Coverage of H Plus Summit at Harvard

By | June 12, 2010

Just some quick notes from the H+ Summit. There is a very ambitious schedule with an A-list group of speakers, full streaming worldwide over the internet–many speakers have only 10 minutes, leading to a joke by one speaker about the acceleration of talking speed–and all questions being taken via Twitter to level the playing field between those here and those watching around the world as well as for efficiency, since they are being answered by speakers via conversations on Twitter. Also, speaker powerpoint slides are available on

A recurring theme is the observation that going directly to serious human enhancement will have to happen via the path of medecine and curing disease and disability, due to the high costs, high requirements for safety and improvement, need for multiple technological breakthroughs, and ethical reluctance by many to mess with healthy, functioning bodies and minds.

Some notes from specific speakers that I thought were interesting:

Lauren Silbert talked about research at Princeton that is studying the communication process between speakers and listeners at the brain level to judge the efficacy of the communication and to view the brain processes in real time. There are a lot of technical details to overcome, including the time shift between the person who is thinking what they will say and the listener who is anticipating, but I thought the most interesting outcome of the research is that there is a lot of similarity in the brain of the communicator and the understander. This means it should be less complicated to facilitate many types of brain engineering, which would be infinitely more difficult if all of our brains were randomly wired in different ways (not so much need to reinvent the wheel for each person). I think there will be lots of interesting applications in the field of education and learning, as it will become possible to assess someone’s understanding at the brain level.

Alex Backer announced a new Wikipedia type platform for publishing scientific research at

Noah Goodman discussed his research to reverse engineer intelligence by combining the concepts of composition (big thoughts are made up of smaller thoughts) and probability (dealijng with uncertainty) to produce inferences that match those that humans make in the real world.

Andrea Kuszewski discussed how to increase your fluid intelligence:
1. Seek novelty – this personality trait correlates highly with IQ – gives your brain more different “stuff” to work with
2. Challenge yourself – once you learn something your brain gets efficient about it and there is not much further progress
3. Think creatively – approach things multi-modally (in different ways, from different angles, using different media, etc.) to transfer between domains
4. Do things the hard way – brain is more engaged if you don’t rely all the time on helpful things like GPS
5. Networking – getting perspectives from lots of different people keeps your brain flexible and open to new approaches

Andrew Hessel (of Singularity University) has been doing a lot of work on carbon and its complicated role in our ecosystem and energy industries. He wants us to “look up insead of down” and see the carbon in the air as an energy resource rather than just looking for it underground and trying to figure out how to get rid of it in the atmosphere.

John Smart announced his new venture to provide a push prize for brain preservation (25% for a mouse brain and 75% for a pig brain) at a nano-scale resolution. They have $100,000 but are hoping to grow that prize with additional donations. He discussed the plastination process in more detail, and his colleague demonstrated via video the extremely high resolution that they get with that now for small brain tissue samples.

Much more of couse, and that is just the first half day!

  • Sally Morem

    I’m having a great time participating on H+’s chatroom. Wonderful Summit.

  • John

    I wish I could have been there! lol The “cocktail party” conversation is what makes these things so very interesting. And they don’t record that to be streamed on the internet!

    John : )

  • Phillip Galinsky

    The H+ summit was awesome, the passion that the speakers have for their different works was inspiring, and talks were massively informative. I also really enjoyed the tour of Jeff Lichtmans brain lab given by Kenneth Hayworth. Bring a summit to NYC!!!