Don’t brain on my parade

Can reading and manipulating human brains benefit people and society? Can the same technology be used to oppress? As with most technology, the answer to both questions is: YES.

Let’s take a look at some of the most recent discoveries.

Credit: Jerry Tang and Alexander Huth

WTF? – A.I. can read minds

It turns out that well-trained A.I. models can predict what you’re going to say before you say it. Don’t freak yet (just get your tinfoil hat ready :D ). The A.I. needs a real-time MRI scan of your brain, and at the moment that’s not super portable.

This could be awesome for people who lose the ability to speak or never had it. On the flip side, however, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how surveillance capitalism or authoritarian regimes would use this. Thoughtcrime1 anyone?

Mind-reading machines are here: is it time to worry?

Yay! – Magnets cure depression

Credit: Steve Fisch / Stanford University

Stanford researchers have discovered that certain brain signals actually flow the wrong way in people with treatment-resistant depression — and that magnets can correct the misdirection and help patients feel better.

Depression treatment reverses “backwards” brain signals

Cool! – Implants bypass spinal injury

New implants help a spinal injury victim to walk again. The implants send brain signals to receptors below the spinal injury, enabling the patient to use his legs just by thinking.

Ironically, it doesn’t work that well without machine learning (aka A.I.) helping to read the patient’s thoughts (see above). Over time and with training, the A.I. can predict and interpret the patient’s intent — and make the whole thing work.

Brain Implants Allow Paralyzed Man to Walk Using His Thoughts

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From 1984 by George Orwell. Read it!

A.I. revolution incoming

Is it hyperbole to compare the push by tech companies (and governments) to gain supremacy in A.I. technology with the Manhattan project and the invention of the atomic bomb? Before listening to this Ezra Klein interview with Kelsey Piper—about the increasing pace of A.I. development and how it’s changing the world—I would’ve said that the main concern was job loss for knowledge workers and creatives.

Now I’m not so sure. In the next decade, A.I. is very likely to be replacing knowledge workers — up to and including writers, lawyers, and investment bankers — but that’s not the biggest concern. The threat is likely not what you or I imagine, but that’s part of the issue: namely, that development is moving so fast down the capitalism-greased paths to make money for the A.I. development companies that society can’t adjust fast enough for the unexpected.

The same thing happened before, in the rush to create the atomic bomb. The fictional narrative driving the Manhattan project was that we needed to get there before the Nazis. Turns out they weren’t working on it at all.

Listen or read:

How we can prepare for AI (podcast)

Transcript of Ezra Klein’s interview with Kelsey Piper

Meanwhile in chemistry…

Credit: James King-Holmes/SPL

Almost every chemist agrees that generative A.I. systems can massively accelerate research into protein folding, retrosynthesis, and novel drug identification. But that’s only possible if there’s enough data shared to effectively train the systems.

Today’s editorial in Nature calls for more open sharing of chemistry data, including negative results.

For chemists, the AI revolution has yet to happen

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I’m Jak Koke. I create stories.

Some of my stories adhere very closely to reality, and some are completely made up. I’ve been writing professionally in various forms for over 30 years since I sold my first short story in 1991. Since then, I’ve published novels, game material, technical articles, marketing copy, instructional tutorials, memoirs, keynote speeches, and video scripts.

My interests vary widely. Over the years, I’ve been an author, an editor, a publisher, a content strategist, a lab technician, a French tutor, a ranch hand, a berry picker, and a newspaper delivery engineer. On the personal side, I’ve lived in over a dozen different cities in four countries, been blessed with two long-term (and a number of medium-length) loving relationships, and co-parented two daughters to adulthood.

Learn more about me and my books at


I write to inform, communicate, and sway. The major issues that concern me right now are climate change and sustainability; economic, gender, and racial inequality; and how to change insidious and exploitative cultural narratives.

For me to write an effective story, I require an understanding of the world and how it works. In that light, I’m creating Dear Future to help three people:

You. Perhaps curated information that contains contextual knowledge will offer a more complete understanding of the world and the forces involved (as I see them).

Future me. This can serve as a reservoir of interesting information, and — because memory is both imperfect and shaped by context — remind me of what I was thinking when I posted it.

Current me. The act of writing something helps me codify it into knowledge and I’m likely to remember the information more clearly.

For more information, see the About page.

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Liferock re-printing (with new cover!)

My first novel is back in print, and to mark this event, I’ve worked with visual designer and artist Aura Castro to give it a new cover. I loved the original cover and will be eternally grateful to Crystal Larson for her art, but it was time for a change.

Here is the full print spread:

About Liferock

This novel is set in the Earthdawn fantasy world. Earthdawn is, as its name implies, a re-emergence of life into a world that has been destroyed by monstrous magic and creatures of inconceivable power. Most of them are gone now, and the sentient, magic-wielding races of Barsaive are venturing forth again.

Visit FASA Games for more about the Earthdawn universe. It’s a detailed, unique fantasy setting with many novels and role-playing game sourcebooks. If you like role-playing games, pick up the free quick start guide.

The adventure takes the reader across Barsaive, but it’s primary focus is the fascinating culture of the Obsidimen race. Quiet and strong, patient and brave, Obsidimen have a deep kinship with each other and the earth from whence they are born.

The novel is as thematically relevant today as it was when I wrote it in 1993. That was the year of the Waco siege that resulted in the fiery deaths of 76 Branch Davidian sect members, including 25 children. The toxic nature of fanaticism has not waned in the intervening years.

I wrote the book in the same year as my first child was born, and it’s not a coincidence that it explores themes of getting your crap in order to pave the way for a once-in-a-lifetime event. The main character has to clean up his family’s disfunction so that he can be Named. You might say the same thing happened to me… without the magic and death, but still.

Buy a copy: Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon | B&N

Read an excerpt.

Rainy streets mirror firefly lights

You’re like me — you crave deep and intimate connection. It’s a profound need. A desire. A passion. You’ll do a lot to get that feeling. Maybe even sacrifice a bit of yourself.

How much is too much to get what you crave?

Also, you’re an insect…

Because that makes perfect sense, right? Are you interested yet? Laughing?

* * *

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:

Morphosis came to me in a dream, fully formed like Athena from the forehead of Zeus. And I didn’t just dream the concept and the characters; I dreamed all the words.

This story has been published three times in small or niche anthologies, most recently in Geek Love — an awesome, kickstarter hardcover edited by Shanna Germain. I’m proud of this story; it deserves a bigger audience. So here it is for free.

Morphosis is about the forms we take to please our partners. It’s about identity and connection. And sex… and love. 

Go read it now.

You get it free. But if you enjoy it, subscribe by entering your email in the sidebar. There’s more to come.

Image credit: Knox Bar in Rainstorm (Montreal) by Jason ThibaultCreative Commons attribution 2.0.