservative and drug;
storage and preservation of
Advanced agriculture and
gardening projects; make
fertilizers, crossbreed and
hybridize plants; grow
grain and grapes; ferment
to alcohol, distill alcohol,
use alcohol as a fuel and
preservative, use as
disinfectant; cultivation of
yeasts, and advanced
4.75 6.75 More advanced arithmetic
and geometry, division of
numbers, simple fractions;
creation of more advanced
sailing craft, the ideas
behind a horse-drawn war
chariot, the compound bow
with metal-tipped arrows,
how to construct the two-person war chariot and its
relationship to the oxcart;
the Babylonian abacus
Show how arithmetic and
geometry contribute to
following technologies
built by groups; build a
more advanced sailing
craft; build a war chariot
using steel, wood, and
leather; show how much
more difficult it was with
only bronze; build
compound bow with
bronze-tipped arrows;
practice with bow until
expert, and practice with
war chariot
Domestication and use of
the horse as a biological
machine, special care and
breeding required by horse,
horse behavior and
anatomy, equipment for
controlling horse and how
to make it
Horse training and use for
farming and pulling
chariots, speed
comparisons, training
horse for chariots and
bareback riding

Psychosocial Integration
Psychosocial Theory Pyschosocial Practice Integrative Theory Integrative Practice
4.00 6.00 Reading stories in personal
terms about the possible
prehistory of the Sumerian
people; vocabulary
development and the
practical use of grammar
Write stories of fiction and
personal activity using
only alphabet; show how
convenient it is to know
when a sentence starts and
ends, and how punctuation
prevents misunderstanding
The ethics of larger
groups; how it is possible
for several octets to
cooperate if they have
common rules and
objectives; how ancient
civilizations were slave-based and ruled by priestly
Students construct rules
and goals of cooperative
behavior in order to build
large-scale projects,
buildings, irrigation
systems to benefit
hundreds of persons
4.25 6.25 Realistic but fictionalized
history of the founding of
Sumer and how Sumerians
created their culture up to
the time of the invention of
writing; show how the
religion and its ritual
became overwhelmingly
important, and how by
controlling food the priests
controlled people, warriors,
and kings
Write stories of fiction and
personal activity; write
essays on behavioral
ethics; use proper
punctuation for clarity of
ideas and teach correct
punctuation for students;
have students ethically
analyze in writing the
history of Sumer and show
what might be wrong
The ethics of individual
rights; show that taking
rights away from
individuals for a larger
group damages the group it
is supposed to help; show
how creativity is important
to progress and how liberty
is important for creativity
Students study Sumerian
art and try to express their
own feeling about Sumer
in ceramic figurines similar
to the Sumerians; stone
sculpture project;
reproduction of Sumerian
relics and artifacts
4.50 6.50 Read a simple non-fictional history of Sumer,
show their writing and
accounting systems and
note their defects; show
how clay as prime resource
led to cuneiform;
endurance of clay records;
read full accounts of
Sumerian myths, including
Garden of Eden;
Gilgamesh, and Noah
Write an analysis of
Sumerians' history and
their collapse; write an
analysis of their myths and
what they mean; write your
own myths to communicate
the same ideas as the
Sumerian myths; write a
creative story of your own
Ethical analysis of the rise
and fall of Sumer, the
ethical nature of the
conquerors of Sumer, their
strengths and weaknesses,
the weakness of theocracy
and hereditary aristocracy,
why these entropic systems
went on for so long
Creative synthesis; high
Sumerian art compared to
art of conquerors; artistic
group project to
communicate the rise and
fall of Sumer through
music, painting, sculpture,
and dance
4.75 6.75 Read a simple world
history of the Ecumene
from the fall of Sumer to
600 BC; show how little
progress and creativity
there was until then; show
how Aryans spread
Sumerian civilization to
the entire old world and
possibly to the Americas;
read literary examples of
each major culture
Write an ethical analysis of
each major culture and why
they could not significantly
improve on Sumerian
civilization; write an
analysis and interpretation
of their literary works;
write your own story to
express what you feel
about this period of history
An ethical analysis of the
Sumerian religion and
those that followed; show
how ethical vitality in
primitive cultures can lead
to conquest of more
advanced civilizations;
show how religions that
seek reward for ethical
behavior are destructive;
show how it was necessary
to invent morality
The art forms of Babylon,
Egypt, Crete, pre-Confucianist China, and
India; make your own
version of these art styles;
improvise music on the
instruments of these times;
do a group art project on
this period of history
Source__John David Garcia

The main thrust of Garcia's curriculum is the instilling of both creativity and ethics. There is a great deal of practical, didactic, and theoretical substance as well. But the thrust of the program is the training of children who can think and do for themselves within a careful ethical framework.

Of course, the ethical framework that Garcia taught is not the same ethical framework that is dominant in the government school systems, in higher academia, in popular culture, in the mainstream media, or in society in general.

As a result of its uniqueness, one would not expect children who are trained with the Garcia approach to adopt the helpless, irresponsible, lifelong adolescent posture of so many who graduate from the government system. These children would be different. And they would be dangerous to the dominant powers of the established thoughtways.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Dangerous Child: Curricula Part I

For the world of the future to be a world of infinite possibilities, there is a need to grow a succession of new crops of dangerous children. It is not likely that most conventional western people will understand the connection between the one and the other, or the need.

Western nations have allowed themselves to become trapped in a web of social and governmental strangulation. Debt and demographic decline are ganging up with psychological neoteny, academic lobotomy, media zombification, and a general lack of substance and grit. Government dependency is growing while opportunities and possibilities for independent action and enterprise are shrinking.

These problems will not solve themselves at this stage, for society as a whole. But there will be pockets of opportunity and competence that can flourish if there are enough competent and dangerous children who can work together to hold off the general disorder and decay on a local and regional basis.

John David Garcia was a philosopher, inventor, scientist, and social/educational theorist. Over the next few postings here, I will excerpt portions of Garcia's daring curriculum for a new kind of school and training program. This is a program that if put into play might well help to create the beginning of a new crop of dangerous children. Dangerous children can not only see what is wrong with their worlds -- they can also do something about it.

Physical Biological
Physical Theory Physical Practice Biological Theory Biological Practice
1.00 3.00 Cause and effect The lever The human body Body care
1.25 3.25 Clubs and poles Modifying trees and
Animal bodies; small
domestic animals
How to care for a pet
1.50 3.50 Different stones and their
Using stones Edible plants and their
Gathering edible plants
and mushrooms
1.75 3.75 Shaping stone Building simple stone tools Edible animals and fish Hunting and fishing
2.00 4.00 Shaping wood with stone Using stone tools to
modifu poles and clubs
Food preparation and
Cleaning and preparing
small game and fish using
bone, wood, and stone
2.25 4.25 Handling fire Use of stone and wood to
control fire, use of fire to
harden spear points
Advanced food preparation Cooking vegetables, fish,
and meat on open fires
2.50 4.50 Advanced fire handling
and control combining
wood and stone tools,
theory and design
Hafted axes and choppers
are made; stone fire
carriers, simple weaving
and knotting of vines and
Elementary tanning and
use of bone, vines, and
vegetable fiber
Skinning animals and fish,
preserving leather,
advanced cooking.
preparing vines and
vegetable fiber
2.75 4.75 The bow and fire-making Making bows and starting
Advanced food
preparation; advanced
tanning and bone work
Advanced cooking; clothes
from animal hides; use of
sinew and thongs; hunting
with dogs
3.00 5.00 The use of clay and the
bow and arrow; design of
simple rafts
Making and baking clay
pots on an open fire;
making and using simple
bows and arrows
Advanced food preparation
including drying, smoking,
& curing; health care
Cooking, drying, and
smoking with clay pots;
preparing and using
medicinal herbs and
3.25 5.25 Advanced paleolithic stone
work of knives and axes;
advanced bow making;
advanced clay work
without wheel; large rafts
Making stone tools to
make other stone tools;
making advanced bows
and arrows; bellows and
advanced pottery; building
a large raft as a group
Gathering seeds and
planting edible plants;
basic first aid
Gardening; preparing soil
and cultivation; practice of
first aid
3.50 5.50 Neolithic tools;
construction of shelters;
advanced counting; how to
make a small dugout canoe
and paddle
Construction of simple
neolithic tools; the use of
tally marks and stored
pebbles; building a small
dugout canoe and paddle
The biological need for
shelter; building of lean-tos and simple teepees;
clothes for extreme cold;
simple agriculture
Construction of lean-tos
and teepees; more
advanced gardening;
making bone needles and a
3.75 5.75 How to construct advanced
neolithic tools and work
stone and wood; more
advanced counting and
Arabic numbers to 10; how
to build a large dugout
Building advanced
neolithic tools; working
wood, simple carpentry,
building semi-permanent
structures; advanced
tallying systems; building a
large dugout canoe
How to make boots and
moccasins from leather and
plant fiber; how to know
when to plant and when to
harvest; taking care of
goats and sheep
Construction of complete
wardrobes of leather, plant,
and animal fiber; more
advanced gardening and
animal husbandry

Psychosocial Theory Pyschosocial Practice Integrative Theory Integrative Practice
1.00 3.00 How to communicate Exchange of information Ethics of personal
Free-form drawing and
painting, simple songs
1.25 3.25 Clubs and poles Repeat same message from
different source
Truth and lying, paleolithic
Free-form drawing and
painting, paleolithic
stories, drums
1.50 3.50 Games of information Teams for sending and
receiving messages
Advantages of cooperating
vs competing; paleolithic
Songs, dancing, drawing,
painting, telling stories
1.75 3.75 Making pictures for
Drawing picture stories Obligations of making
oneself understood
Free-form art, stick-figure
drawing for stories
2.00 4.00 Advanced picture stories Making up stories with
Ethics of separating fact
from fiction; paleolithic
Wood carving and free-form painting; paleolithic
stories created and drawn
2.25 4.25 Picture symbols which
stand for complex events
Team communications
games and "charades"
using picture symbols
The difference between a
symbol and the thing it
symbolizes; paleolithic
Charcoal drawing on bark
and stone; universal
religious symbols; creating
2.50 4.50 Advanced picture symbols
and counting
Making up stories by
stringing together picture
symbols which everyone
can understand
Creation myths of
paleolithic people
Making up creation myths
and testing them
2.75 4.75 Rebus writing combined
with picture writing
Making up stories with
rebus and picture writing
Advanced creation myths
of Native Americans and
some religious beliefs,
Native American art and
what it expresses; free-form art for what students
3.00 5.00 The notion of an alphabet
and sound symbols
Stringing sound symbols
together to make a word
The religions of native
Americans and the
evolutionary ethic
Percussion instruments,
music, carving, dance, and
art to express religious
3.25 5.25 Reading advanced
paleolithic stories with
evolutionary ethical theme
Writing simple stories and
accounts using alphabet,
rebus writing, or pictures
as desired
The importance of
separating truth from
fiction in our writing to
avoid misleading others
Late paleolithic art and
religion; student's
expression of his own
feelings about them
3.50 5.50 Reading stories and history
of early neolithic life with
evolutionary ethics theme
More writing of stories and
accounts using alphabet,
rebus writing, and pictures
as desired
Simple analysis of
neolithic culture and
religions in light of the
evolutionary ethic
Neolithic art and stone
carving; clay figurines;
self-expression of students
3.75 5.75 Reading more complex
stories of neolithic life
about religion and
creativity in ancient Jericho
and Mesopotamia
More writing of stories and
accounts using alphabet
and rebus writing, but no
pictures, show difficulty of
communicating numerical
concepts over 10
Analysis of why neolithic
culture advanced so slowly
before the beginning of
Sumer; the energy that
went into religious ritual &
the corrupt priestly
The flute and harp and the
neolithic music possible
for them; advanced
neolithic art and religion;
self-expression in all art
The studies and all the activities of the day are integrated so that the child knows what it will be doing and why. Children who wish to follow a different path will be encouraged to do so. After consulting with the child, the home room teachers are obligated to accommodate the elections of each child and try to arrange the child's day so as to maximize the child's creativity, keeping the child in safety, and not imposing any activities on the child.

During this period the children are introduced to ethics and why we have an obligation to never do anything to harm anyone, including ourselves, why we should always try to do our best to increase our own creativity and the creativity of everyone with whom we interact. The concept of "creativity" is discussed with all the students, and they give their own opinions on the subject.

The child is introduced in very simple terms to what is creativity and what is harm. The concepts of harm and creativity are discussed by the teachers with all the children in each circle. The children are introduced to the concept of patience, and why we should always wait for our turn. They are taught how to show respect for each other, their teachers, their parents, their siblings, and everyone else.

These lessons are combined with free drawing, painting, and simple songs. The children are taught about the themes they will be studying during the day in physical, biological, psychosocial sciences, as well their integration through ethics, humanities and art. The themes of fire, water, air, earth, the human body, the school, the home, the family, our neighbors, positive and negative emotions, the sun, colors, ego, and ecology are all touched upon and integrated with the sciences, ethics, humanities, and art. This process will continue during all future days of study at SEE, except the discussions shall become more sophisticated and comprehensive. _JDG Lifetime Curriculum
It is important to teach ethics at the same time as one is teaching a child to be competent, conscientious, persistent, and dangerous.

The coming crop of dangerous children will be most dangerous to any society that attempts to restrict their freedoms and opportunities unjustly. Sic semper tyrannis.

More on the JDG curriculum in the near future. We will also look at other alternative curricula which may help make your child dangerous, in a good way, in a way that your lives may depend upon some day.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Unschooling: "Growing Without School" -- Beyond Childhood Competence

Almost every parent wishes their children to become skilled, competent, confident, accomplished adults. But almost no parents in the modern world understand how to help their children to achieve such a happy result. Instead, parents almost inevitably turn their children over to the governmental school system, with increasingly dismal results.

John Holt wrote several books on the state of modern education and its alternatives -- including "Unschooling" and "Growing Without Schools". Besides his books, he founded and published "Growing Without Schools" magazine. Growing Without Schools has provided free access to 24 years of the magazine's issues.

Holt was particularly interested in how to endow children with the competence to face the challenge of an ever-changing world. He understood that children developed this competence themselves, when given the opportunity. Unfortunately, modern government school systems represent the antithesis of the ideas that Hold discovered and wrote about.

The video above was presented at a homeschool conference by parental practitioners of "unschooling," with their own children.

Al Fin educational theorists are grateful to John Holt for his contributions to the field of childhood competence. But if children are to help build a better world -- and not to simply keep the current world from collapsing under its own weight -- they must go beyond mere competence.

Our children must be allowed to learn to become not merely competent -- but to become truly dangerous. Dangerous to whom or what? More about that in future entries.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

...All Zombies Now ....

Effective total brain control -- or zombification -- depends upon a fine enough level of control, or resolution, over the pertinent brain centers. Early methods of brain control depended upon the crude tools of pharmacology and macro-electromagnetic stimulation. But we are on the verge of a level of fine-grained brain control which puts us within reach of our goal: total world domination!
Quantum Dot Cell Controller

By harnessing quantum dots-tiny light-emitting semiconductor particles a few billionths of a meter across-researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have developed a new and vastly more targeted way to stimulate neurons in the brain. Being able to switch neurons on and off and monitor how they communicate with one another is crucial...

...Doctors and researchers today commonly use electrodes- on the scalp or implanted within the brain- to deliver zaps of electricity to stimulate cells. Unfortunately, these electrodes activate huge swaths of neural territory, made up of thousands or even millions of cells, of many different types. That makes it impossible [to achieve the level of brain control to achieve complete zombification. (Ed.)]

...An alternative, says the UW team, led by electrical engineer Lih Y. Lin and biophysicist Fred Rieke, is to use quantum dots-tiny semiconductor particles, just a few billionths of a meter across, that confine electrons within three spatial dimensions. When these otherwise trapped electrons are excited by electricity, they emit light, but at very precise wavelengths, determined both by the size of the quantum dot and the material from which it is made... The experiments, says Lin, show that "it is possible to excite neurons and other cells and control their activities remotely using light. This non-invasive method can provide flexibility in probing and controlling cells at different locations while minimizing undesirable effects." _SD
In other words, complete zombification is almost within our reach.

Of course we will continue to follow the progress of cruder tools such as deep brain stimulation, transcranial dc stimulation, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. (Summary PDF review of earlier tDCS research)

And we will continue participating in the OpenEEG project, in order to perfect our remote EEG brain state viewer -- to use in conjunction with our remote quantum dot cell-level brain controllers.

Naturally, we expect our informants to keep their eyes and ears open for any news we may be able to utilise. We can make it worth your while, particularly if you have your eye on someone that you would like to zombify for your own personal use. ;-) But tell no one what you have read here!

We stand on the verge of a brave new world. A greener, cleaner, more orderly world, without all the confusion and cacophony of modern global capitalism, freedom of religion, rule of law, and free markets. Either you are with us, or you are a zombie.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Laggard Science of Artificial Intelligence Belatedly Discovers Embodiment

Researchers at the Artificial Intelligence Lab of the University of Zurich are challenging the basic underpinnings of artificial cognition research. The implications of their research -- if they are correct -- may shake the AI establishment to its roots.
...the notion of intelligence makes no sense outside of the environment in which it operates.

For them, the notion of embodiment must, of course, capture how the brain is embedded in a body but also how this body is embedded in the broader environment.

Today, Pfeifer and Matej Hoffmann, also at the University of Zurich, set out this thinking in a kind of manifesto for a new approach to AI. And their conclusion has far reaching consequences. They say it's not just artificial intelligence that we need to redefine, but the nature of computing itself. _MIT Technology Review
The researchers of Zurich have stumbled upon the concept of intelligence as having evolved within a complex and dynamic environment. While their ideas are likely to be dismissed by devotees of "algorithmic cognition" and "designed intelligence," these concepts actually appear rather obvious and elementary to anyone with a biological background, in addition to computational and cognitive training. One might even ask: "What took you so long?"
...Pfeifer has been shouting from the roof tops for several years, with some success, about the role that shape and form play in biological computation.

But today he and Hoffman go even further. They say that various low level cognitive functions such as locomotion are clearly simple forms of computation involving the brain-body-environment triumvirate.

That's why our definition of computation needs to be extended to include the influence of environment, they say.

For many simple actions, such as walking, these computations proceed more or less independently. These are 'natural' actions in the sense that they exploit the natural dynamics of the system.

But they also say it provides a platform on which more complex cognitive tasks can take place relatively easily. They think that systems emerge in the brain that can predict the outcome of these natural computations. That's obviously useful for forward planning.

Pfeifer and Hoffmann's idea is that more complex cognitive abilities emerge when these forward-planning mechanisms become decoupled from the system they are predicting. _MIT TR
Implications of Embodiment for Behaviour and Cognition

Artificial intelligence has been trying for the "easy score" ever since its founding, in the aftermath of World War II, and at the beginnings of the long-simmering cold war. But devoting one's resources to the easy score means that the deep underlying concepts are often neglected. And so it was and has been for over half a century. Advanced computing has been incredibly helpful over that time frame, demonstrating continuous progress, but there has never been a clear path to AI from anything coming out of computer science.

It is not clear that the Zurich researchers have gone beyond the insights of robotics researchers such as Rodney Brooks. But the fact that at least some AI workers are willing to think outside the box, is a hopeful sign.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Brain Hacking: Homebuilt tDCS and More

Stuart Gromley sits hunched over a desk in his bedroom, groping along the skin of his forehead, trying to figure out where to glue the electrodes. The wires lead to a Radio Shack Electronics Learning Lab, a toy covered with knobs, switches, and meters. Even though he’s working with a kiddie lab, Gromley, a 39-year-old network administrator in San Francisco, can’t afford to make mistakes: he’s about to send the current from a nine-volt battery into his own brain.

Gromley’s homemade contraption is modeled on the devices used in some of the top research centers around the world. Called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), the technology works on the principle that even the weak electrical signals generated by a small battery can penetrate the skull and affect hot-button areas on the outer surface of the brain. In the past few years, scholarly research papers have touted tDCS as a non-invasive and safe way to rejigger our thoughts and feelings, and possibly to treat a variety of mental disorders. Most provocatively, researchers at the National Institute of Health have shown that running a small jolt of electricity through the forehead can enhance the verbal abilities of healthy people. That is, tDCS might do more than just alleviate symptoms of disease. It might help make its users a little bit smarter. _Phoenix
Rob Zammarch
...tDCS [is] a way to tease apart the mechanisms of learning and cognition. As the technique is refined, researchers could, with the flick of a switch, amplify or mute activity in many areas of the brain and watch what happens behaviourally. The field is "going to explode very soon and give us all sorts of new information and new questions", says Clark. And as with some other interventions for stimulating brain activity, such as high-powered magnets or surgically implanted electrodes, researchers are attempting to use tDCS to treat neurological conditions, including depression and stroke. But given the simplicity of building tDCS devices, one of the most important questions will be whether it is ethical to tinker with healthy minds — to improve learning and cognition, for example. The effects seen in experimental settings "are big enough that they would definitely have real-world consequences", says Martha Farah, a neuroethicist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. _Nature
A very dangerous homemade hack for tDCS: Don't try this at home!
One (1) brain, inside skull
One (1) 9-volt battery
Two (2) wires
Two (2) damp sponges


Attach battery to wires, attach wires to sponges, attach sponges to skull, one over each eyebrow. Simmer once a day until mental health reaches a firm consistency.

It sounds like something you dreamed up in the basement with your stoner friends in high school. (In fact, you may actually have done so.) But transcranial direct current stimulation is the hottest thing to hit the improvisational health management scene since acupuncture. A growing body of evidence suggests that sticking a battery onto your head could hack into your brain's operating system and make life generally more worth living. Think of it as Norton Utilities for the mind.

That's not an oversimplification of the process. tDCS is literally that simple. The total cost of a treatment is less than $5 of parts from Radio Shack and a sponge. No prescription needed. No needles, no pills, no insurance companies, no weird hormonal fluctuations, no commercials saying "I'm glad [drug of choice] has a low risk of sexual side effects!"

An analysis of the pros and cons of tDCS yields fairly impressive results.

Improved hand-eye coordination
Better memory
Less depression
Recover from brain damage
Less senility
Me talks nice like teacher
Better memory
Control seizures
Cure migraines
Become superior human, crush puny unenhanced inferiors, survive apocalyptic "rise of the machines"
Better memory

Could end up looking stupid
Small, but not entirely absent, chance of permanent brain damage _longecity
It would be smarter to use more sophisticated devices, following more practised protocols. People will need to proceed with caution, and share insights and mistakes, so that mind hackers can move ahead safely toward their goals.
Researchers at the University of Oxford and University College London studied people with normal math skills using a noninvasive technique called transcranial direct-current stimulation, in which scalp electrodes emit current that modulates neural activity. The team focused on the right parietal cortex because it contributes to spatial and math­ematical thinking. This brain region shows abnormal re­sponses in children with developmental dyscalculia, a learning disability that affects math skills.

Over the span of six days the inves­tigators applied current over the volunteers’ right parietal lobe for 20 minutes at the beginning of training sessions in which subjects learned to associate numbers with arbitrary symbols, such as triangles or cylinders. After practicing, subjects were rapidly presented with pairs of symbols of different visual sizes (using larger or smal­ler fonts), and they had to choose the physically larger one as quickly as they could. In some of the pairs, the physically larger item rep­resented a smaller magnitude—for in­stance, a huge symbol meaning “two” was paired with a tiny symbol representing “five”—­and that mismatch could cause a delay in reaction time because subjects must override their impulse to choose the greater number.

By the fourth day subjects who had their right parietal cortex stimulated became slower for mismatched trials as compared with matched trials, just as adults are when they respond to real digits. But participants who did not receive the same pattern of stimulation showed no difference between these trials, suggesting they had not internalized the symbols’ meaning. The results indicate that right-hemisphere stimulation helps people learn numerical symbols.

The superior performance lasted for six months—a long effect that suggests the method may someday benefit those with developmental dyscalculia, says study co-author Roi Cohen Kadosh, a cognitive neuroscientist at Oxford. _SciAm
Different locations for the electrodes should yield different results from tDCS. The science -- and the hacking -- has barely begun.
[Michael] Weisend, who is working on a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency programme to accelerate learning, has been using this form of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to cut the time it takes to train snipers. From the electrodes, a 2-milliamp current will run through the part of my brain associated with object recognition - an important skill when visually combing a scene for assailants.

The mild electrical shock is meant to depolarise the neuronal membranes in the region, making the cells more excitable and responsive to inputs. Like many other neuroscientists working with tDCS, Weisend thinks this accelerates formation of new neural pathways during the time that someone practises a skill. The method he is using on me boosted the speed with which wannabe snipers could detect a threat by a factor of 2.3 (Experimental Brain Research, vol 213, p 9).

Mysteriously, however, these long-term changes also seem to be preceded by a feeling that emerges as soon as the current is switched on and is markedly similar to the flow state. "The number one thing I hear people say after tDCS is that time passed unduly fast," says Weisend. Their movements also seem to become more automatic; they report calm, focused concentration - and their performance improves immediately.

It's not yet clear why some forms of tDCS should bring about the flow state. After all, if tDCS were solely about writing new memories, it would be hard to explain the improvement that manifests itself as soon as the current begins to flow. _NewScientist
Neuroscientists and cognitive scientists are plodding along in the dark, far more than they will admit. The establishment would like to be able to control potentially transformative and disruptive technologies such as tDCS, and other possibly effective brain boosters. But that is not likely.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Near Term Plans of the Seasteading Institute

From Russia and the Middle East to western Europe and the United States, dissatisfaction with politics and politicians has led to protest, conflict and, in many cases, violence. But it doesn't have to be that way, according to a US think-tank _SciAm

As long as the Seasteading Institute remains small, and its plans relatively inconsequential, it will not present a threat to the powers that be. Even with the backing of a successful venture capitalist such as Peter Thiel, seasteading will remain small and relatively ineffective -- in terms of meeting its stated goals -- until it gathers enough support structure and enough of a following to present a threat to the current order.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Humans, Apes, Addicts, and Microbes: Common Thread

The common thread that links life on Earth is the thin thread of DNA that coils, circles, and works its way through the generations, through the species, changing the face of the planet as it evolves.

Our brains are formed by our genes, working through the environment. Some genes control an entire platoon of other genes. The genes that determine how our brains grow and function are still evolving. If these "commander" genes evolve, remarkable changes can occur over a fairly short time span. The human species appears to be changing on a more rapid time scale than most scientists are willing to accept.
...human beings have suites of genes that probably cause their brains to be “plastic” and thus receptive to change far longer (to the age of about five) than is true for chimps or monkeys (whose brains are plastic for less than a year after birth). Moreover, Dr Khaitovich was able to work out how the expression of these modules of genes was co-ordinated, by looking at the switches, known as transcription factors, that turn them on and off.

Indeed, by comparing modern genomes with their discoveries about Neanderthals Dr Paabo’s group has found that the regulatory process for one of the modules came into existence after the modern human and Neanderthal lines separated from one another, about 300,000 years ago. _Economist
Of course, it does no good to have brains that are more plastic, if the caregivers of young children do not take advantage of that period of plasticity to give the children skills, competencies, wisdom, and knowledge that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Some people may be born at a tremendous disadvantage, genetically speaking. Addictive and criminal behaviour appear to be at least partially heritable. Societies deal with these problems in different ways. There is always room for improvement -- beginning with the acknowledgement of the genetic component.

Humans have turned a corner in understanding their own genetics. They can now re-program the genes of living humans, and are on the verge of re-programming the genes of embryos and zygotes. Artificial evolution, in other words.

Humans are also making progress toward understanding the complex genetics of their environments -- the microbial world in which they are immersed. We live in microbial soup, which is quite difficult to sort out with the old genetic tools that required culturing organisms before their genomes could be sequenced.

Now, scientists can extract individual genomes out of the common slurry, and sequence these mystery guests.
To extract individual genomes, Armbrust’s PhD student Vaughn Iverson exploited skills that had he gained as a computer scientist designing video compression technology at Intel in Portland, Oregon. He developed a computational method to break the stitched metagenome into chunks that could be separated into different types of organisms. He was then able to assemble the complete genome of Euryarchaeota, even though it was rare within the sample. He plans to release the software over the next six months.

It’s a different tack from that taken by early marine metagenomics efforts, which began in earnest with Craig Venter’s Global Ocean Sampling effort in 20032. “Our survey offered a broad-stroke picture of microbial diversity and the dominant players in the world’s oceans,” says Kenneth Nealson, director of the microbial and environmental genomics group at the J. Craig Venter Institute in San Diego, California. “This clever approach demonstrates that they can pull out the sequence of uncultured organisms — information we need to get a clue as to how microbes share limiting resources in the ocean.” _Nature
We finally understand that it is necessary to understand the full complement and range of genomics, genetics, and epigenetics in which we live -- and how we interact with this milieu in order to work out our lives.

Genetics and evolution have been underrated and ignored by most human intellectuals. But no one -- including these neglectful intellectuals -- is ignored by the genetic universe we inhabit. Not one living thing.