Recently, I watched a highly recommended film called ‘Limitless’, a 2011 American science fiction thriller film directed by Neil Burger and written by Leslie Dixon. Based on the 2001 novel ‘The Dark Fields’ by Alan Glynn, the film stars Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro, Andrew Howard, and Anna Friel.
Eddie Morra is a struggling author in New York City. His girlfriend Lindy, frustrated with his lack of progress, breaks up with him. Eddie encounters Vernon, the brother of his ex-wife Melissa, who gives Eddie a sample of a new nootropic called NZT-48.
On the drug, Eddie discovers he has acquired perfect recollection of everything he has ever read and refined interpersonal skills. As he swallows a pill, he is being yelled at by his landlord’s wife.
With his new power he calms her down, helps her with her homework and sleeps with her. His new power enables him to make significant progress on his book.
The next day, the effects having worn off, he brings his pages to his publisher, who praises them. Eddie seeks out Vernon for more NZT-48, but while Eddie leaves to run some errands for Vernon, Vernon is murdered by someone searching for the drug.
Eddie locates Vernon’s supply and begins ingesting pills daily. With its effects, Eddie improves his entire lifestyle, appearance, sex appeal, and social circle, and finishes his book.
While enjoying his new life, Eddie has an epiphany; in order to achieve the plan he derives from his epiphany, he decides to focus his talent on investing in order to raise capital.
Eddie quickly begins making large returns on the stock market and borrows $100,000 from a Russian loan shark, Gennady.
He is hired at a brokerage firm and resumes his relationship with Lindy. Eddie experiences what he refers to as a “time skip”, a momentary lapse in memory.
Eddie’s success leads to a meeting with finance tycoon Carl Van Loon, who tests him by seeking advice on a merger with Hank Atwood’s company. After the meeting, Eddie experiences an 18-hour party-hopping time skip. The next day in a meeting with Van Loon, Eddie sees a news telecast that a woman has been murdered in her hotel room. Eddie recognizes her as the woman he slept with during his time skip and abruptly leaves the meeting.
Eddie experiments with NZT-48 and learns to control his dosage, sleep schedule, and food intake to prevent side effects. He hires a laboratory in an attempt to reverse-engineer the drug, an attorney to keep the police from investigating the death of Vernon or the woman, and two bodyguards to protect him from Gennady, who is threatening him to obtain more NZT-48.
On the day of the merger, Atwood falls into a coma. Eddie recognizes Atwood’s driver as the man in the trench coat and realizes Atwood is on NZT-48.
While Eddie participates in a police lineup, his attorney steals Eddie’s whole supply of pills from his jacket pocket. Eddie enters into withdrawal, and while Van Loon questions him about Atwood’s coma, Eddie receives a parcel which is found to contain the severed hands of his bodyguards.
He hurries home and locks himself in, before Gennady breaks into Eddie’s apartment, demanding more NZT-48. Gennady flaunts his abilities while injecting himself with NZT-48. As Gennady threatens to eviscerate him, Eddie grabs his own knife and kills Gennady. Eddie then consumes Gennady’s blood in order to ingest the NZT-48 in the blood. This gives Eddie the mental abilities of the drug once again, and Eddie is able to kill the remaining henchmen. He then meets with the man in the trench coat, surmising Atwood employed the man to locate more NZT-48. Once Atwood dies, the two recover Eddie’s stash from his attorney’s apartment.
A year later, Eddie has retained his wealth, published a book, and is running for the United States Senate. Van Loon visits him and reveals he has absorbed the company that produced NZT-48 and shut down Eddie’s laboratory and both acknowledge that Eddie will likely become President of the United States one day so Van Loon offers Eddie a continued supply of the drug in exchange for Eddie assisting his ambitions.
Eddie tells Van Loon he has already perfected the drug and weaned himself off of it, retaining his abilities without side effects.
This all made me think beyond current limits and borders, and question will AI rise up and take over, what if humans become superhumans without AI?
Does anyone recall the Trachtenberg speed system of basic mathematics?
The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics is a system of mental mathematics which in part did not require the use of multiplication tables to be able to multiply. The method was created over seventy years ago.
The main idea behind the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics is that there must be an easier way to do multiplication, division, squaring numbers and finding square roots, especially if you want to do it mentally.
Jakow Trachtenberg spent years in a Nazi concentration camp and to escape the horrors he found refuge in his mind developing these methods. Some of the methods are not new and have been used for thousands of years.
Multiplication is done without multiplication tables “Can you multiply 5132437201 times 4522736502785 in seventy seconds? One young boy (grammar school-no calculator) did successfully by using the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics.
So, with human intelligence, why do we need AI, deep learning or machine learning?
It is a fact that humans have gradually discovered many additional recurring shapes and patterns in nature, involving not only motion and gravity but also electricity, magnetism, light, heat, chemistry, radioactivity and subatomic particles.
These patterns are summarized by what we call our laws of physics. Just like the shape of an ellipse, all these laws can be described using mathematical equations.
Equations aren’t the only hints of mathematics that are built into nature: there are also numbers. As opposed to human creations like the page numbers in this magazine, I’m now talking about numbers that are basic properties of our physical reality.
For example, how many pencils can you arrange so that they’re all perpendicular (at 90 degrees) to each other? The answer is 3, by placing them along the three edges emanating from a corner of your room.
Where did that number 3 come sailing in from? We call this number the dimensionality of our space, but why are there three dimensions rather than four or two or 42?
There’s something very mathematical about our universe, and the more carefully we look, the more math we seem to find. So, what do we make of all these hints of mathematics in our physical world?
One of the last subjects Stephen Hawking wrote was not as widely reported as perhaps it should have been.
The physicist, who had previously warned about the potential threat artificial intelligence posed, more recently suggested that humans faced an even greater and more immediate threat.
Sometime in the foreseeable future, he said, the human race could divide into two: those with an average intelligence level by today’s standards and those with super intelligence. The latter breed will have bodies improved by genetic engineering and brains improved by artificial intelligence (AI).
These “superhumans”, as they are called, will be relatively few in number, but will pose a serious threat to normal humans.
If “Super Humans” exist in future, the super-intelligent might be few in number because genetic engineering of humans’ brains and bodies will be very expensive, and only the very wealthy (or wealthiest) will be able to afford it.
The result will be the gradual consigning of most humans to the role of a subservient class, less healthy and less intelligent than the others. In a few generations, the superhumans’ progeny will begin to inherit the enhanced traits and, so, medical intervention to engineer those enhancements will become less necessary.
Some experts believe AI is a serious threat because machines will eventually become conscious, develop more sophisticated brains than humans, and decide humans are dispensable.
Yet despite such warnings about AI, nobody knows if machines will ever become conscious, indeed nobody really knows what consciousness is.
The idea of machines becoming smarter than humans and threatening the human race is pure speculation and most experts believe it’s unlikely to happen this century, if at all.
The creation of superhuman beings, however, is less speculative. Already, humans can be improved by genetic engineering and most experts accept that greatly improving the human brain’s cognitive abilities by both genetic engineering and electronic implantation will happen sooner than most people think.
Hawking suggests that anticipated advances in genetics will enable people to acquire improved memory and intelligence, as well as improved disease resistance and longer lifespans.
Talking about “Super Humans”, two solutions floating across the internet are: To give every person the same chance to become superhuman.
The second is to ban the technology.
Neither of these solutions will work. The first one is simply not practical, not affordable and could be the biggest threat for the human race.
The later one will just stop human evolution. History is not reassuring on either count.
The common take-home message is that we often feel we have to strive for more in a commercial way, by buying things, getting a job that will pay us more money or moving to a bigger house in a better place. But if you look at people who are denied these things because they’re locked in, you realise that there are other, perhaps deeper ways to find happiness.
Thomas Jefferson declared that “the pursuit of happiness” was a universal right. But how can you define happiness? Is it material or spiritual—or genetic?
Final thoughts: Can we all be superhuman? Or are the rest of us condemned to remain mediocre?
Finally, we cannot all be superhuman, and I do not find that to be a depressing conclusion because I think we can learn from the things these people have accomplished and advance further forward and make ourselves happier in our lives and do a little better.
There are ways of managing without being superhuman, that will still improve your happiness and day-to-day existence. Even if we know we’re not going to be superhuman, we can all improve and benefit from purposeful knowledge.
In today’s scientific world we have evidence that proves the importance of attitude and specific proven actions we can take to manage our attitude. We all know that being happy today is a daily challenge.
Between our personal daily struggles, the challenges of those we are close to, and the hardships that are happening globally, it’s easy to fall to a place of sadness.
And yet we still yearn and often times work towards a feeling of true happiness, purpose, self-acceptance and inner peace, which is pure elation.
A great quote by Ellen Key – Swedish Writer:
‘Unless one believes in a superhuman reason which directs evolution, one is bound to believe in a reason inherent in humanity, a motive power transcending that of each separate people, just as the power of the organism transcends that of the organ. This reason increases in proportion as the unity of mankind becomes established.’