Most babies are born between 38 and 42 weeks. Experts, such as neuro-anthropologist and author of "The Evolution of Childhood" Belknap, Melvin Konner, think some early wails are tied to physical development, noting that across cultures crying peaks at the same point after conception, independent of when the baby makes its entrance into the world. That is, a premature baby, born at 34 weeks, will reach her peak crying point at around 12 weeks old, while a full-term baby, born at 40 weeks, will cry the most at around 6 weeks old.
When babies imitate the facial expressions of their caregivers, it triggers the emotion in them as well, explains Alison Gopnik in her book "The Philosophical Baby" Farrar, Straus and Giroux, This helps infants build on their basic innate understanding of emotional communication and may explain why parents tend to make exaggerated happy and sad faces at their little ones, making them easier to imitate.
Parentese, or baby talk , is another seemingly instinctual response that researchers have found is critical to infant development. Its musicality and exaggerated, slow structure emphasizes critical components of a language, helping a baby grasp words, Eliot told LiveScience. When first born, the brains of humans, apes and Neanderthals are much more similar than they will be by adulthood.
After birth, the human brain grows rapidly, more than doubling to reach 60 percent of its adult size by the time the tot is sampling his first birthday cake. By kindergarten, the brain has reached its full size but it may not finish developing until the kid is in his mids, Eliot told LiveScience. Even then, Eliot qualified, "the brain never stops changing, for better or worse. Some scientists speculate that the changes in the developing infant brain mirror, on a rapid scale, the changes that have been shaped over eons of evolution. Baby brains have many, many more neuronal connections than the brains of adults.
They also have less inhibitory neurotransmitters. As a result, researchers such as Gopnik have suggested, the baby's perception of reality is more diffuse read: less focused than adults. They are vaguely aware of pretty much everything — a sensible strategy considering they don't yet know what's important.
Gopnik likens baby perception to a lantern, scattering light across the room, where adult perception is more like a flashlight, consciously focused on specific things but ignoring background details. As babies mature, their brains go through a "pruning" process, where their neuronal networks are strategically shaped and fine-tuned by their experience.
This helps them make order out of their worlds, but also makes it harder to innovate and come up with such breakthroughs as spinach puree face paint. Creative people, Gopnik and others have argued, have retained some ability to think like an infant.
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Within their lantern's light, babies do focus however momentarily. And when they do, Goldstein told LiveScience, they usually make a sound to convey interest. In particular, babbling — the nonsense syllables babies spout — is "the acoustic version of a furrowed brow," Goldstein said, signaling to adults that they are ready to learn.
Ambitious parents may want to keep an ear out for this signal, Eliot said. Some parents take Eliot's advice too far and strive to meet Junior's every yip with a yap. But when babies get a reaction percent of the time, they get bored and look away. Worse, "their learning is very delicate," Goldstein said: It won't last the first inevitable time they don't get the reaction they expect. When acting instinctually, parents respond to 50 to 60 percent of a baby's vocalizations.
In the lab, Goldstein has found that language development can be sped up when babies are responded to 80 percent of the time. Beyond that, however, learning declines. Parents also naturally "raise the babble bar," Goldstein told LiveScience, by slowly responding less to sounds they have heard a baby make many times like "eh" , but excitedly repeating a new sound that comes closer to a word such as "da". In this way, the baby starts to piece to together the sound statistics of his language. While from birth babies may cry with the intonations of their mother tongue , recent research emphasizes that social responses are fundamental to a child's ability to fully learn language.
The cochlea also sorts the incoming sound by frequency.
tough talk for tough times Manual
A cochlear implant is a little computer that has a microphone coming out of one end which sits on the ear and a wire coming out of the other that connects to an array of electrodes that line the cochlea. So sound comes into the microphone the little hook on top of the ear , and goes into the brown thing, which processes the sound to filter out the less useful frequencies. The electrodes filter the impulses by frequency just like the cochlea and stimulate the auditory nerve just like the hairs on the cochlea do. This is what it looks like from the outside:.
In other words, an artificial ear, performing the same sound-to-impulses-to-auditory-nerve function the ear does. Check out what sound sounds like to someone with the implant. Not great. Most cochlear implants have about Like this baby, whose reaction to hearing for the first time is cute. Blindness is often the result of a retinal disease. When this is the case, a retinal implant can perform a similar function for sight as a cochlear implant does for hearing though less directly. It performs the normal duties of the eye and hands things off to nerves in the form of electrical impulses, just like the eye does.
A more complicated interface than the cochlear implant, the first retinal implant was approved by the FDA in —the Argus II implant, made by Second Sight. The retinal implant looks like this: The retinal implant has 60 sensors. The retina has around a million neurons.
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But seeing vague edges and shapes and patterns of light and dark sure beats seeing nothing at all. Dating back to the late s, deep brain stimulation is yet another crude tool that is also still pretty life-changing for a lot of people. What happens here is one or two electrode wires, usually with four separate electrode sites , are inserted into the brain, often ending up somewhere in the limbic system.
Then a little pacemaker computer is implanted in the upper chest and wired to the electrodes. Like this unpleasant man: The electrodes can then give a little zap when called for, which can do a variety of important things. It looks like this:. He decides that some specific change in the world will increase the likelihood of humanity having the best possible future.
He knows that large-scale world change happens quickest when the whole world—the Human Colossus—is working on it. So when Elon builds a company, its core initial strategy is usually to create the match that will ignite the industry and get the Human Colossus working on the cause. This, in turn, Elon believes, will lead to developments that will change the world in the way that increases the likelihood of humanity having the best possible future. But you have to look at his companies from a zoomed-out perspective to see all of this. If you look at history, this makes sense—behind each of the greatest revolutions in human progress is an engineering breakthrough.
A match. And when I started trying to figure out what Neuralink was all about, I knew those were the variables I needed to fill in. As I understood it, a whole-brain interface was what a brain-machine interface would be in an ideal world—a super-advanced concept where essentially all the neurons in your brain are able to communicate seamlessly with the outside world.
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Paul told me his field was called neuromorphic, where the goal is to design transistor circuits based on principles of brain architecture. DJ Seo , who while at UC Berkeley in his mids designed a cutting-edge new BMI concept called neural dust —tiny ultrasound sensors that could provide a new way to record brain activity. When it comes to neuroscience, Elon has the least technical knowledge on the team—but he also started SpaceX without very much technical knowledge and quickly became a certifiable rocket science expert by reading and by asking questions of the experts on the team.
I asked Elon about how he brought this team together. Because it was such a cross-disciplinary area, he looked for cross-disciplinary experts. And you can see that in those bios—everyone brings their own unique crossover combination to a group that together has the rare ability to think as a single mega-expert. Elon also wanted to find people who were totally on board with the zoomed-out mission—who were more focused on industrial results than producing white papers.
Not an easy group to assemble. But there they were, sitting around the table looking at me, as it hit me 40 seconds in that I should have done a lot more research before coming here. They took the hint and dumbed it down about four notches, and as the discussion went on, I started to wrap my head around things. Throughout the next few weeks, I met with each of the remaining Neuralink team members as well, each time playing the role of the dumbest person in the room.
In these meetings, I focused on trying to form a comprehensive picture of the challenges at hand and what the road to a wizard hat might look like. I really wanted to understand these two boxes:. The first one was easy. The business side of Neuralink is a brain-machine interface development company. We are aiming to bring something to market that helps with certain severe brain injuries stroke, cancer lesion, congenital in about four years.
The second box was a lot hazier. It seems obvious to us today that using steam engine technology to harness the power of fire was the thing that had to happen to ignite the Industrial Revolution. But if you talked to someone in about it, they would have had a lot less clarity—on exactly which hurdles they were trying to get past, what kinds of innovations would allow them to leap over those hurdles, or how long any of this would take. The starting place for a discussion about innovation is a discussion about hurdles—what are you even trying to innovate past?
Pew recently conducted a survey asking Americans about which future biotechnologies give them the shits the most. It turns out BMIs worry Americans even more than gene editing: To a scientist, to think about changing the fundamental nature of life—creating viruses, eugenics, etc. History supports this prediction.
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People were super timid about Lasik eye surgery when it first became a thing—20 years ago, 20, people a year had the procedure done. Then everyone got used to it and now 2,, people a year get laser eye surgery. Similar story with pacemakers. And defibrillators.
And organ transplants—which people at first considered a freakish Frankenstein-esque concept. Brain implants will probably be the same story. Flip weighed in on this topic too:. Being able to read it out is an engineering problem. Which then, ironically, will teach us about the brain. As Flip points out:.