Communication in the future – a gentle movement toward augmentation, part 1

Too much is at stake. We can not afford to misunderstand each other on such a large scale. Political discourse is impossible to have. Religious discussions inevitably end with the threat of violence. Yet we must have political and religious debates in order to survive. So how should we improve? 

Enhancing human communication

Can we have political or religious debates without passing judgment? The obvious answer is yes, let’s improve our communication. But how? Here is one approach: Turn key scientific insights regarding human communication into useful habits using smart technologies. Specifically:

  • Extract key insights from scientific literature related to human communication. 
  • Create new habits using smart technology. Use smart devices and algorithms to augment human communication.

Key insights

Capture human signals

Shaking hands – transferring germs or information?

Did you know that every time we shake hands, we’re also transferring chemicals?

It may sound gross, but it’s actually not as dirty as you think.

We’re simply exchanging information with the other person.

Not only can we tell if somebody is stressed by looking at their face, but also from the chemicals that are exchanged during a handshake. In fact, we determine whether someone is happy or sad solely based on the handshake.

Always, check references. Read some research on handshakes:
An icon representing binoculars.Semin, G. R., & Farias, A. R. (2014). The scent of a handshake. eLife, 4. more

The question is what else can we measure from the handshake? If nothing else, can we just determine whether someone can have an open conversation objectively? In my view, you can, this sort of augmentation may seem intrusive, but we are headed to the world of full augmentation where our sweat will become a data point for others.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we have control over this. The important question is how to regulate its malicious usage. A topic for another time.

In the future: Our smartwatch will not only measure our hormone levels but also that of others. Our smart devices will use this data to perform many operations, perhaps one of them could be to improve human communication.

Is your frontal cortex open?

A personal signal of openness

The frontal cortex is the area of your brain that watches over and analyzes everything else. It’s where you learn rules to shape your other thoughts and actions.

Strange BA. Anterior Prefrontal Cortex Mediates Rule Learning in Humans. Cerebral Cortex. 2001;11(11):1040-1046. doi:10.1093/cercor/11.11.1040

Badre D, Kayser AS, D’Esposito M. Frontal Cortex and the Discovery of Abstract Action Rules. Neuron. 2010;66(2):315-326. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2010.03.025

One can learn a rule to keep “the mind open” when entering a discussion, and our brain will physically become more plastic. It can make new connections and build new cells to learn.

So what if you can determine the activity of your frontal cortex using a non-intrusive brain sensor (not an implant)?

In the future, A smart glass that detects front-cortex activity to determine whether “you” will have an open mind in a debate. 

Turning insights into habits

At this point, one may rightly observe, humans already do that exceptionally well. Our brains are far superior to any computer, we should therefore rely on its capabilities. The answer is of course we should, but …

But we are already overwhelmed by the amount of information that we consume every second now, one solution can be technology itself another can be a large-scale behavior change.

Finally, technology augmentation is inevitable. It’s better to imagine solutions for humanity than to just think of another way to sell more ads. Hence, it’s important to bring in all of the augmentations and think about a curriculum that will help us build better habits at a large scale.

A curriculum for communication – Large-scale behavior change.

There is much to say about this topic. We have to tackle this in a separate post. Here are some initial questions/thoughts, but would love to hear your feedback too, feel free to leave comments:

  • Can we create a curriculum for college students to teach and practice communication using smart tech?
  • Can we use VR to experience communication challenges and continuously learn?
  • Is Neurofeedback already used to improve communication?  

Part – 2: Curriculum discussion

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