Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

A new English cocktail bar offers something truly old-fashioned on its menu: the chance to talk to real people instead of staring down your cell phone.

The Gin Tub in Brighton has won rave reviews in its first week of business by installing a cell signal blocker and placing throwback rotary phones at its tables. They can be used to dial patrons at neighboring tables or the bar for another round.

The Gin Tub is reckoned to be the only British pub blocking cell phones by using a Faraday shield built into its ceiling, an exception in Britain’s 2006 Wireless Telegraphy Act that otherwise outlaws the use of signal blockers.

Proprietor Steve Tyler says: “Mobile phones have killed pubs. When you go out socially, you don’t need social media.”

http://bigstory.ap.org/ba012af9abbe48fc98720b3197c4d515

Advertisements

By Minda Zetlin

Ah, email. Everyone hates it, yet most of us use it for the majority of our communications with acquaintances, sales prospects, and pretty much everyone we do business with. We use email to brainstorm ideas, close deals, make pitches, and form new friendships and alliances. But it can also be a subtle tool that some people deploy with such precision that, like a razor-sharp rapier, you might be wounded before you even know what happened.

Some of the most effective email parries and thrusts are delivered in the form of passive-aggressive phrases–the kind that can impose an obligation, express ire, or even deliver an insult in such a nice and nonchalant way you won’t even know what hit you.

To put you on your guard, here’s a list of passive-aggressive email phrases and what they’re really saying. I’ve received almost every one of these. I bet you have too. I’ve used almost all of them as well. Because–unfortunately–they usually work.

1. “Thanks in advance.”

Translation: I’m already thanking you for doing me this favor, even though you haven’t yet agreed to it. Therefore, you must do it.

2. ” … I’d be most grateful.”

As in, “If you could respond to this inquiry any time within the next 24 hours, I’d be so grateful.” Another form of thanking someone in advance, with the same expected result.

3. “Can I send you some information?”

This is a classic sales technique that, as someone who gets lots of pitches, can drive me straight up the wall. If you’re going to mail me a book, it makes sense to ask my permission first. For anything else, the investment on your end is exactly the same whether you send me an email asking to send information or just go ahead and email the information. The only purpose of asking first is to create some sort of commitment that I’ll pay attention to that information. And to waste everyone’s time with two emails instead of one.

4. “Any interest in … ?”

Usually this is used to try to create what we in publishing call a “curiosity gap.” It’s followed by insufficient information–just enough to try to get a rise out of the recipient. As in, “Any interest in learning about a brilliant new innovation that will change the way you do business forever?” Say yes and you may feel obligated to buy. Say no and you may feel like you’re missing the boat.

5. “Looking forward to … “

” … hearing from you soon,” ” … working with you,” ” … learning more about your needs,” etc., etc. It’s the same idea as “Thanks in advance.” I’m already looking forward to your positive response. If I don’t get it, I’ll be disappointed. (Of course, this phrase is perfectly fine if it refers to something the recipient has already agreed to, for instance if you have a meeting scheduled the following day.)

6. “I hope you don’t mind … “

Translation: I’ve done something or am planning to do something when I should have obtained your permission first. This phrase should be a red flag every time it’s used.

7. “Just wondering … “

This is often used when making what you know is an unreasonable request. “Just wondering if you might have any free time tomorrow when I’m going to be in your city?” Translation: I probably shouldn’t be asking this, but I am anyway

8. “Checking in.”

As in, “I’m just checking in to see whether you’ve had a moment to review my latest proposal.” Translation: I’m going to keep sending you emails about this until you respond.

9. “Circling back.”

This is a relatively new and more aggressive version of “checking in.” As in, “Just circling back to see if you’ve reviewed my proposal.” The meaning of the word circle in this context is clear: I will keep coming around and around like a merry-go-round until you give me an answer.

10. “I don’t mean to be a pest.”

This statement is always a lie.

11. “FYI.”

This, of course, can be perfectly innocuous. But often it’s used when forwarding a message that a recipient might be unhappy about. Like the email I once got “just letting me know” about the harsh criticisms being lobbed at a project of mine that I might not have heard.

12. “See below.”

See above. This too can be used as a different form of “just letting you know.”

13. “Let me clarify.”

Often used as a lead-in to a more detailed or more explicit explanation of something the sender has said before. Translation: You completely misunderstood my last message, you idiot!

14. “Sorry for being unclear.”

I’ll admit to using this one sometimes myself. Sometimes I really was unclear and I am apologizing. Other times it means, “You didn’t really read what I wrote. Pay more attention this time!”

15. “Your thoughts?”

This could be a perfectly innocuous phrase, as in “We could go to the beach tomorrow. Or maybe we should go to the ballgame. Your thoughts?” But more often than not, it’s used to ask someone to comment on, or maybe even solve, a challenging problem or weigh in on a pernicious conflict.

And sometimes it’s a semi-subtle way of telling someone you think he or she has screwed up. As in, “It seems to me your latest actions could lead some investors and customers to believe you’ve completely given up on this company. Your thoughts?”

16. “All the best.”

This phrase, along with “Take care,” subtly or not so subtly indicates that the sender intends to end the conversation with this message. If it’s a continuing discussion, one might sign off with “Best,” “Sincerely,” or something equally neutral. “All the best” translates to: I wish you well in your future endeavors and I don’t expect to hear from you again. You definitely shouldn’t expect to hear from me again.

In other words, goodbye.

By Jerry Adler
SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE

Telepathy, 2015: At the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering of the University of Washington, a young woman dons an electroencephalogram cap, studded with electrodes that can read the minute fluctuations of voltage across her brain. She is playing a game, answering questions by turning her gaze to one of two strobe lights labeled “yes” and “no.” The “yes” light is flashing at 13 times a second, the “no” at 12, and the difference is too small for her to perceive, but sufficient for a computer to detect in the firing of neurons in her visual cortex. If the computer determines she is looking at the “yes” light, it sends a signal to a room in another building, where another woman is sitting with a magnetic coil positioned behind her head. A “yes” signal activates the magnet, causing a brief disturbance in the second subject’s visual field, a virtual flash (a “phosphene”) that she describes as akin to the appearance of heat lightning on the horizon. In this way, the first woman’s answers are conveyed to another person across the campus, going “Star Trek” one better: exchanging information between two minds that aren’t even in the same place.

For nearly all of human history, only the five natural senses were known to serve as a way into the brain, and language and gesture as the channels out. Now researchers are breaching those boundaries of the mind, moving information in and out and across space and time, manipulating it and potentially enhancing it. This experiment and others have been a “demonstration to get the conversation started,” says researcher Rajesh Rao, who conducted it along with his colleague Andrea Stocco. The conversation, which will likely dominate neuroscience for much of this century, holds the promise of new technology that will dramatically affect how we treat dementia, stroke and spinal cord injuries. But it will also be about the ethics of powerful new tools to enhance thinking, and, ultimately, the very nature of consciousness and identity.

That new study grew out of Rao’s work in “brain-computer interfaces,” which process neural impulses into signals that can control external devices. Using an EEG to control a robot that can navigate a room and pick up objects—which Rao and his colleagues demonstrated as far back as 2008—may be commonplace someday for quadriplegics.

In what Rao says was the first instance of a message sent directly from one human brain to another, he enlisted Stocco to help play a basic “Space Invaders”-type game. As one person watched the attack on a screen and communicated by using only thought the best moment to fire, the other got a magnetic impulse that caused his hand, without conscious effort, to press a button on a keyboard. After some practice, Rao says, they got quite good at it.

“That’s nice,” I said, when he described the procedure to me. “Can you get him to play the piano?”

Rao sighed. “Not with anything we’re using now.”

For all that science has studied and mapped the brain in recent decades, the mind remains a black box. A famous 1974 essay by the philosopher Thomas Nagel asked, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” and concluded that we will never know; another consciousness—another person’s, let alone a member of another species—can never be comprehended or accessed. For Rao and a few others to open that door a tiny crack, then, is a notable achievement, even if the work has mostly underscored how big a challenge it is, both conceptually and technologically.

The computing power and the programming are up to the challenge; the problem is the interface between brain and computer, and especially the one that goes in the direction from computer to brain. How do you deliver a signal to the right group of nerve cells among the estimated 86 billion in a human brain? The most efficient approach is an implanted transceiver that can be hard-wired to stimulate small regions of the brain, even down to a single neuron. Such devices are already in use for “deep brain stimulation,” a technique for treating patients with Parkinson’s and other disorders with electrical impulses. But it’s one thing to perform brain surgery for an incurable disease, and something else to do it as part of an experiment whose benefits are speculative at best.

So Rao used a technique that does not involve opening the skull, a fluctuating magnetic field to induce a tiny electric current in a region of the brain. It appears to be safe—his first volunteer was his collaborator, Stocco—but it is a crude mechanism. The smallest area that can be stimulated in this way, Rao says, is not quite half an inch across. This limits its application to gross motor movements, such as hitting a button, or simple yes-or-no communication.

Another way to transmit information, called focused ultrasound, appears to be capable of stimulating a region of the brain as small as a grain of rice. While the medical applications for ultrasound, such as imaging and tissue ablation, use high frequencies, from 800 kilohertz up to the megahertz range, a team led by Harvard radiologist Seung-Schik Yoo found that a frequency of 350 kilohertz works well, and apparently safely, to send a signal to the brain of a rat. The signal originated with a human volunteer outfitted with an EEG, which sampled his brainwaves; when he focused on a specific pattern of lights on a computer screen, a computer sent an ultrasound signal to the rat, which moved his tail in response. Yoo says the rat showed no ill effects, but the safety of focused ultrasound on the human brain is unproven. Part of the problem is that, unlike magnetic stimulation, the mechanism by which ultrasound waves—a form of mechanical energy—creates an electric potential isn’t fully understood. One possibility is that it operates indirectly by “popping” open the vesicles, or sacs, within the cells of the brain, flooding them with neurotransmitters, like delivering a shot of dopamine to exactly the right area. Alternatively, the ultrasound could induce cavitation—bubbling—in the cell membrane, changing its electrical properties. Yoo suspects that the brain contains receptors for mechanical stimulation, including ultrasound, which have been largely overlooked by neuroscientists. Such receptors would account for the phenomenon of “seeing stars,” or flashes of light, from a blow to the head, for instance. If focused ultrasound is proven safe, and becomes a feasible approach to a computer-brain interface, it would open up a wide range of unexplored—in fact, barely imagined—possibilities.

Direct verbal communication between individuals—a more sophisticated version of Rao’s experiment, with two connected people exchanging explicit statements just by thinking them—is the most obvious application, but it’s not clear that a species possessing language needs a more technologically advanced way to say “I’m running late,” or even “I love you.” John Trimper, an Emory University doctoral candidate in psychology, who has written about the ethical implications of brain-to-brain interfaces, speculates that the technology, “especially through wireless transmissions, could eventually allow soldiers or police—or criminals—to communicate silently and covertly during operations.” That would be in the distant future. So far, the most content-rich message sent brain-to-brain between humans traveled from a subject in India to one in Strasbourg, France. The first message, laboriously encoded and decoded into binary symbols by a Barcelona-based group, was “hola.” With a more sophisticated interface one can imagine, say, a paralyzed stroke victim communicating to a caregiver—or his dog. Still, if what he’s saying is, “Bring me the newspaper,” there are, or will be soon, speech synthesizers—and robots—that can do that. But what if the person is Stephen Hawking, the great physicist afflicted by ALS, who communicates by using a cheek muscle to type the first letters of a word? The world could surely benefit from a direct channel to his mind.

Maybe we’re still thinking too small. Maybe an analog to natural language isn’t the killer app for a brain-to-brain interface. Instead, it must be something more global, more ambitious—information, skills, even raw sensory input. What if medical students could download a technique directly from the brain of the world’s best surgeon, or if musicians could directly access the memory of a great pianist? “Is there only one way of learning a skill?” Rao muses. “Can there be a shortcut, and is that cheating?” It doesn’t even have to involve another human brain on the other end. It could be an animal—what would it be like to experience the world through smell, like a dog—or by echolocation, like a bat? Or it could be a search engine. “It’s cheating on an exam if you use your smartphone to look things up on the Internet,” Rao says, “but what if you’re already connected to the Internet through your brain? Increasingly the measure of success in society is how quickly we access, digest and use the information that’s out there, not how much you can cram into your own memory. Now we do it with our fingers. But is there anything inherently wrong about doing it just by thinking?”

Or, it could be your own brain, uploaded at some providential moment and digitally preserved for future access. “Let’s say years later you have a stroke,” says Stocco, whose own mother had a stroke in her 50s and never walked again. “Now, you go to rehab and it’s like learning to walk all over again. Suppose you could just download that ability into your brain. It wouldn’t work perfectly, most likely, but it would be a big head start on regaining that ability.”

Miguel Nicolelis, a creative Duke neuroscientist and a mesmerizing lecturer on the TED Talks circuit, knows the value of a good demonstration. For the 2014 World Cup, Nicolelis—a Brazilian-born soccer aficionado—worked with others to build a robotic exoskeleton controlled by EEG impulses, enabling a young paraplegic man to deliver the ceremonial first kick. Much of his work now is on brain-to-brain communication, especially in the highly esoteric techniques of linking minds to work together on a problem. The minds aren’t human ones, so he can use electrode implants, with all the advantages that conveys.

One of his most striking experiments involved a pair of lab rats, learning together and moving in synchrony as they communicated via brain signals. The rats were trained in an enclosure with two levers and a light above each. The left- or right-hand light would flash, and the rats learned to press the corresponding lever to receive a reward. Then they were separated, and each fitted with electrodes to the motor cortex, connected via computers that sampled brain impulses from one rat (the “encoder”), and sent a signal to a second (the “decoder”). The “encoder” rat would see one light flash—say, the left one—and push the left-hand lever for his reward; in the other box, both lights would flash, so the “decoder” wouldn’t know which lever to push—but on receiving a signal from the first rat, he would go to the left as well.

Nicolelis added a clever twist to this demonstration. When the decoder rat made the correct choice, he was rewarded, and the encoder got a second reward as well. This served to reinforce and strengthen the (unconscious) neural processes that were being sampled in his brain. As a result, both rats became more accurate and faster in their responses—“a pair of interconnected brains…transferring information and collaborating in real time.” In another study, he wired up three monkeys to control a virtual arm; each could move it in one dimension, and as they watched a screen they learned to work together to manipulate it to the correct location. He says he can imagine using this technology to help a stroke victim regain certain abilities by networking his brain with that of a healthy volunteer, gradually adjusting the proportions of input until the patient’s brain is doing all the work. And he believes this principle could be extended indefinitely, to enlist millions of brains to work together in a “biological computer” that tackled questions that could not be posed, or answered, in binary form. You could ask this network of brains for the meaning of life—you might not get a good answer, but unlike a digital computer, “it” would at least understand the question. At the same time, Nicolelis criticizes efforts to emulate the mind in a digital computer, no matter how powerful, saying they’re “bogus, and a waste of billions of dollars.” The brain works by different principles, modeling the world by analogy. To convey this, he proposes a new concept he calls “Gödelian information,” after the mathematician Kurt Gödel; it’s an analog representation of reality that cannot be reduced to bytes, and can never be captured by a map of the connections between neurons (“Upload Your Mind,” see below). “A computer doesn’t generate knowledge, doesn’t perform introspection,” he says. “The content of a rat, monkey or human brain is much richer than we could ever simulate by binary processes.”

The cutting edge of this research involves actual brain prostheses. At the University of Southern California, Theodore Berger is developing a microchip-based prosthesis for the hippocampus, the part of the mammal­ian brain that processes short-term impressions into long-term memories. He taps into the neurons on the input side, runs the signal through a program that mimics the transformations the hippocampus normally performs, and sends it back into the brain. Others have used Berger’s technique to send the memory of a learned behavior from one rat to another; the second rat then learned the task in much less time than usual. To be sure, this work has only been done in rats, but because degeneration of the hippocampus is one of the hallmarks of dementia in human beings, the potential of this research is said to be enormous.

Given the sweeping claims for the future potential of brain-to-brain communication, it’s useful to list some of the things that are not being claimed. There is, first, no implication that humans possess any form of natural (or supernatural) telepathy; the voltages flickering inside your skull just aren’t strong enough to be read by another brain without electronic enhancement. Nor can signals (with any technology we possess, or envision) be transmitted or received surreptitiously, or at a distance. The workings of your mind are secure, unless you give someone else the key by submitting to an implant or an EEG. It is, however, not too soon to start considering the ethical implications of future developments, such as the ability to implant thoughts in other people or control their behavior (prisoners, for example) using devices designed for those purposes. “The technology is outpacing the ethical discourse at this time,” Emory’s Trimper says, “and that’s where things get dicey.” Consider that much of the brain traffic in these experiments—and certainly anything like Nicolelis’ vision of hundreds or thousands of brains working together—involves communicating over the Internet. If you’re worried now about someone hacking your credit card information, how would you feel about sending the contents of your mind into the cloud?There’s another track, though, on which brain-to-brain communication is being studied. Uri Hasson, a Princeton neuroscientist, uses functional magnetic resonance imaging to research how one brain influences another, how they are coupled in an intricate dance of cues and feedback loops. He is focusing on a communication technique that he considers far superior to EEGs used with transcranial magnetic stimulation, is noninvasive and safe and requires no Internet connection. It is, of course, language.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/why-brain-brain-communication-no-longer-unthinkable-180954948/#y1xADWfAk1VkKIJc.99

Ein Weißfuß-Wieselmaki (Lepilemur leucopus) in seinem Schlafbaum.

Emily loves Justin – Stop global warming – Two more weeks till I graduate!: The exchange of information in public toilets is widespread. It also occurs in the world of white-footed sportive lemurs. Only instead of writing on the walls, they use scent-marks in order to communicate with their own kind.. In a study published online in Springer’s journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Iris Dröscher and Peter Kappeler from the German Primate Center (DPZ) have found that the urine left on latrine trees serves as a method to maintain contact with family members. It also serves as a means to inform an intruder that there is a male that will defend his partner. Latrines thus serve as information exchange centers and promote social bonding in territorial nocturnal animals that do not live in closely-knit groups.

In the animal kingdom, the use of latrines, which serve as specific locations for urination and defecation, is a common occurrence. Because little is known about why primates, in particular, use the same latrines over and over, the researchers set out to investigate this phenomenon among white-footed sportive lemurs (Lepilemur leucopus) in southern Madagascar. Do they hint to others that they want to defend their mate or territory? Or, do they indicate the fertility of the female? Or do they promote exchange of information within a group and support social bonding? To answer these questions, the researchers wanted to establish where such latrines were found, and if they were used differently between seasons and between individuals of different ages and sexes. In the process, Dröscher and Kappeler spent over 1,000 hours watching the toilet habits of 14 radio-collared adult sportive lemurs.

White-footed sportive lemurs are nocturnal tree-dwellers that are found exclusively in southern Madagascar. They live together in families consisting of parents and their offspring. Even though the family members share a common territory, the individuals do not interact much. Neither do pair-partners sleep in the same tree nor do they associate while foraging. But what they have in common are latrines that are located in the core of their territory. All members of the family visit the same latrines for defecation and urination. Dröscher and Kappeler believe the latrines are a way in which to maintain familiarity and social bonding among members of a social unit, who otherwise have very little contact with each other. Such scent signals are picked up from urine that stains the tree trunks rather than feces that accumulate on the ground under the trees.

Males visited the latrines more often during nights when an intruder invaded the territory. In addition, the males placed scent marks from their specialized anogenital glands preferentially in latrines. “This indicates that latrine use in this primate species should also be connected to mate defense,” says Iris Dröscher, a PhD student at the German Primate Center.

“Scent marks transmit a variety of information such as sexual and individual identity and may function to signal an individual’s presence and identity to others,” continues Dröscher. “Latrines therefore serve as information exchange centers of individual-specific information.”

“Especially nocturnal species with limited habitat visibility and low inter-individual cohesion profit from predictable areas for information exchange to facilitate communication,” says Peter Kappeler, head of the Department for Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology at the DPZ. “The white-footed sportive lemur has found these information centers by means of latrine use.”

More information: Dröscher I, Kappeler PM (2014): “Maintenance of familiarity and social bonding via communal latrine use in a solitary primate (Lepilemur leucopus).” Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, DOI: 10.1007/s00265-014-1810-z

http://phys.org/news/2014-10-lemurs-latrines-exchange-centers.html

By Elizabeth Norton

Cultures around the world have long assumed that women are hardwired to be mothers. But a new study suggests that caring for children awakens a parenting network in the brain—even turning on some of the same circuits in men as it does in women. The research implies that the neural underpinnings of the so-called maternal instinct aren’t unique to women, or activated solely by hormones, but can be developed by anyone who chooses to be a parent.

“This is the first study to look at the way dads’ brains change with child care experience,” says Kevin Pelphrey, a neuroscientist at Yale University who was not involved with the study. “What we thought of as a purely maternal circuit can also be turned on just by being a parent—which is neat, given the way our culture is changing with respect to shared responsibility and marriage equality.”

The findings come from an investigation of two types of households in Israel: traditional families consisting of a biological mother and father, in which the mother assumed most of the caregiving duties, though the fathers were very involved; and homosexual male couples, one of whom was the biological father, who’d had the child with the help of surrogate mothers. The two-father couples had taken the babies home shortly after birth and shared caregiving responsibilities equally. All participants in the study were first-time parents.

Researchers led by Ruth Feldman, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, visited with the families in their homes, videotaping each parent with the child and then the parents and children alone. The team, which included collaborators at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel, also took saliva samples from all parents before and after the videotaped sessions to measure oxytocin—a hormone that’s released at times of intimacy and affection and is widely considered the “trust hormone.” Within a week of the home visit, the participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning to determine how their brains reacted to the videotapes of themselves with their infants.

The mothers, their husbands, and the homosexual father-father couples all showed the activation of what the researchers term a “parenting network” that incorporated two linked but separate pathways in the brain. One circuit encompasses evolutionarily ancient structures such as the amygdala, insula, and nucleus accumbens, which handle strong emotions, attention, vigilance, and reward. The other pathway turns up in response to learning and experience and includes parts of the prefrontal cortex and an area called the superior temporal sulcus.

In the mothers, activation was stronger in the amygdala-centered network, whereas the heterosexual fathers showed more activity in the network that’s more experience-dependent. At first glance, Feldman says, the finding would seem to suggest that mothers are more wired up to nurture, protect, and possibly worry about their children. The fathers, in contrast, might have to develop these traits through tending, communicating, and learning from their babies what various sounds mean and what the child needs.

“It’s as if the father’s amygdala can shut off when there’s a woman around,” Feldman observes. It could be assumed, she says, that this circuitry is activated only by the rush of hormones during conception, pregnancy, and childbirth.

But the brains of the homosexual couples, in which each partner was a primary caregiver, told a different story. All of these men showed activity that mirrored that of the mothers, with much higher activation in the amygdala-based network, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This finding argues strongly that the experience of hands-on parenting, with no female mother anywhere in the picture, can configure a caregiver’s brain in the same way that pregnancy and childbirth do, Feldman says.

She adds that in the heterosexual fathers, the activation of the amygdala-based network was proportional to the amount of time they spent with the baby, though the activity wasn’t as high as in the mothers or in the two-father couples.

Feldman does not believe that the brain activity of the primary-caregiving fathers differed because they were gay. Previous imaging studies, she notes, show no difference in brain activation when homosexual and heterosexual participants viewed pictures of their loved ones.

Future studies, Pelphrey says, might focus more closely on this question. “But it’s clear that we’re all born with the circuitry to help us be sensitive caregivers, and the network can be turned up through parenting.”

http://news.sciencemag.org/brain-behavior/2014/05/parenting-rewires-male-brain

Just because you can pre-order something doesn’t mean it’ll be awesome when it’s finally ready. The folks behind the No More Woof dog translator seem to be looking to tamper everyone’s expectations as such, with phrases like “to be completely honest, the first version will be quite rudimentary” and “the more money we raise, the better the chances of creating something truly amazing!”

The No More Woof Indiegogo campaign is looking to raise $10,000; at the time of this writing, the project’s at just over $7,000 with almost two months left to go, so it looks like this is happening.

The technology itself involves a dog-worn headset that senses EEG activity in the dog’s brain, runs the data through a tiny computer, and renders the thought out as words through a speaker. We’re talking simple stuff here like “I’m hungry, I’m tired, I want to go out, SQUIRREL!”

From the looks of it, it’s probably not too much more advanced than what you’re able to glean from your dog already – the dog barks at the door when he wants to go out, barks at his bowl when he wants food, and goes to sleep when he’s tired.

You’ll need to pony up at least $65 to get the lowest-level hardware – “one sensor equipped NMW able to distinguish 2-3 thought patterns, most likely Tiredness, Hunger and Curiosity,” according to the Indiegogo listing. Pay more and you can get versions with better and better features. Fork over a cool $5,000 and you can get the first No More Woof to ship.

Read more: BEHOLD THE FUTURE: Dog Translator Available for Pre-order | TIME.com http://techland.time.com/2013/12/19/behold-the-future-dog-translator-available-for-pre-order/#ixzz2pGGJwmc6

no numbers

The Pirahã are an indigenous people, numbering around 700, living along the banks of the Maici River in the jungle of northwest Brazil. Their language, also called Pirahã, is so unusual in so many ways that it was profiled in 2007 in a 12,000-word piece in the New Yorker by John Colapinto, who wrote:

Unrelated to any other extant tongue, and based on just eight consonants and three vowels, Pirahã has one of the simplest sound systems known. Yet it possesses such a complex array of tones, stresses, and syllable lengths that its speakers can dispense with their vowels and consonants altogether and sing, hum, or whistle conversations.

Among Pirahã’s many peculiarities is an almost complete lack of numeracy, an extremely rare linguistic trait of which there are only a few documented cases. The language contains no words at all for discrete numbers and only three that approximate some notion of quantity—hói, a “small size or amount,” hoí, a “somewhat larger size or amount,” and baágiso, which can mean either to “cause to come together” or “a bunch.”

With no way to express exact integers, the obvious question is: How do the Pirahã count? More pragmatically, how do they ask for two of something instead of just one? The answer—according to some of the more recent research on anumeracy, published by anthropological linguist Caleb Everett in the journal Cognitive Science—suggests, almost inconceivably, that they don’t.

Everett, the son of Christian missionaries turned linguists, lived on and off with the Pirahã during his early childhood. His parents, he told me, speak Pirahã as fluently as any Westerners ever have, though for a non-native speaker to master the language is a near impossibility. A couple of years ago, Everett traveled back to the Pirahã villages to run a few very simple experiments.

For one test, he would lay down on a table a line of evenly spaced items, say batteries, and ask the Pirahã to make a second line just like the first. For another, he would show someone a line of items and then hide it from view. Again, he would ask for a second line just like the first. In both cases, no mistakes were made as long as the lines were just two or three items long. But, as Everett wrote in his paper, “The proportion of correct responses generally drops significantly for numbers exceeding 2 or 3.” This was true for all tasks, including a non-visual test that involved clapping. English speakers, on the other hand, make no errors at all, except when a relatively long line of items, say seven or more, is shown quickly and then hidden. We can only count so fast, after all, but the Pirahã appear not to be counting at all—because, well, how could they? Instead, they’re employing what Everett calls an “analog estimation strategy,” which works well for a few items but breaks down beyond that.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then perhaps the Pirahã never needed numbers, either because precise counting is not culturally valued or because that value has a sufficient, anumeric workaround. Nothing about the Pirahã’s self-contained way of life seems to require quantity recognition over three, says Everett, a fact that’s not lost on outsiders, who sometimes take advantage of them when trading goods. Attempts over the years to teach number words and basic arithmetic to the Pirahã have met with little success, in large part because they’re uninterested. In fact, the Pirahã have a term for all languages not their own; it translates as “crooked head,” which is intended as a “clear pejorative,” as Colapinto points out:

The Pirahã consider all forms of human discourse other than their own to be laughably inferior, and they are unique among Amazonian peoples in remaining monolingual.

In our increasingly data-driven culture, where we reincarnate ourselves more and more as spreadsheets, anumeracy is unthinkable. Many fear, amid the “advanced stats” revolution in all aspects of life, that what it means to be and feel human is forever changing, and not for the better. It’s perhaps comforting to know, then, that while we’re busy charting our heart rate and measuring our intake and poring over the wins above replacement values for our fantasy league, the Pirahã, immune to the relentless tyranny of numbers, will simply enjoy the game.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2013/10/16/piraha_cognitive_anumeracy_in_a_language_without_numbers.html

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.