Enhance Cognition with Technology

Nick Saraev English

If you're reading this, you have the ability to enhance your cognitive function & productivity significantly, right now. For free. You can boost memory, improve creativity, and learn faster - all with no drugs or crazy gimmicks. The only thing you need is the technology you're using right now.

Here's how.

Improving Memory

Human memory is faulty. First, biological information storage suffers from an inherent decay process - this is technically true of computers as well, but nowhere near to the same degree. Perhaps more prominently, our memories are subject to interference, the process by which potentially unrelated memories overlap with or even completely overwrite other, more useful ones.

This is due to Hebbian plasticity: when neurons "fire together, they wire together", meaning that whenever two action potentials occur coincidentally on the same neuronal cell body, the two originating neurons grow linked through the process of accomodation.

Here's the upgrade: with technology, you can bypass human long term memory altogether. Use a universal, cloud synced note application (like Evernote or OneDrive) to encode prominent thoughts, dates, or memories. You can easily add pictures, dictate voice memos, or even handwrite notes, and it's all instantly synced across every one of your devices simultaneously. Unless there's a global apocolypse, your thoughts will be available for thousands, potentially millions of years, and they'll benefit from future improvements in technology and machine learning.

Why does this work? One, almost everybody carries some kind of device with them nowadays; two, "memory" insertion into the system now takes less than two or three seconds; and three, by putting information into the Cloud, you're also unintentionally reinforcing the data in your long term memory. Meaning you kill two birds with one stone - you get Cloud-based memory storage, and you also increase the consolidation of memory in your own local storage (your brain).

Improving Creativity

What is human creativity, really? An artist or painter might say creativity is a burst of insight - that it's divine inspiration. A mathematician or computer scientist, on the other hand, is more likely to proclaim that creativity is merely the process of interpolating over the latent space of neuronal solutions - activating as many neuronal networks and subnetworks as possible, in a brute-force kind of way, in the hopes that one or more results will be novel or useful.

Here's the upgrade: ditch biology altogether, and outsource the iteration process to AI-powered apps like IdeasAI, StoryAI, or StartupGenerator. These programs use a mix of natural language processing and deep learning to create interesting or novel connections between topics and concepts. Then, you get a nicely curated list of potential high responders that you can write about, talk about, or invent with.

Why does this work? Iteration - the process of repeating over a solution set - is one thing that computers do very well. In fact, it's one of the main functions that computers were initially invented for. And by combining that effectiveness with machine learning algorithms and the Internet, you get a creativity powerhouse that works at hundreds of times the speed of your biological brain. Think of it as tacking on a creativity "module".

Improving Information Gathering

Several decades ago, when a human being required information to solve a problem, they had few places to turn: it was either their friends, their family, or the local library. Each route might take them several hours to arrive at a solution. Nowadays, however, with the advent of Google and related search engines, game-changing solutions to difficult problems are literally just a few buttons away. Unfortunately, most people don't take full advantage of this to increase their productivity.

Here's the upgrade: spend a few minutes memorizing keyboard shortcuts to access your favorite search engine as quickly as possible. Most computers today use Chrome to browse the web - if that describes you, an easy shortcut that lets you access Google in a jiffy is Ctrl + T, which opens a new tab. You can then type in whatever your search query is, get results in less than a second, and then Ctrl + W to close that tab.

Why does this work? Count up the number of Google searches you've already completed. Then add on the number of Google searches you're likely to make every day over the course of the rest of your life. Your magic number is likely in the hundreds of thousands - or even millions. Now imagine saving 15 seconds for every one of those searches by using keyboard shortcuts. 

The point behind each of these: instead of trudging through problems on your own, learn to leverage collective human intelligence to solve problems for you. In our increasingly networked, highly globalized economy, it will soon be the only way to stay ahead.

© Nick Saraev 2021