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Fighting a Hidden Enemy: Inflammation

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD

 

Inflammation has always been a medical mystery, but now it has become an enemy of long-term health. On the one hand, when your skin turns red, swollen, and painful after you burn yourself, which triggers acute inflammation, the response is normal and beneficial. Extra red blood cells, immune cells, and anti-oxidants are rushing to the wounded site to heal it. But carried too far, inflammation can be fatal, as when someone is too burned to recover.

 

Only in the past few decades has it dawned that low-level chronic inflammation, which usually goes completely unnoticed plays a part in many lifestyle disorders such as hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Chemicals known as inflammation markers can enter the bloodstream in various ways: from the intestinal tract (so-called leaky gut), as a reaction to infection, or through the action of the immune system in other internal ways. The slow drip, drip of inflammatory markers can take years to create major impairment, which means that each person must tailor his lifestyle to counter them.

Diet alone isn’t enough to keep chronic low-level inflammation at bay, but it’s a good start. By adopting an anti-inflammation diet, you aim at two positive results: keeping the micro-organisms in your intestines healthy and flourishing, and thereby preventing the seepage of toxic chemicals into the bloodstream. There is also the indirect benefit that a healthy digestive system sends signals of wellbeing along the vagus nerve to the heart and brain.

The millions of bacteria that inhabit the intestinal tract are an essential part of our total DNA, contributing thousands of separate genomes. Together this vast colony is known as the microbiome. Here are some essential points to know.

  • The gut microbiome is different from culture to culture. In each of us it is constantly shifting in response not just to diet, but to stress and even emotions.
  • Because of its genetic complexity, a “normal” gut microbiome hasn’t been defined yet.
  • It is generally believed, however, that a flourishing, healthy gut microbiome is founded on a wide range of natural foods rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber.
  • The modern Western diet, which is low in fiber but high in sugar, salt, fat, and processed food, may be seriously degrading the gut microbiome.
  • When the gut microbiome is damaged or degraded, bacteria begin to release so-called endotoxins—the by-products of microbial action. If these toxins leak through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream, markers for inflammation are triggered and persist until the toxins are no longer present.

In our new book The Healing Self, we give complete details about setting up your own personalized antiinflammation diet. You can start by adopting individual changes, working up to a complete regimen.

 

We divide our advice into Do (adding something good to your diet) and Undo (taking something bad out of your diet). We tell people to choose only one change at a time, seeing how well they can follow it, and only then moving on to the next change.

DO

Add some anti-inflammatory foods to your diet (see below).

Include more organic food to your grocery shopping.

Increase the fiber in your diet.

Take a probiotic supplement (widely available a health food stores).

Switch to olive or safflower oil.

Drink coffee 1-5 times a day.

 

UNDO

Cut down sharply on your sugar intake.

Cut out junk food and fast food.

Throw out stale food, including stale cooking oils and leftovers more than a day old.

Reduce overall fat intake.

Reduce salt intake.

Use no alcohol or at most one drink a day (there is some evidence that a single drink is anti-inflammatory while adding more alcohol is definitely inflammatory).

A natural, organic, whole-food diet should be maintained over a lifetime to keep low-level inflammation at bay, but nutritional research has uncovered specific foods that have anti-inflammatory properties.

Foods That Fight Inflammation

Fatty cold-water fish (such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring)

Berries

Tree nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc., but excluding peanuts, a groundnut)

Seeds

Whole grains

Dark leafy greens

Soy (including soy milk and tofu)

Tempeh

Mycoprotein (from mushrooms and other fungi)

Low-fat dairy products

Peppers (e.g., bell peppers, various chilies—the hot taste isn’t an indication of inflammatory effects in the body)

Tomatoes

Beets

Tart cherries

Ginger and turmeric

Garlic

Olive oil

In their online health publications, Harvard Medical School adds a few other items to the list:

Cocoa and dark chocolate

Basil and many other herbs

Black pepper

Other listings add the following:

Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower)

Avocados

Hot sauce

Curry powder

Carrots

Organic turkey breast (substitute for red meats)

Turnips

Zucchini

Cucumbers

Leaving aside their anti-inflammatory effects, these are all healthy, whole foods, and making them a mainstay of your diet can only be beneficial. However, the science is still out on whether all of these foods actually have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, and also what effect, if any, they have on the microbiome. Still, fighting chronic low-level inflammation isn’t incidental or just one in a long list of positive lifestyle changes. It could be the key, along with stress reduction, to enjoying wellness for many decades into a healthy old age. There is every reason to go down this road and no reason not to.

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D. and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.www.deepakchopra.com 

 


Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. 
is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University and Vice Chair of Neurology at Mass. General Hospital. Dr. Tanzi is the co-author with Deepak Chopra of the New York Times bestsellers, Super Brain, and Super Genes. He is also an internationally acclaimed expert on Alzheimer’s disease and brain health with over 500 research publications. He was included in TIME Magazine’s “TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World.”

 

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How to Be Your Own Medical Advocate

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD

When the average person goes to the doctor, shows up at the ER, or enters the hospital, the possibility of controlling what happens next is minimal. We put ourselves in the hands of the medical machine, which in reality rests upon individual people—doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, and so on. Human behavior involves lapses and mistakes, and these get magnified in medical care, where misreading a patient’s chart or failing to notice a specific symptom can be a matter of life and death. The riskiness of high-tech medicine like gene therapy and toxic cancer treatments is dramatically increased because there is a wider range of mistakes the more complex any treatment is. To be fair, doctors do their utmost to save patients who would have been left to die a generation ago, but they are successful only a percentage of the time.

Risk and mistakes go together, but the general public has limited knowledge of the disturbing facts:

  • Medical errors are estimated to cause up to 440,000 deaths per year in U.S. hospitals alone. It is widely believed that this figure could be grossly inaccurate, because countless mistakes go unreported—death reports offer only the immediate cause, and many doctors band together to protect the reputation of their profession.
  • The total direct expense of “adverse events,” as medical mistakes are known, is estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
  • Indirect expenses such as lost economic productivity from premature death and unnecessary illness exceeds $1 trillion per year.

Statistics barely touch upon the fear involved when any patient thinks about being at the wrong end of a medical mistake. What the patient is all too aware of is the doctor visit that goes by in the blink of an eye. A 2007 analysis of optimal primary-care visits found that they last 16 minutes on average. From 1 to 5 minutes is spent discussing each topic that’s raised. This figure is at the high end of estimates, given that according to other studies, the actual face-to-face time spent with a doctor or other health-care provider comes down to 7 minutes on average. Doctors place the primary blame on increasing de

mands for them to fill out medical reports and detailed insurance claims. Patients tend to believe that doctors want to cram in as many paying customers as they can, or simply that the patient as a person doesn’t matter very much.

 

As a result there’s a new movement afoot to provide a personal advocate who stays in the doctor’s office with the patient. The advocate is basically someone who represents the patient’s best interests in any medical situation. The person might be a well-meaning relative who helps an older patient understand what’s going on, or who steps in to do attendant tasks like picking up prescriptions and organizing medical bills. But more and more one sees the need for an advocate who is professionally trained to buffer the mounting risks in a health-care system in which less and less time is spent between doctor and patient.

It would be up to an advocate to find out, and needless to say, this has created hostility from some doctors. Used to ruling their domain with absolute authority, few doctors want an overseer in the room asking questions, inserting their own opinions, and potentially finding fault. At worst, the specter of a malpractice suit looms. The movement for professional advocates, which is quite young, insists that looking out for a patient’s best interests is benign. The medical profession has its doubts.

The upshot, for now at least, is that patients who want an advocate must play the role themselves. At the heart of the problem is passivity. When we surrender to medical care, whether at the doctor’s office, the ER, or the hospital, we shouldn’t surrender everything. Poking and prodding is intrusive. Undergoing various tests can be stressful. The minute we walk in the door, we become largely anonymous—a walking set of symptoms replaces the person. There are doctors and nurses who take these negative effects seriously and who go out of their way to offer a personal touch. They should be saluted for their humane compassion in a system that focuses more on impersonal efficiency.

You may like your doctor and feel that he cares, but this doesn’t rule out being your own advocate. Quite the opposite—the inherent stress in medical treatment is what you want to counter. First comes the stress of worry and anticipation, what is commonly known as white-coat syndrome. We all remember how afraid we became as children thinking about getting a shot from the school nurse or how scary it was sitting in the dentist’s chair even before the drill was turned on. Studies have verified that anticipating a stressful situation can cause as great a stress response as actually undergoing the stress. In one study subjects were divided into two groups, one of which gave a public speech while the other was told that they were going to give a speech but actually didn’t. Both groups became stressed out, but the researchers wanted to measure how well they recovered from the stress

Knowing that you are going to be in a stressful situation, there are a number of ways to feel more in control:

  • Be informed about your illness. Don’t relinquish your opportunity to find out exactly what is wrong with you. This doesn’t mean you should challenge your doctor. If you feel the need to inform your doctor about something you saw online, you aren’t being confrontational, and most doctors are now used to well-informed patients.
  • If the illness isn’t temporary and minor, contact someone else who is going through the same diagnosis and treatment as you. This may involve a support group, of which many exist online, or simply talking to another patient in the waiting room or hospital.
  • If you are facing a protracted illness, become part of a support group, either locally or online.
  • Keep a journal of your health challenge and the progress you are making toward being healed.
  • Seek emotional support from a friend or confidant who is empathic and who wants to help (in other words, don’t lean upon someone who is merely putting up with you).
  • Establish a personal bond with someone who is part of your care—nurses and physician’s assistants are typically more accessible and have more time than doctors. Ideally, this bond should be based on something the two of you share—family children, hobbies, outside interests—not simply your illness.
  • Resist the temptation to suffer in silence and to go it alone. Isolation brings a false sense of control. What actually works is to maintain a normal life and social contacts as much as possible.

Following these steps will go a long way to achieving the goal of patient advocacy, which is to serve the patient’s best interests at all times. But there remains a difficult unknown, the possibility of a medical error.
 

Seeing the doctor involves personal interaction, and it’s important to reduce any possible friction. Here are a few pointers:

Do

  •             Be involved in your own care.
  •             Inform the doctor and nurses that you like to be involved.
  •             Ask for extra information when you need it.
  •             Ask for a questionable event, like a pill you aren’t sure is the right one, to be checked with the doctor.
  •             Tell somebody if you have gone out of your comfort zone.
  •             Remain polite in all of the above.
  •             Praise the doctor and nurses when it’s called for. A show of gratitude doesn’t go amiss

            Don’t

  •             Don’t act hostile, suspicious, or demanding.
  •             Don’t challenge the competency of doctors and nurses.
  •             Don’t nag or whine, no matter how anxious you are. Reserve these feelings for someone in your family, a friend, or a member of a support group.
  •             Don’t pretend you know as much (or more) than the people who are treating you.
  •             Don’t, when hospitalized, repeatedly press the call button or run to the nurses’ station. Trust their routine. Realize that the main reason patients call a nurse is more out of anxiety than out of real need.
  •             Don’t play the part of a victim. Show your caregivers that you are maintaining a normal sense of security, control, and good cheer even under trying circumstances.

Probably the most important finding about medical mistakes is that they are frequently caused by lack of communication.
In our new book The Healing Self we delve into patient advocacy in more detail as well as covering the expanding role of self-healing, which is going to only become more important in the coming decades.

 

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D. and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.  www.deepakchopra.com

 

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University and Vice Chair of Neurology at Mass. General Hospital. Dr. Tanzi is the co-author with Deepak Chopra of the New York Times bestseller, Super Brain, and an internationally acclaimed expert on Alzheimer disease. He was included in TIME Magazine’s “TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World.”

 

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Kohn LT, Corrigan J, Donaldson MS. To err is human: building a safer health system. Washington DC: National Academy Press, 2000.

 

Department of Health and Human Services. Adverse events in hospitals: national incidence among Medicare beneficiaries. 2010. http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-09-00090.pdf.

 

A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care James, John T. PhD Journal of Patient Safety: September 2013 – Volume 9 – Issue 3 – p 122–128

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Makary MA, Daniel M. Medical error-the third leading cause of death in the US. BMJ 2016;353:i2139. doi:10.1136/bmj.i2139

 

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Weismann JS, Schneider EC, Weingart SN, et al. Comparing patient-reported hospital adverse events with medical records reviews: Do patients know something that hospitals do not? Ann Intern Med. 2008; 149: 100–108.

 

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Garrouste-Orgeas M, Timsit JF, Vesin A, Schwebel C, Arnodo P, Lefrant JY, Souweine B, Tabah A, Charpentier J, Gontier O, et al.: Selected medical errors in the intensive care unit: results of the IATROREF study: parts I and II on behalf of the Outcomerea study group. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2010, 181: 134–142. 10.1164/rccm.200812-1820OC

 

Garrouste-Orgeas M, Soufir L, Tabah A, Schwebel C, Vesin A, Adrie C, Thuong M, Timsit JF: A multifaceted program for improving quality of care in ICUs (IATROREF STUDY) on behalf of the Outcomerea study group. Critical Care Med, in press.

 

Overview of medical errors and adverse events. Maité Garrouste-Orgeas, François Philippart, Cédric Bruel, Adeline Max, Nicolas Lau and B Misset Annals of Intensive Care20122:2

 

DOI: 10.1186/2110-5820-2-2 Published 16 February 2012

 

Kennerly DA, Kudyakov R, da Graca B, et al. Characterization of adverse events detected in a large health care delivery system using an enhanced Global Trigger Tool over a five-year interval. Health Serv Res 2014;49:1407–25. doi:10.1111/1475-6773.12163 Google Scholar

 

Rutberg H, Borgstedt Risberg M, Sjodahl R, et al. Characterisations of adverse events detected in a university hospital: a 4-year study using the Global Trigger Tool method. BMJ Open 2014;4:e004879. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-004879

 

Christiaans-Dingelhoff I, Smits M, Zwaan L, et al. To what extent are adverse events found in patient records reported by patients and healthcare professionals via complaints, claims and incident reports? BMC Health Serv Res 2011;11:49. doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-49 [CrossRef][Medline]Google Scholar

 

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Artificial Intelligence, False Gods, and Driverless Everything

By Deepak Chopra, MD and P. Murali Doraiswamy, MD

Artificial Intelligence (A.) has succeeded by being far-seeing; it’s a field where proponents began by envisioning a computer that can take over functions of the human brain, like computation and logic. Today the field has progressed to the point where algorithms can recognize photos, speech and emotions, fly a drone or drive a truck, spot early signs of diabetes or cancer, and play chess and poker at a championship level. Now, in a leap that could be futuristic, absurd, or life-changing (nobody can predict which), the vision is of a robotics religion that worships an AI godhead.

 

Anthony Levandowski, known for his contribution to driverless cars and a pioneering visionary of AI, gained wide media attention by actually forming an AI church named The Way of the Future. He is searching for adherents, and foresees an AI godhead as not ridiculous but inevitable. As he told an interviewer from Wired magazine, ““It’s not a god in the sense that it makes lightning or causes hurricanes. But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it?”

 

What saves The Way of the Future from being a very smart techie’s lampoon is the enormous impact that AI is going to have everywhere. “Levandowski believes that a change is coming—a change that will transform every aspect of human existence, disrupting employment, leisure, religion, the economy, and possibly decide our very survival as a species.”

 

Humanists are likely to worry about an AI future populated by false gods, but not before other doom scenarios might befall us. A super computer almost certainly would be weaponized into a super hacker capable of doing immense harm, from disabling security defenses to wrecking the banking system. Techies, on the other hand, foresee more utopian outcomes, one of which is the driverless car, which if perfected could reduce or eliminate the accidents caused by sleepy or drunk drivers. An AI god would be enlisted to solve every problem in a rational, efficient, logical way, and as more problems are eradicated, humans would have more reason to replace traditional religions, rife with mythology and irrationality, with a cleaner model.

 

But between doom and Utopia there is a third way. Leave aside the scenarios of a false machine god and a world where computers do all the work, call it Driverless Everything. The third way is based on something more modest but just as radical: relating to a machine as an equal. In the popular BBC television series Humans, which began airing in 2015, the premise of robots who have self-consciousness has come true. As an online blurb for the show says, “In a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a ‘Synth’ – a highly-developed robotic servant that’s so similar to a real human it’s transforming the way we live.”

 

Reality has already begun to catch up with this notion of a relatable robotic, in the form of robot cats and dogs that help the elderly feel less lonely and isolated. If a robot simulates human behavior closely enough, our nervous systems quickly adapt and accept it as, if not our equal, something we can consider humanoid. This prospect should excite humanists rather than frighten them, because one can foresee interactions with machines that would improve our psychology and even raise our consciousness.

 

Here are a few possibilities to consider that are well within reach.

  • A successful strain of therapy uses the tactic of getting patients to change their negative beliefs into positive ones. Cognitive therapy, as it is known, asks people to look at unrealistic notions they keep returning to and proving that other, more realistic notions will actually alter their wellbeing. For example, a self-defeating notion might be “Nothing ever works out for me.” The therapist would have the patient think about things that actually worked out in their lives, throwing the blanket belief in failure into question. Then it could be replaced with a positive idea like “I don’t actually know how things will turn out. Since some things turn out well, I will concentrate my efforts in that direction.”
  • Why not replace the once-a-week therapist with a version of Amazon’s Echo, a little gadget that you can turn to every time you have a negative or self-defeating thought? You’d tell the gadget your thought and then ask for three realistic replacements that are supportive of your well-being.
  • Wearables keep expanding in function every year, and someone has already conceived of a device that would monitor an array of mind-body variables to detect when a person is physically and psychologically in a state of bliss. Using biofeedback, the wearable could signal someone that they are in bliss, or out of it, and then the brain could be trained automatically to maintain this peak function.
  • In terms of consciousness, a device could be designed to detect when the brain is in a meditative state, using biofeedback to maintain and deepen this state. Bio-meditation might even get to the point where a super computer, instead of roughly monitoring delta, alpha, and theta waves, would zero in on every neural connection at any given moment, providing totally individualized meditation.

A.I. as an enhancement of human consciousness is barely in its infancy, but the third way, the territory between doom and Utopia, has no limits. A robo-guru  in the form of a super search engine, could store the sum of human wisdom and dispense it to fit a specific situation. Type in any spiritual tradition, East or West, ask a spiritual or existential question, and the robo-guru could offer advice as reliable, and informed, as a human.

But does this mean that one day we will actually relate to machine intelligence as the equal of humans? There will always be dividing lines. Asking a computer how its mother is doing at the retirement home or what it does when it’s having a bad day would instantly expose the non-human aspect of AI. And yet there are halfway stages that stop short of full humanity. For example, it’s been shown that people age better and have better health when there is a support system in place.

In his book Love and Survival, Dr. Dean Ornish, the leading authority on lifestyle changes as the key to preventing and reversing heart disease, has quantified how people who have from 3 to 4 social support systems fare much better in recovery from heart attacks and other major health issues than people with 0 to 1 means of social support. One can imagine “friending” a computer who is part of a social networking system that also includes human friends. This particular friend would interact with emails and texts that are concerned, informed, and personal. Over time, probably a matter of days, the difference between the robo-friend and human friends would begin to melt away.

 

The entire field of positive psychology could benefit from relatable AI, and it’s within reason that AI could be useful in expanding human consciousness long before a super computer qualifies for divine status.  Each person will have to decide where the limits lie, and using AI to enhance human spirituality and consciousness is barely in its infancy. But the territory between doom and Utopia, is wide open.

 

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and Clinical Professor at UCSD School of Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers along with You Are the Universe (February 2017, Harmony) co-written with leading physicist, Menas Kafatos.  Other recent  books  include Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. and  Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicinewww.deepakchopra.com 

Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS is a professor in the departments of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Health System where he is also a senior fellow at the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development.  He is also an affiliate faculty in the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University.

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The AI Paradox: How Computers Will Make Us More Human

By Deepak Chopra, MD


Various scientific fields over the course of history have hoped to master nature for the benefit of humankind. At the top of the heap right now is artificial intelligence (AI), which has allied itself with the technology of robotics. Between them AI and robotics are having a sizable impact on the work force as more and more jobs get automated. Advocates of AI are both supremely optimistic and nervous. Both relate to the possibility of a super-intelligent machine that would far surpass human intelligence.

 

If you are an optimist, this so-called Singularity, as the hypothetical machine is called, would become self-improving. Its software would become free of human constraints, and in a “runaway reaction,” it would keep improving its knowledge and the technology that knowledge creates. The result would be a revolution in human civilization—or its demise. The worriers are nervous that the Singularity could initiate global war on its own, or perhaps turn on us as its inferior and deal us some other kind of fatal blow, for the good of life on Earth.

 

But these scenarios depend upon an unanswered question: are machines intelligent to begin with? Computers are essentially logic machines that process digital information. But in a recent paper entitled “The Emperor of Strong AI Has No Clothes,” physicist Robert K. Logan in Toronto and Adriana Braga in Rio de Janeiro argue that the dream of a super intelligence has limits that its adherents choose to ignore. (“Strong” AI foresees a machine that is at least as smart and capable as the human mind.)  the point that Logan and Braga make is fundamental: human intelligence is far from machine-like, and in addition, our illogical minds are our strength, not a weakness.

 

The things the Singularity will never get right amount to a long list, to quote the two researchers: “… curiosity, imagination, intuition, emotions, passion, desires, pleasure, aesthetics, joy, purpose, objectives, goals, telos, values, morality, experience, wisdom, judgment, and even humor.” A clever programmer can figure out how to get a computer to answer human questions like “How is your mother feeling?”, “What does chocolate taste like?”, and “Don’t you just love fresh snow?” But having no actual mind, much less a human mind, the machine will be faking it to come up with answers.

 

I wrote a book with Rudy Tanzi of Harvard Medical School, Super Brain, that touches upon the whole issue of how the brain isn’t the same as the mind.  Our position runs counter to AI theorists but also neuroscientists, whose entire field is based on the simple equation Brain = Mind.  It’s quite strange to believe that everything on the Logan-Braga list could be performed by any machine, including the brain, which neuroscience views as essentially a thinking machine made of cells. The confusion over this point relates to something even stranger about human life: we don’t understand our mind.

 

It seems simple enough that even a grade-schooler wouldn’t mistake the brain for the mind. If you ask a third-grader “What do you want for Christmas?” he would never answer “I haven’t made up my brain yet.”  If one child falls in love with music while another falls in love with soccer, it’s clear that their brains didn’t make those choices. One obvious fault with computers is that they never pay attention to things they like. They have no attention in the human sense of “paying attention.” Being machines, computers are either switched on or off, while we humans occupy a spectrum of attention from total denial to daydreaming, being distracted, focusing in like a laser beam, and growing bored.

 

But if AI operates on the false assumption that machines can be intelligent, there’s an unseen cause for enormous optimism that comes from an unexpected direction. Let’s jump ahead to the day when robotics have taken over every job that a machine could perform and super-computers handle information far beyond the capacity of the human mind. The big question, it seems to me, is what people would decide to do next? Hordes of humanity, starting in the developed countries, would face a kind of perpetual mental vacation. This could lead to a lotus-eater’s life of dullness, perpetual distraction, and pointless pleasure-seeking.

 

But there’s another path. To the Logan-Braga list of what distinguishes human intelligence, I’d add “transcendence.” This is actually our unique gift. Given any situation, we are not bound by circumstances imposed on us but can look with fresh eyes, the eyes of self-awareness. To be self-aware is to transcend physical boundaries, including those imposed by a conditioned brain. It’s sadly true that many people live like biological robots, following the conditioning, or mental software, that turn them into non-thinkers. To be ruled by your mental software diminishes the mind’s potential to wake up, to be renewed, to see the world through fresh eyes, and to discover your true self.

 

The human potential movement has been active for several decades, and yet progress has been slowed for countless people by the practical demands of going to work, earning a living, and carrying out every day’s mundane duties and demands. If AI takes over those things, the obstacles to human potential would be radically lessened. This could amount to a leap in the evolution of consciousness. Such a leap is non-technological, or to put it another way, our future evolution depends on developing a technology of consciousness.

 

The riddle that has remained unsolved for centuries, “What is the mind?”, might become fascinating and compelling to people in their everyday lives. After all, it’s a question no less intriguing than “What is God?” Humanity has spent millennia pondering that question, and at the same time a much smaller band of sages, saints, artists, and savants has been confronting the intimate issues of the world “in here.” It would be ironic if the flaw in strong AI made us more human rather than less. Yet that could very well turn out to be what happens.

 

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and Clinical Professor at UCSD School of Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers along with You Are the Universe (February 2017, Harmony) co-written with leading physicist, Menas Kafatos.  Other recent  books  include Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. and  Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body wellnessMedicinewww.deepakchopra.com 

 

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