Recommend: Professor Richard Wolff: The Economics of the Ukraine War

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‘My forefathers did something horribly wrong’: British slave owners’ family to apologise and pay reparations. Article Observer. (Ireland: our Revolution 1916 – 1923: Question: The annuities we refused to pay the British could be said to be reparations?)

The ObserverSlavery

‘My forefathers did something horribly wrong’: British slave owners’ family to apologise and pay reparations

The Trevelyans were shocked to see their name in a slavery database and a journey to Grenada confirmed the continuing impact of their grim history

St George’s in Grenada; the family are hoping they can help the people of the island to improve their lives.

St George’s in Grenada; the family are hoping they can help the people of the island to improve their lives. Photograph: Poelzer Wolfgang/Alamy

Paul Lashmar and Jonathan SmithSat 4 Feb 2023 14.42 GMTLast modified on Sat 4 Feb 2023 18.44 GMT

An aristocratic British family is to make history by travelling to the Caribbean and publicly apologising for its ownership of more than 1,000 enslaved Africans. The Trevelyan family, which has many notable ancestors, is also paying reparations to the people of Grenada, where it owned six sugar plantations.

Last weekend, the family met online and agreed to sign a letter of apology for its enslavement of captive Africans. Forty-two members of the family have so far signed and more signatures are expected.

In 1835, the Trevelyan family received £26,898, a huge sum at the time, in compensation from the British government for the abolition of slavery a year earlier.

The enslaved men, women and children received nothing and were forced to work a further eight years unpaid as “apprentices”.

A £100,000 fund, donated by the New York-based BBC correspondent Laura Trevelyan, will be formally launched in Grenada on 27 February by Sir Hilary Beckles, chair of the Caricom Reparations Commission, and Trevelyan family members. Caricom, or Caribbean Community, is a group of 15 countries in the region.

Nicole Phillip-Dowe, vice-chair of the Grenada National Reparations Commission, said: “It’s absolutely fascinating that I am seeing history being made. It takes a leap of faith for a family to say, ‘my forefathers did something horribly wrong and I think we should take some responsibility for it’. It is commendable that the Trevelyan family has taken this step and I hope it will be followed by others.”

The Trevelyan ancestors’ involvement in slavery “amounts to crimes against humanity” according to John Dower, another family member who has been central to the decision to go public. “We want to lead by example, in the hope that others will follow,” he said.

In 2016 Dower was working on the family history, alongside his relative Humphry Trevelyan. They looked up the Trevelyan name in the University College London slavery database. “What I read shocked me as it listed the ownership of 1,004 slaves over six estates shared by six of my ancestors,” said Dower.

Laura Trevelyan, a BBC correspondent, made a documentary about her family’s past.

Laura Trevelyan, a BBC correspondent, made a documentary about her family’s past. Photograph: David Levenson/Getty Images

“I had no idea. It became apparent that no one living in the family knew about it. It had been expunged from the family history.”

Dower added: “I was more than shocked, I was badly shaken. I was under the impression that I came from a benevolent, public service facing family.”

Dower informed his wider family, including his cousin Laura Trevelyan. She discovered that when her ancestor Louisa Simond had married Sir John Trevelyan, 4th Baronet, in 1757, she brought to the marriage her merchant father’s partnership in sugar cane plantations on Grenada. Another owner was a vicar, the Rev Walter Trevelyan. Like Dower she was very troubled by this legacy.

“If anyone had ‘white privilege’, it was surely me, a descendant of Caribbean slave owners,” she said. “My own social and professional standing nearly 200 years after the abolition of slavery had to be related to my slave-owning ancestors, who used the profits from sugar sales to accumulate wealth and climb up the social ladder.”

Last year she went to Grenada and explored her family’s grim past in a BBC documentary and realised that the years of slavery are still affecting the wellbeing of the people there.

She has since been working on behalf of her family with Beckles to make a significant gesture in recognition of the Trevelyan’s part in slavery. The family had sold most of the plantations by about 1860.

Dower says that a sincere, full, formal apology is the first step in the Caricom 10-point reparation action plan. The family apology states: “We, the undersigned, write to apologise for the actions of our ancestors in holding your ancestors in slavery.

“Slavery was and is unacceptable and repugnant. Its damaging effects continue to the present day. We repudiate our ancestors’ involvement in it.”

The family is also asking the UK to apologise. “We urge the British government to enter into meaningful negotiations with the governments of the Caribbean in order to make appropriate reparations through Caricom and bodies such as the Grenada National Reparations Commission.”

According to the letter, the donation contributes to the setting up of the Reparations Research Fund at the University of the West Indies, to look into the economic impacts of enslavement with a focus on development in Grenada and the eastern Caribbean. “We are working to identify other projects that can support communities in Grenada with the help of the Grenada National Reparations Commission among others,” the letter says.

Dower would also like to see King Charles III apologise for the royal family’s involvement in the slave trade.skip past newsletter promotion

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“Another element of reparation is for our family to use our skills to help the people of Grenada to improve their lives,” he added.

In 1834, to achieve the abolition of slavery, the government needed to compensate 46,000 enslavers for the loss of their “chattels”, or slaves. The Trevelyans were paid £26,898 – the equivalent of about £20m in today’s money – for the “loss” of 1,004 slaves. This compares with the £4,293 12s 6d paid to the ancestors of the MP Richard Drax for the freedom of 189 slaves on their Barbados plantation.

The Trevelyan family owned Wallington Hall, a stately home near Morpeth, but Dower’s great-grandfather, Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, a Labour MP, handed it over to the National Trust in 1943. Laura Trevelyan says it was built with money from the slave plantations.

A wood engraving from 1856 depicting a cocoa plantation on Grenada.

A wood engraving from 1856 depicting a cocoa plantation on Grenada. Photograph: The Granger Collection/Alamy

Other families have apologised for their role in Caribbean slavery, including Alex Renton, author of Blood Legacy, a history of his family’s ownership of enslaved Africans, and they have contributed to social causes in the Caribbean.

The Lascelles family of Harewood House were one of the biggest owners of plantations and enslaved people. They have also apologised and made reparatory payments to communities in the UK.

Never forget that the British political and media elite endorsed slavery. It took radical campaigners to end it

Michael Taylor

Read more

The historian David Olusoga says this decision by the Trevelyan family has to be viewed as part of a wider trend. “While governments stubbornly refuse to engage with growing calls for reparations, restorative justice and the return of looted artefacts across the world there are families, companies, universities, charities and other organisations who are acknowledging their historic links to slavery and empire.”

In November last year, the Observer revealed that Drax had a private meeting with the prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, after her government requested reparations from his family, which still owns the biggest plantation on the island. Negotiations are in process.

Trevor Prescod, chair of the Barbados National Task Force on Reparations, welcomed the Trevelyans’ apology and said this was “an example for Richard Drax”.

“The Trevelyan family accepts the truth and demonstrates a great deal of consciousness into how the wealth was accumulated. They have reached the level of redemption.

“It’s an important symbol of common decency, demonstrating a social conscience and a duty to give something back. I have nothing but respect for them. This is an example for others to follow.”

Comparison: Dublin, we must not forget, was the second City of the British Empire

Let’s explore because we could be owed reparations from Britain and many Irish landlords cold owe money in the West Indies.

When Dev defaulted: the land annuities dispute, 1926–38

Published in 20th Century Social Perspectives, 20th-century / Contemporary History, Devalera & Fianna Fail, Features, Issue 3 (May/June 2011), Volume 19

Taking over the ‘Treaty ports’—Eamon de Valera leads a delegation to Spike Island, 11 July 1938. Following negotiation of the 1938 Anglo-Irish Agreement, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain told Dev that he could go home and ‘make a great deal of the fact that the United Kingdom government had agreed to wipe out the land annuity payments’. (Irish Press)

Taking over the ‘Treaty ports’—Eamon de Valera leads a delegation to Spike Island, 11 July 1938. Following negotiation of the 1938 Anglo-Irish Agreement, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain told Dev that he could go home and ‘make a great deal of the fact that the United Kingdom government had agreed to wipe out the land annuity payments’. (Irish Press)

In the Irish Free State, the land purchase annuities amounted to over £3m per annum, a substantial figure (given that the total revenue intake in the early 1930s was approximately £25m). The average burden of the annuities on the individual farmer was not huge—about 10% of net income—but it was a fixed amount, so the burden increased in difficult times. There had been proposals in the revolutionary period to withhold annuities as a protest strategy—such as during the conscription crisis of 1918, or to offset local government grants withheld by the British government. The consensus, however, was that such a move would damage the embryonic state’s credit rating and hamper ongoing land transfers. It was during a debate on this issue in 1923 that Minister for Home Affairs Kevin O’Higgins made his famous comment about their being ‘the most conservative-minded revolutionaries that ever put through a successful revolution’. The 1920 Government of Ireland Act allowed for the respective governments of Northern and Southern Ireland to retain the annuities; this obviously never came into force in the south, but remained the position in Northern Ireland. Under Article 5 of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, annuities were included as part of what the Irish Free State would pay to service the United Kingdom public debt. In 1923 the Free State government agreed to collect annuities from tenants and pay them into the British land purchase fund. The Boundary Agreement of December 1925 released the Free State from its Treaty obligations to service the UK public debt, but the paying over of annuities continued and in March 1926 the Cumann na nGaedheal government agreed officially with the British that the Irish state would continue to do so.

Peadar O’Donnell (centre)—the crucial figure in the anti-annuities agitation—with the delegation of the recently formed Irish Working Farmers’ Committee (IWFC) at the Congress of Peasants International (Krestintern), Berlin, March 1930.

Peadar O’Donnell (centre)—the crucial figure in the anti-annuities agitation—with the delegation of the recently formed Irish Working Farmers’ Committee (IWFC) at the Congress of Peasants International (Krestintern), Berlin, March 1930.

Peadar O’Donnell and the beginning of grassroots resistance

In the mid-1920s the annuities issue slowly emerged as a source of contention and political mobilisation. Substantial arrears had built up during the Troubles, and the Irish state set about retrieving them in 1925–6. A new law was passed in 1926 giving the Land Commission additional powers to seize animals and goods in lieu of payment; thousands of civil bills were issued, and many farmers feared for their futures. Enter Peadar O’Donnell, the socialist republican agitator, leading member of the IRA and editor of An Phoblacht, who organised a small farmer committee dedicated to organising resistance to the annuities in his native Donegal. He later wrote:

Garda Commissioner Eoin O’Duffy warned of the danger of a ‘red terror’ in the countryside arising from O’Donnell’s annuities agitation. He would later support a non-payment campaign wearing a different hat—and a different shirt. (Cork Examiner)

Garda Commissioner Eoin O’Duffy warned of the danger of a ‘red terror’ in the countryside arising from O’Donnell’s annuities agitation. He would later support a non-payment campaign wearing a different hat—and a different shirt. (Cork Examiner)

‘Here was what [Fintan] Lalor sighed for: a tax directly payable to Britain: a tax devoid of any vestige of moral sanction. Refuse this tax, have the people take their stand on that refusal, and you faced the government with a challenge it could not refuse and a fight it could not win. Republicans could roast the Treaty in the fire from this kindling.’

The agitation spread and committees were organised across the country. Garda Commissioner Eoin O’Duffy—who would later support a non-payment campaign wearing a different hat (and a different shirt)—warned of the danger of a ‘red terror’ in the countryside arising from O’Donnell’s campaign, which elements in the IRA were supporting. The agitation pushed the issue onto the national agenda. During the June 1927 general election campaign Sinn Féin leader J.J. Kelly urged non-payment, while de Valera declared that his newly formed Fianna Fáil would not pay the annuities over to Britain if in power. The characteristic ambiguity (wherein he did not urge non-payment but hinted at retention of the annuities by the Irish state) was an indicator of the divergent views between himself and O’Donnell on the issue. Fianna Fáil, after it came to power in 1932, was warned by the Department of Finance about the danger of scrapping the annuities: abolition would create ‘that insecurity of title that would justify the appropriation of all land by the state . . . and the question of land distribution would certainly arise in a revolutionary form’—something O’Donnell and the Left craved but which Fianna Fáil would never countenance.

On 13 August 1934, c. 3,000 Blueshirts protested in Cork city against cattle seizures resulting from the non-payment of annuities and rates. Marsh’s Yard, where the cattle were being held for sale, was the focus of the protests. Fifteen Blueshirts drove a lorry through the police cordon and the closed yard gate, followed by a small group on foot. Armed Special Branch detectives inside the yard opened fire, injuring six and killing 22-year-old Michael Patrick Lynch from Carrignavar, Co. Cork. Uniformed Gardaí clashed with hundreds more protestors outside the gates. Lynch became a Blueshirt martyr. Thousands of uniformed Blueshirts attended his funeral, where leader Eoin O’Duffy delivered the oration. (Cork Examiner)

On 13 August 1934, c. 3,000 Blueshirts protested in Cork city against cattle seizures resulting from the non-payment of annuities and rates. Marsh’s Yard, where the cattle were being held for sale, was the focus of the protests. Fifteen Blueshirts drove a lorry through the police cordon and the closed yard gate, followed by a small group on foot. Armed Special Branch detectives inside the yard opened fire, injuring six and killing 22-year-old Michael Patrick Lynch from Carrignavar, Co. Cork. Uniformed Gardaí clashed with hundreds more protestors outside the gates. Lynch became a Blueshirt martyr. Thousands of uniformed Blueshirts attended his funeral, where leader Eoin O’Duffy delivered the oration. (Cork Examiner)

Anti-Tribute League: Fianna Fáil moves to the front

Colonel Maurice Moore, a senator who had joined Fianna Fáil, had been speaking out in the Senate about the immorality and illegality of the land annuities and produced a pamphlet, British plunder and Irish blunder. He joined forces with O’Donnell to launch the Anti-Tribute League in early 1928, a key aim being to force Fianna Fáil to embrace the issue. Many of its TDs and councillors came on board, taking effective leadership of the campaign while eschewing its more overtly illegal aspects and the whiff of cordite surrounding it and many of its activists. The campaign focused on county councils, and by the end of 1928 Clare, Galway, Kerry and Leitrim councils had passed resolutions against payment, while the Fianna Fáil árd fheis had come out against the annuities. De Valera’s party was now at the forefront of the opposition. Its position was based on straightforward moral and pragmatic financial arguments from the Moore thesis, bolstered by the opinions of eight legal experts employed to analyse the issue. The arguments were as follows. 1. British landlords had no moral right to the land of Ireland in the first place. In de Valera’s words, the lands to which the annuities related were ‘rewards given in the past to military adventurers from England . . . the British government has found it desirable to convert those land rewards into money, and it was manifestly unfair to ask the citizens of the Irish Free State, from whom the land had been taken, to pay compensation to the persons who had deprived them of it’. 2. The retained monies would be of major benefit to the Irish economy and would fund measures such as agricultural de-rating and land redistribution. 3. The British had no legal right to the annuities, which were a contingent liability for the Irish share of the UK public debt under the Treaty; the removal of this debt obligation under the 1925 Boundary Agreement also removed the annuities payment obligation. In addition, the 1923 and 1926 agreements between the Free State and British governments had not been ratified by the Dáil and thus were not binding. So the payment of £3m a year was a free gift to the British.

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According to Cumann na nGaedheal and the British government, the bulk of the annuities was not part of the UK public debt. Lands purchased under the 1891–1909 acts had been financed by the issue of stock; Irish purchasers repaid these stockholders, and even though the state provided the machinery of collection, payment and guarantee it was not the direct beneficiary. They also maintained that the 1923 and 1926 agreements were binding as it was never specified that they were subject to ratification. With the Great Depression of 1929, the numbers of defaulters rose rapidly. There was also a general radicalisation in Irish politics and a strengthening of the developing republican–communist nexus. O’Donnell was a crucial figure in this and in 1930 helped to form an Irish Working Farmers’ Committee (IWFC) as a branch of Krestintern, the communist Peasant International. The IWFC became a central plank of the IRA’s socialist platform, Saor Éire, formed in 1931. Saor Éire, the IWFC, the IRA and a plethora of other left-wing and republican groups were banned in 1931 amidst a flurry of church condemnation, red scare-mongering and state repression. An unintended beneficiary of the red scare and repression was Fianna Fáil, which swept to power in March 1932.

Annuities retained

The new Fianna Fáil government withheld the general annuities payment, due on 1 July, and retained it in the Irish exchequer. The British responded swiftly with a tax on Irish imports designed to recoup the amount, which in turn provoked Irish tariffs on British imports, and thus began the Economic War. The British offered to put the annuities issue to an arbitration tribunal but insisted that it be made up of British Commonwealth representatives, to which de Valera would not agree. British records show that the cabinet was unsure of its ground and feared that ‘a certain arbitrator might hold that Mr de Valera is right from a purely legal and technical view’. In Ireland, in the meantime, the amount collected was about to be drastically reduced, through government concessions, which saw the annuities payments reduced by 50%, and a new anti-annuities agitation, spearheaded this time from the right rather than the left. Large cattle-farmers (‘the ranchers’ or graziers, the 8% of farmers who owned 50% of the land and who had benefited most from Cumann na nGaedheal’s policies) were hardest hit by the trade war. Part of their response was a campaign of resistance to the payment of annuities, led initially by the National Farmers and Ratepayers Association (Centre Party), which became a constituent part of the new Fine Gael party established in September 1933, along with Cumann na nGaedheal and the fascistic Blueshirts. The latter, led by former Garda Commissioner Eoin O’Duffy, began to reorient themselves as an agrarian protest organisation, mobilising to resist seizures and auctioning of cattle, and attacking those charged with collecting annuities. Subsequent clashes with the Gardaí included the fatal shooting of Michael Lynch in Marsh’s cattle yard in Cork in August 1934. O’Duffy pushed for an annuities and rent strike, but Fine Gael baulked at the idea of advocating illegal action and the radicals lost the initiative; this, combined with the deployment of special Garda units to counter the agitators and the easing of the Economic War from 1935, contributed to the demise of the campaign.

Vindication? The 1938 agreement

In early 1938, de Valera and his officials opened negotiations with London to end the Economic War. De Valera told his British counterparts that ‘if a solution could be found on the basis of making a certain payment, it would have to be made clear that such a payment did not include anything in respect of the land annuity claim’. The British eventually accepted this, and agreed that the Irish would make a one-off £10m payment in respect of the remaining annuities and other payments (amounting in total to approximately £100m). Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain told Dev that he could go home and ‘make a great deal of the fact that the United Kingdom government had agreed to wipe out the Land Annuity payments’. This he did, and the 1938 Anglo-Irish Agreement, which included the return of the ‘Treaty ports’ as well as the resolution of the annuities dispute, was presented, quite plausibly, as a triumph by Fianna Fáil. The settlement represented a ‘victory’ on the annuities, despite the trade war’s negative impact on Ireland’s exports and broader economic fortunes, though this has often been exaggerated. It could be argued that it vindicated de Valera’s bold decision to default—certainly with regard to Fianna Fáil’s political fortunes, if not Ireland’s economic ones. The annuities issue had been a flexible political weapon, wielded at various times by the far left, far right and militant republicans. Ultimately, it was Fianna Fáil that wielded it most successfully, symbolising its broader success over its political opponents on the left and right in these turbulent years of economic depression and political radicalism. HI Donal Ó Drisceoil lectures in the School of History, University College Cork. Further reading: M. Kennedy et al. (eds), Documents on Irish Foreign Policy, Volumes IV and V: 1932–39 (Dublin, 2004 and 2006). D. MacMahon, Republicans and imperialists: Anglo-Irish relations in the 1930s (London and New Haven, 1984). P. O’Donnell, There will be another day (Dublin, 1963). D. Ó Drisceoil, Peadar O’Donnell (Cork, 2001).

…………………….

Legal Opinion: Michael Comyn, Gavin Duffy, Conor Maguire and Geoghegan

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Anxiety. Dr Ramani.

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TBI, stroke, amenesia, dementia: World changing so fast. ChatGBT just Google it. Start a sentence and you have an essay, get a robot and create a painting. Watch this space. Brocas along with amnesia (based on my personal experience) can make conversation, especially mobile calls very difficult and can lead people to lead solitary lives and dependent. This is a really interesting piece from Singularity hub.

AI-Powered Brain Implant Smashes Speed Record for Turning Thoughts Into Text

ByShelly Fan

January 31, 2023

conversation bubble speech to text pink background

We speak at a rate of roughly 160 words every minute. That speed is incredibly difficult to achieve for speech brain implants.

Decades in the making, speech implants use tiny electrode arrays inserted into the brain to measure neural activity, with the goal of transforming thoughts into text or sound. They’re invaluable for people who lose their ability to speak due to paralysis, disease, or other injuries. But they’re also incredibly slow, slashing word count per minute nearly ten-fold. Like a slow-loading web page or audio file, the delay can get frustrating for everyday conversations.

A team led by Drs. Krishna Shenoy and Jaimie Henderson at Stanford University is closing that speed gap.

Published on the preprint server bioRxiv, their study helped a 67-year-old woman restore her ability to communicate with the outside world using brain implants at a record-breaking speed. Known as “T12,” the woman gradually lost her speech from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which progressively robs the brain’s ability to control muscles in the body. T12 could still vocalize sounds when trying to speak—but the words came out unintelligible.

With her implant, T12’s attempts at speech are now decoded in real time as text on a screen and spoken aloud with a computerized voice, including phrases like “it’s just tough,” or “I enjoy them coming.” The words came fast and furious at 62 per minute, over three times the speed of previous records.

It’s not just a need for speed. The study also tapped into the largest vocabulary library used for speech decoding using an implant—at roughly 125,000 words—in a first demonstration on that scale.

To be clear, although it was a “big breakthrough” and reached “impressive new performance benchmarks” according to experts, the study hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed and the results are limited to the one participant.

That said, the underlying technology isn’t limited to ALS. The boost in speech recognition stems from a marriage between RNNs—recurrent neural networks, a machine learning algorithm previously effective at decoding neural signals—and language models. When further tested, the setup could pave the way to enable people with severe paralysis, stroke, or locked-in syndrome to casually chat with their loved ones using just their thoughts.

We’re beginning to “approach the speed of natural conversation,” the authors said.

Loss for Words

The team is no stranger to giving people back their powers of speech.

As part of BrainGate, a pioneering global collaboration for restoring communications using brain implants, the team envisioned—and then realized—the ability to restore communications using neural signals from the brain.

In 2021, they engineered a brain-computer interface (BCI) that helped a person with spinal cord injury and paralysis type with his mind. With a 96 microelectrode array inserted into the motor areas of the patient’s brain, the team was able to decode brain signals for different letters as he imagined the motions for writing each character, achieving a sort of “mindtexting” with over 94 percent accuracy.

The problem? The speed was roughly 90 characters per minute at most. While a large improvement from previous setups, it was still painfully slow for daily use.

So why not tap directly into the speech centers of the brain?

Regardless of language, decoding speech is a nightmare. Small and often subconscious movements of the tongue and surrounding muscles can trigger vastly different clusters of sounds—also known as phonemes. Trying to link the brain activity of every single twitch of a facial muscle or flicker of the tongue to a sound is a herculean task.

Hacking Speech

The new study, a part of the BrainGate2 Neural Interface System trial, used a clever workaround.

The team first placed four strategically located electrode microarrays into the outer layer of T12’s brain. Two were inserted into areas that control movements around the mouth’s surrounding facial muscles. The other two tapped straight into the brain’s “language center,” which is called Broca’s area.

In theory, the placement was a genius two-in-one: it captured both what the person wanted to say, and the actual execution of speech through muscle movements.

But it was also a risky proposition: we don’t yet know whether speech is limited to just a small brain area that controls muscles around the mouth and face, or if language is encoded at a more global scale inside the brain.

Enter RNNs. A type of deep learning, the algorithm has previously translated neural signals from the motor areas of the brain into text. In a first test, the team found that it easily separated different types of facial movements for speech—say, furrowing the brows, puckering the lips, or flicking the tongue—based on neural signals alone with over 92 percent accuracy.

The RNN was then taught to suggest phonemes in real time—for example, “huh,” “ah,” and “tze.” Phenomes help distinguish one word from another; in essence, they’re the basic element of speech.

The training took work: every day, T12 attempted to speak between 260 and 480 sentences at her own pace to teach the algorithm the particular neural activity underlying her speech patterns. Overall, the RNN was trained on nearly 11,000 sentences.

Having a decoder for her mind, the team linked the RNN interface with two language models. One had an especially large vocabulary at 125,000 words. The other was a smaller library with 50 words that’s used for simple sentences in everyday life.

After five days of attempted speaking, both language models could decode T12’s words. The system had errors: around 10 percent for the small library and nearly 24 percent for the larger one. Yet when asked to repeat sentence prompts on a screen, the system readily translated her neural activity into sentences three times faster than previous models.

The implant worked regardless if she attempted to speak or if she just mouthed the sentences silently (she preferred the latter, as it required less energy).

Analyzing T12’s neural signals, the team found that certain regions of the brain retained neural signaling patterns to encode for vowels and other phonemes. In other words, even after years of speech paralysis, the brain still maintains a “detailed articulatory code”—that is, a dictionary of phonemes embedded inside neural signals—that can be decoded using brain implants.

Speak Your Mind

The study builds upon many others that use a brain implant to restore speech, often decades after severe injuries or slowly-spreading paralysis from neurodegenerative disorders. The hardware is well known: the Blackrock microelectrode array, consisting of 64 channels to listen in on the brain’s electrical signals.

What’s different is how it operates; that is, how the software transforms noisy neural chatter into cohesive meanings or intentions. Previous models mostly relied on decoding data directly obtained from neural recordings from the brain.

Here, the team tapped into a new resource: language models, or AI algorithms similar to the autocomplete function now widely available for Gmail or texting. The technological tag-team is especially promising with the rise of GPT-3 and other emerging large language models. Excellent at generating speech patterns from simple prompts, the tech—when combined with the patient’s own neural signals—could potentially “autocomplete” their thoughts without the need for hours of training.

The prospect, while alluring, comes with a side of caution. GPT-3 and similar AI models can generate convincing speech on their own based on previous training data. For a person with paralysis who’s unable to speak, we would need guardrails as the AI generates what the person is trying to say.

The authors agree that, for now, their work is a proof of concept. While promising, it’s “not yet a complete, clinically viable system,” for decoding speech. For one, they said, we need to train the decoder with less time and make it more flexible, letting it adapt to ever-changing brain activity. For another, the error rate of roughly 24 percent is far too high for everyday use—although increasing the number of implant channels could boost accuracy.

But for now, it moves us closer to the ultimate goal of “restoring rapid communications to people with paralysis who can no longer speak,” the authors said.

Image Credit: Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pixabay

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“Hitlerean” and Despot Putin. 60 million people died in World War II. This piece published today by DW warns us about what can happen. Article: people with mental illness and how Hitler’s administration tried to cancel them

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2800142/

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Mental illness: through the years I have believed that one of the most effective ways of coping with mood disorder is to strive through bibliography, Dr Google, the mentors we choose but available via youtube. One man I was drawn to and followed his quotes, at a time when anxiety consumed by being initiating depressions so intrusive, only shattered by ECT at one time. Only today, I have re-activated his name and checked out his quotations and then gone further. I am over-awed. Evidently those quotations which because of amnesia due to TBI I cannot hold in my mind. This led to many quotations being typed out over the decades as one can see from my WordPress blog. A random choice looking for some hope and youtube has opened up a doorway of consolation and curiosity. This man, William James, is a man I would ask anyone with mental health issues to become aware of and engage with, despite the fact he was born in 1842. It is my belief that people, especially children, adolescents must be watched over because of the impact of Covid-19, the fixation with ecocide and now War in Europe with a threat of the use of nuclear weapons. I encourage a journey especially for those neglected by our cinderella psychiatric/psychology services, with half the budget allocated by other countries. This becomes your personal journey. A good place to start is to listen to this gentle voice man tell the story of William James life.

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Gratitude list … simply can change your thoughts.

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“Knowledge is no load”. We read of catastrophic numbers of young people in Ireland facing mental illness. Being diagnosed bipolar with anxiety manisfesting in many ways including social anxiety disorder accentuated by traumatic brain injury, I recommend a path forward. Attending lectures 20 years ago at St. Patrick’s Foundation; lectures at Trinity College Dublin; counselling CBT, I have found bibliotherapy beneficial but now we have access to people like Dr Jordan Peterson, who is controversial, but his acumen speaks volumes.

10,056,870 views Sep 28, 2022 Clinical psychologist and public intellectual Dr Jordan Peterson has sat down with Sky News Australia host Piers Morgan for an insightful and emotional interview discussing his work, free speech and the world today.

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Traumatic brain injury; stroke, poor memory, other medical conditions affecting the brain, this is a little gem for people in rehabilitation, recovery to benchmark their engagement with lifelong learning. Speech therapy after a TBI introduced techniques to assist memory. I used to watch TV and write notes, especially politics, notes in my day journal; it helped. 30 years on I have too many notebooks but the brain must be kept active; it is too easy to lean into dementia post TBI and we all have choices to make.

Pocket worthyStories to fuel your mind

Train Your Brain to Remember Anything You Learn With This Simple, 20-Minute Habit

This 100-year-old method has been making the rounds again—it’s worth getting around to.

Inc.

  • Scott Mautz

Read when you’ve got time to spare.

abstract illustration in the silhouette of a person

Photo by Getty Images

Not too long ago, a colleague and I were lamenting the process of growing older and the inevitable increasing difficulty of remembering things we want to remember. That becomes particularly annoying when you attend a conference or a learning seminar and find yourself forgetting the entire session just days later.

But then my colleague told me about the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, a 100-year-old formula developed by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, who pioneered the experimental study of memory. The psychologist’s work has resurfaced and has been making its way around college campuses as a tool to help students remember lecture material. For example, the University of Waterloo explains the curve and how to use it on the Campus Wellness website. I teach at Indiana University and a student mentioned it to me in class as a study aid he uses. Intrigued, I tried it out too–more on that in a moment.

The Forgetting Curve describes how we retain or lose information that we take in, using a one-hour lecture as the basis of the model. The curve is at its highest point (the most information retained) right after the one-hour lecture. One day after the lecture, if you’ve done nothing with the material, you’ll have lost between 50 and 80 percent of it from your memory.

By day seven, that erodes to about 10 percent retained, and by day 30, the information is virtually gone (only 2-3 percent retained). After this, without any intervention, you’ll likely need to relearn the material from scratch.

Sounds about right from my experience.

But here comes the amazing part–how easily you can train your brain to reverse the curve.


With just 20 minutes of work, you’ll retain almost all of what you learned.

This is possible through the practice of what’s called spaced intervals, where you revisit and reprocess the same material, but in a very specific pattern. Doing so means it takes you less and less time to retrieve the information from your long-term memory when you need it. Here’s where the 20 minutes and very specifically spaced intervals come in.

Ebbinghaus’s formula calls for you to spend 10 minutes reviewing the material within 24 hours of having received it (that will raise the curve back up to almost 100 percent retained again). Seven days later, spend five minutes to “reactivate” the same material and raise the curve up again. By day 30, your brain needs only two to four minutes to completely “reactivate” the same material, again raising the curve back up.

Thus, a total of 20 minutes invested in review at specific intervals and, voila, a month later you have fantastic retention of that interesting seminar. After that, monthly brush-ups of just a few minutes will help you keep the material fresh.


Here’s what happened when I tried it.

I put the specific formula to the test. I keynoted at a conference and was also able to take in two other one-hour keynotes at the conference. For one of the keynotes, I took no notes, and sure enough, just shy of a month later I can barely remember any of it.

For the second keynote, I took copious notes and followed the spaced interval formula. A month later, by golly, I remember virtually all of the material. And in case if you’re wondering, both talks were equally interesting to me–the difference was the reversal of Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve.

So the bottom line here is if you want to remember what you learned from an interesting seminar or session, don’t take a “cram for the exam” approach when you want to use the info. That might have worked in college (although Waterloo University specifically advises against cramming, encouraging students to follow the aforementioned approach). Instead, invest the 20 minutes (in spaced-out intervals), so that a month later it’s all still there in the old noggin.

Now that approach is really using your head.

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ChatGPT is changing education, AI experts say — but how?Alarm bells for Google. Source: DW

SCIENCEGLOBAL ISSUESChatGPT is changing education, AI experts say — but how?Lukas Stock8 hours ago

Experts say artificial intelligence chatbots like ChatGPT are changing the way students are taught and study. These “language model” AIs can write flawless-looking academic essays. Is it a threat or opportunity, or both?

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When Doris Wessels logged into ChatGPT for the first time, it was a “magical moment,” she told DW. That’s coming from a professor of business informatics who has researched artificial intelligence (AI) and its effects on education for years.It was only a few days after ChatGPT, an AI-powered chatbot, had been released to the public on November 30, 2022, by a company called OpenAI.Anyone can interact with ChatGPT via an internet browser. You type in questions or commands and ChatGPT responds (to almost anything). Within five days of its release, 1 million people had signed up to use it.The claim is that ChatGPT can explain, program and argue with humanlike efficiency.Wessels, who is based at Kiel University of Applied Sciences, is amazed by the technology. “It’s like entering another world,” she said.Mike Sharples, an emeritus professor at the Open University in the United Kingdom, has seen a few such “major breakthroughs” during his 40–year career in artificial intelligence — including a precursor to ChatGPT called GPT-3.Sharples warns that “GPT democratizes plagiarism.” Some students have been open about using the technology to help them write essays in perfect academic language. It’s like free ghostwriting for everyone, but there are examples that show ChatGPT’s responses can be factually incorrect.

Is ChatGPT a threat to university education?

ChatGPT can be used to write research papers. Sharples had the AI generate a scientific article that he said “could pass a first academic review.”This worries Wessels, who said universities were in danger of being left behind. On the one hand, there’s the software industry, which is developing ever-more-powerful AI systems. And, on the other hand, there are the students, who are learning how to use AI in education faster than their teachers can keep up with the developments.Students often learn about new AI technology rapidly in real time via social media and are keen to try new methods, while some academic staff and professors may be slower on the uptake, or set in their ways.Wessels sees a “possible horror scenario” in which unsuspecting professors might think that they have done an excellent job of teaching if all their students submit error-free assignments — when, in fact, it’s all down to ChatGPT or a similar system.

Too little data to assess the threat from ChatGPT

Debarka Sengupta, an AI expert based in New Delhi, has similar concerns.”Everyone in India knows about ChatGPT,” said Sengupta, who leads the Infosys Centre for Artificial Intelligence at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.Sengupta worries that academic standards could suffer if students start to depend on the technology. If they stop learning how to write essays themselves and use ChatGPT instead, Sengupta said, they could become “extremely incompetent and addicted.”But there is still far too little data to support such fears — ChatGPT has only been out for two months.Sengupta said “plagiarism and cheating have always existed,” and students’ motivation to learn should not be underestimated. Sharples added: “Students go to university to learn, not to cheat.” 

How AI chatbots can help students

Bernadette Mathew is one of Sengupta’s students, and she is researching cancer growth for a PhD in biology.Mathew’s experiments generate large amounts of data that need to be analyzed, but that can’t be done by hand. So she has been learning how to code to help her use computers to automate and speed up the process of analyzing the data — but learning to code left her struggling to keep up with her research.Sengupta heard about Mathew’s difficulties and introduced her to ChatGPT, and Mathew has found it to be a big help.The chatbot explains what she doesn’t understand about coding, it finds errors in her own coding, and sometimes Mathew lets it code for her.Mathew said it works in “99%” of the time. The best part, she said, is that ChatGPT doesn’t just do her work, but helps her to understand coding. The AI makes her feel “empowered” to work independently, Mathew said. “Chatting with ChatGPT is like chatting with a real person,” Mathew added. “If I had known this earlier, I could have saved myself so much time and work.”Mathew said these chatbots would “revolutionize” the work of experimental biologists, allowing the researchers to focus on their research, rather than on having to learn how to code.Wessels said ChatGPT could also help students in other areas. It can prompt them to write the difficult first words or first paragraph of an essay, for example, to get them past their “fear of the blank page.” 

Think of ChatGPT as the calculator in math

Daniel Lametti, a Canadian psycholinguist at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, said ChatGPT would do for academic texts what the calculator did for mathematics.Calculators changed how mathematics were taught. Before calculators, often all that mattered was the end result: the solution. But, when calculators came, it became important to show how you had solved the problem — your method.Some experts have suggested that a similar thing could happen with academic essays, where they are no longer only evaluated on what they say but also on how students edit and improve a text generated by an AI — their method.

Artificial intelligence is not all-intelligent

ChatGPT does not understand the essays it writes — it does not understand the meaning of the language. Like a parrot in a professor’s office that listens to conversations and “parrots them,” an AI chatbot merely processes and presents the language and facts that it has been fed. And that can lead to problems.There are examples of ChatGPT texts in which the language reads as though it was written by an expert — but the text is factually incorrect.So, as with other AI technologies, humans are still required to review and correct AI-generated texts. That editing is often complicated and requires real knowledge of a subject, and that could be graded at universities in the future.The experts DW spoke with said the technology is not going away. Adapting to ChatGPT will be a challenge for teaching, they said, but it can also be an opportunity for universities to get better at educating and teaching.And, Sengupta said, tech-savvy India will be particularly quick at making use of the opportunities that AI presents.The article was originally written in German.

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Neuroscience Explains Why Video Calls Are So Exhausting…Sometimes called “Virtual Fatigue”: Article from Psychiatrist.com

Neuroscience Explains Why Video Calls Are So Exhausting

by STAFF WRITER JANUARY 18, 2023 AT 10:25 AM UTC

Video chats are harder on the brain.

Clinical Relevance: Virtual communication has its place, but meeting face-to-face is easier on your brain and helps foster communication

  • A new study used electroencephalogram to measure brain activity in mothers and their children during in-person and virtual chats.
  • The experiment captured nine key “cross brain links” between the pairs when they were in the same room but only one link during the technological exchange.
  • This suggests that virtual interactions eliminate the rich right-to-right brain linkage making it harder to connect emotionally or pick up on social cues.
  • Over-reliance on tech-based communication has particularly worrisome implications for developing brains and deserves further study.

If you’ve experienced “Zoom fatigue” after a long string of virtual calls, it may be because your brain has been forced into overdrive, a new study suggests.

Montreal investigators found that when conversations take place through a screen versus face to face, our brains work a lot harder to make a connection with others. It renders communication less effective and requires greater focus and concentration, the researchers said. 

To test this theory from a two-brain perspective, the researchers used an electroencephalogram to measure the electrical activity in the brain between 62 mothers and their child (ranging in age from 10 to 14) as they chatted first in person and then by remote video. They used a specialized technique known as hyperscanning, which simultaneously records the brain activity in multiple subjects.

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When they were in the same room, the brains of the moms and kids were in sync; the researchers measured nine key “cross brain links” between them. But during the virtual chat, only one link between the pairs was observed. Notably, the single brain link between mother and child that occurred during the video-chat communication lit up the mother’s right frontal region and the child’s left temporal region. 

“Remote interaction, therefore, eliminates the rich right-to-right brain linkage repeatedly found during naturalistic cross-brain studies that are theorized to transmit the partners’ non-verbal social cues and affective states,” the researchers wrote in the open access journal, NeuroImage

Simply put, video chatting makes it more challenging to pick up on many of the non-verbal signals like eye contact and facial expressions we rely on to understand how another person is feeling. This, in turn, can diminish empathy and other emotional connections that come naturally when conversing in real life. 

“It’s the saying of being on the same wavelength,” lead researcher Guillaume Dumas, of the Université de Montréal and Sainte-Justine Children’s Hospital, told the Canadian Press, adding that what’s clear from the study is that certain cross-brain connections are missing when people talk through video conferencing software.

The researchers admit that they can’t say for sure whether brain overload and the more limited inter-brain connections during remote interactions are the entire cause of Zoom fatigue or “virtual fatigue,”  as it’s sometimes called. Delayed social feedback, people turning off their video and audio, tech fails, and poor posture probably also make a contribution to that wrung out feeling many people report after a long day of slogging through virtual calls.

But it certainly raises some red flags for how developing young brains might be changed when exposed to more Facetime and less face-to-face time, the researchers warned.

Although tech savvy, “adolescents and young adults who use technology daily are still experiencing severe hardships in adjusting to Zoom chats and remote communication,” the researchers wrote. “We need to understand the cross-brain consequences of technological communication at different stages of child development and with different familiar and unfamiliar partners.”

For example, previous research reported a severe reduction in academic skills that are gained during a typical school year of junior or senior high school as compared to a year of the COVID-19 pandemic when learning took place remotely via technology. Most college undergraduates rated online learning “somewhat difficult” to “extremely difficult.” 

There are also broader implications to consider such as how remote communication impacts parenting, falling in love, couple relationships, social communities, self-identity, and resilience the researchers pointed out. Experiencing the bulk of social interaction through a screen might also lead to a rise in cyberbullying, spurred on by a lack of understanding for the consequences, they added. 

“People who would not have acted (in person) have much less difficulty engaging in toxic behavior online,” Dumas said.

The paper concluded that there needs to be more research to fully understand the impact of technological encounters on the brain, especially its effects on neural maturation. “This has critical implications for the future,” they wrote.

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