Many science fiction stories feature humans with genetically enhanced intelligence, perhaps due to modifying our genes or unlocking the unused portions of our brains. But recent research has shown that intelligence is much more affected by experience than genes, and the “10% use of our brains” argument is merely a myth.
So, if genes only matter for little and we are already using our whole brain, how else can we modify intelligence?
The answer is myelin.
Myelin is a cellular membrane created by a type of glial cell, cells that monitor neurons, called an Oligodendrocyte (Oligo for short). This oligo’s job is to take the myelin, which regulates the speed of signals, and wrap it around axons, thin fibers that connect neurons together.
In order for our brain to process and send information optimally, it must receive all signals for a potential action at the same time. When all the signals line up, our brain amplifies the signal; this creates more total power for responding or for acting on a response. Myelin regulates the speed of signals and adjusts them to make sure they line up.
All parts of our brain connect to each other with axons and neurons. To coordinate complex tasks in the brain, often two or more distant regions have to connect at the same time. Myelin ensures that these connections sync up, and when they do the synapse, what allows the signal through to the rest of the body, is made stronger; so the more accurate our myelin is, the quicker we become good at something.
for more information about learning and myelination look here.
So how can we use myelin to modify our intelligence?
Because myelination directly affects our ability to learn, to make decisions, and to process information, we could increase our intelligence to superhuman levels by modifying oligos to enhance the myelination process.
There are several methods researchers have already identified for modifying oligos, but there are two that are most promising as they improve how the oligos function directly:
1. One such method was discovered by a team of UC Davis researchers who used genetically engineered stem cells to create a specific kind of oligo that may be more powerful than natural ones. This “super-oligo” has a greater ability to respond, which results in myelin that is more accurate and adaptable.
2. Another method was discovered by researchers in Madrid, Spain who were able to modify mice so that they myelinated earlier and throughout their lives. By causing AKt, an enzyme that regulates oligos, to produce more than normal, researchers made oligos in the central nervous system create more myelin. The mice continued to myelinate, and myelinated more areas, without increasing the number of oligos.
Using these two methods we could make the oligo able to control more myelin at once and manage them better, making the process of myelination far more powerful.
What would enhancing myelination do to our minds?
By increasing the rate of myelination, along with their enhanced function by the “super-oligos”, we could increase our ability to learn, make decisions, and process information. The connections that make up our mind would synchronize far quicker when used, and the synapses would become tuned to the point we could react to anything in a fraction of the time of a normal person.
We would become capable of learning skills that take decades in mere months, understand complex systems and problems almost instantly, and process equations normally only computers could handle.decisions, and process information. The connections that make up our mind would synchronize far quicker when used, and the synapses would become tuned to the point we could react to anything far faster than normal.
How could this be used in the future?
By learning how to control oligos more precisely and learning which genes and cells control myelination, we could eventually be able to enhance learning and processing ability to superhuman levels.
If we could make a viral injection method to create these changes in adults instead of only in fetal development, we could create injectable skills or remove addictions and habits instantly.
While the methods I listed here are very promising for the future, this method of increasing our intelligence can only raise our abilities so much.
Even though for instinctive or subconscious actions and split-second decisions myelination is incredibly important, more long-term actions and decisions are still limited by our own memory capacity. Also, although our brain will be able to run more efficiently using myelination, it won’t truly run faster. Myelination prepares our brains for the later steps, setting the foundation for the singularity of our minds.
In later posts I will cover these other steps, from increasing our total memory capacity to our brain’s actual processing speed.
What do you think?
Do you think this “supermyelination” is promising? What other advances could make this even more powerful? How could we use this in technology? Please tell me what you think and join the conversation!