Virtual Brains, Virtual Currencies, Real Revolutions

In collaboration with Exponential Finance


Your Brain in the Cloud: Access the Internet Directly with Your Mind

What if we could reverse-engineer the pattern-recognition units of our brains? Technologist and futurist Ray Kurzweil sees this as an imminent possibility, which would enable us to build virtual, cloud-based extensions of our minds with exponentially greater ability to organize and analyze information.


Ray Kurzweil is one of many ahead-of-the-curve speakers at 2015’s Exponential Finance conference, June 2-3 in New York City. Co-produced by Singularity University and CNBC, Exponential Finance provides insight into new technologies that leaders need to understand in order to make the most of the accelerating change happening across business sectors.

Peter Diamandis on How to Become a Billionaire

Exponential technologies are rapidly shifting the way we live and do business, says Singularity University's Peter Diamandis. Those who learn to take advantage of them are sure to ride the wave to extraordinary success.

Peter Diamandis is one of many ahead-of-the-curve speakers at 2015’s Exponential Finance conference, June 2-3 in New York City. Co-produced by Singularity University and CNBC, Exponential Finance provides insight into new technologies that leaders need to understand in order to make the most of the accelerating change happening across business sectors.


Brad Templeton: How Bitcoin Disrupts the Finance Industry

Should you invest in Bitcoin? Maybe not, says Brad Templeton, but that doesn't mean the digital currency isn't amazing in and of itself. Templeton explains what Bitcoin achieves and how it's set to spur further innovation.

Brad Templeton is one of many ahead-of-the-curve speakers at 2015’s Exponential Finance conference, June 2-3 in New York City. Co-produced by Singularity University and CNBC, Exponential Finance provides insight into new technologies that leaders need to understand in order to make the most of the accelerating change happening across business sectors.

Ray Kurzweil: Can You Read 100 Million Web Pages in a Few Seconds? Your Robot Assistant Will.

Comprehension is the human genius. But in a world where computers can process all of human history in a flash, that genius can be scaled. What possible industries would this eliminate risk from? Could scaled comprehension reliably create new business opportunities, each more efficient and profitable than the last?


We are talking about something more than augmenting human abilities with machine efficiency and power. We are talking about creating something that's simply more human: more capable of creativity, of understanding, of love, and of courage.

Ray Kurzweil is one of many ahead-of-the-curve speakers at 2015’s Exponential Finance conference, June 2-3 in New York City. Co-produced by Singularity University and CNBC, Exponential Finance provides insight into new technologies that leaders need to understand in order to make the most of the accelerating change happening across business sectors.

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Dissatisfaction with democracy in developed nations is at a record high.


Since 1995, the University of Cambridge's Centre for the Future of Democracy has gauged people's views on democracy. Their most recent report, spanning 154 nations, reveals some of the highest levels of discontent since records began.

  • Dissatisfaction with democracy is at its highest since records began.
  • United States and Brazil show the highest levels of dissatisfaction.
  • Small, high-income nations eg. Luxembourg, Denmark have lowest levels.
  • Dissatisfaction often linked to economic shocks and scandals.

"We find that dissatisfaction with democracy has risen over time and is reaching an all-time global high, in particular in developed countries," said the report's author, Dr Roberto Foa.


Global democratic malaise

In the mid-nineties, countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia seemed to be relatively satisfied with their democracies. Since then, the proportion of people expressing dissatisfaction has risen from 47.9% to 57.5%.

Some of the world's largest democratic countries, such as the United States and Brazil, are experiencing the highest levels of dissatisfaction, with Mexico, Australia and the United Kingdom seeing their highest level of dissatisfaction on record. Japan, Greece and Spain are also inching closer to all-time highs.

'Islands of contentment'

However, not all hope is lost. People in some countries – primarily small, high-income democracies like Denmark, Switzerland and Norway – are showing great confidence in their democratic institutions. These countries form part of the so-called "Island of Contentment" – a small subset of nations, accounting for just 2% of the world's population, where less than a quarter of the citizenry express dissatisfaction with democracy.

Shock and awe

While the report demonstrates a marked increase in dissatisfaction, it doesn't conclude why. However, 25 years of data does point to a correlation between levels of dissatisfaction and large-scale events such as economic shocks and political scandals.

Global Satisfaction With Democracy 2020\u200b

Rising dissatisfaction in democracies representing 2.43 billion individuals.

Image: Global Satisfaction With Democracy 2020

Events leading up to the current all-time high include the start of the refugee crisis in Europe, Brexit, and the elections of Donald Trump in the United States and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.

The future of democracy?

Voters falling out of love with democracy was one of the talking points at this year's World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.

In the Davos session Democratic Capitalism: Dead End or Shared Destiny? participants discussed the way forward for capitalist democracies.

Reprinted with permission of the World Economic Forum. Read the original article.

  • Approximately $68 trillion will pass from boomers to millennials over the next few decades in what's known as the Great Wealth Transfer.
  • 90% of family wealth is gone by the time the third generation comes around, primarily due to familial conflict.
  • Social capital advisor Richard Tafel suggests 4 steps families should follow so they transfer wealth in a way that does the most amount of social good.


The U.S. is going through the largest transfer of wealth in history. The question for many ultra-high net worth individuals (HNI) is how to make the passing on of wealth purposeful and impactful.

Many of us who weren't raised in wealth believe that if we just had "more," all would be well. But having worked with many wealthy families and foundations in my career, I've discovered that wealth brings its own set of challenges. Knowing how to pass wealth down properly is one of them.

The time to do this right has never been better. America's high net worth individuals are experiencing two dramatic trends. First, they are part of what is often referred to as the "Great Wealth Transfer," with approximately $68 trillion estimated to pass from boomers to millennials over the next few decades.

Second, the generational transfer of wealth often doesn't go well. In fact, one recent U.S. Trust survey showed that 90% of family wealth is gone by the time the third generation comes around. The primary reason is familial conflict.

Added to the stress of getting this right, as most wealthy parents are well aware, is the damage large sums of money can have on their children's ability to craft their own lives and break out of their parents' shadow. U.S. Trust Company, Insights on Wealth and Worth, reported that more than 50% of all wealthy parents are not confident their children will be prepared to handle a financial inheritance.

To further complicate this transfer moment, the generations have differing views on "doing good." Many in the older generation feel a responsibility to give back to society through philanthropy, often a family foundation, while most young inheritors I've worked with are much more interested in for-profit social ventures or a hybrid for-profit/non-profit model.

Passing on wealth appears simple, but doing it correctly requires quite a bit of work.

Common questions raised by HNIs about passing on their inheritance include:

  • How do I preserve the family legacy for multiple generations?
  • How do I accomplish this without damaging the next generation?
  • How do I accomplish while providing the greatest social impact for good?

Based on my experience as an advisor to high net worth families, I suggest four steps toward accomplishing these goals.

1. Remove the secrecy, establish transparency

A golden key in a door. Key with money symbol.

Photo: Shutterstock

Addressing the secrecy around money in families is an important first step.

In my first job after graduating from divinity school, I served on the staff of Memorial Church at Harvard. Part of my job required me to meet some of the best-known wealthy families in America and ask their support for our annual appeal. What struck me the most at these meetings was the families' trepidation about giving money away because they were not sure how long their funds would last. They explained that there was secrecy within the family around their inherited money, which left them with a lack of clarity about their own philanthropy.

Secrecy breeds fear in these situations. HNIs often underestimate the effects of secrecy and the ability of their inheritors to see the big picture. One solution is to begin an open dialog facilitated by a dispassionate professional coach. As an outsider, a coach is in an ideal position to interview all of the stakeholders about their values, hopes, and fears, and to bring everyone together, in person, if possible.

The meeting should include a candid conversation about the extent and current status of the family's assets, as well as an honest discussion around the family's values. A trusted advisor such as a CPA, attorney or wealth manager can be helpful in providing factual information and historical background, if appropriate.

Having worked with hundreds of clients in these situations, I've discovered a pattern; we all share some pretty common values, including variations on family, love, creativity, honesty, faith, health, truth, knowledge, and economic security. Finding out individual values ahead of the family meeting can help move everyone toward an articulation of the family's values together. A question can set the stage for a productive outcome: What legacy do we as a family want to pass on? What are our family values that will guide those decisions? What tangible steps can we take to make sure our decisions reflect our values?

This is also a great time for a good facilitator to help uncover fears. Underlying wealth transfer are deep emotions. For example, the younger generation that inherits the wealth often experiences shame at not having created it. This can lead to impostor syndrome: Parents imposing their values on their children without necessarily listening to their children's thoughts and values. That, coupled with subtle threats of disinheritance, can lead to harmful results. Many inheritors fear that they'll be cut out of the family legacy if they don't go along. Inheritors sometimes share fears that they won't know how to manage the inheritance. Using an unbiased facilitator or coach can be helpful here.

2. Making the legacy real

Using the facilitated time to discuss the family's legacy goals can have a profound social impact. Considerations include understanding the difference between charitable giving and social-impact investing; tax consequences of giving; and the pluses and minuses of various charitable vehicles.

Discuss the structures you will put in place to achieve your goal. For example: How will you identify worthwhile social ventures to donate to or invest in? Do you want to be solicited directly by prospective non-profit beneficiaries? Do you have a family foundation, or will social-impact investing be accomplished in another way? In my experience, more inheritors want to roll up their sleeves and have more of a personal impact in ways their parents did not. Writing out a well-conceived plan helps bring clarity to the family's goals and objectives. That includes deciding how much of your investment will be used to build the infrastructure needed to help the organizations that you support succeed. What budget is necessary to make the legacy dream a reality?

Having an impact means more than giving away money. It means being very strategic about how, what, and where you give.

3. Selecting the Right Vehicle

A coin or money passing between two hands. Giving a coin. Taking a coin.

Photo: Shutterstock

With transparency achieved, values agreed upon, and strategy for the legacy impact determined, it is time to decide on the appropriate vehicle. It is important to consult with experienced advisors who are well-versed in philanthropy at this stage. Relying on poorly informed or strategically unprepared counsel can and most likely will cause more harm than good and can be very costly to the family legacy.

Your advisors should have deep expertise in the philanthropic arena, including social-impact investing, from both the wealth transfer and non-profit beneficiary perspectives. Far too often, well-intentioned plans are not properly executed. Errors can result in misdirected and/or depleted philanthropic resources, leaving the family legacy in disarray.

An experienced consultant should be able to quickly explain the difference between a private and a public foundation. They can help you develop and articulate your mission and align that mission with your strategy. They can assist with identifying organizations to get involved with and help determine the right ones where you should become part of the board and which ones you should volunteer at, as well as help you determine how much should be given to any one organization.

Hybrid organizations that combine charitable giving with social-impact investing often bridge the generational divide. This requires getting the proper structures built early. Families that seek to cut corners in the beginning stages are often frustrated by failed structures later. As someone who has done this work for many years, I'm often humbled working with accountants and lawyers in the field who continue to educate me on the possibilities and the power of getting it right in the beginning.

4. Join or create a network of peers

In addition to accountants, wealth advisors and attorneys, it is well worth the family's time and money to join networks of other high net worth individuals, where they can meet their peers and learn from them. Organizations such as Nexus (next-generation philanthropy) and the Family Office Association of America (which offers specific workshops in intergenerational wealth transfer) are two good examples, but there are many more, and some might be local to you.

I have found that dealing with families in helping shape their philanthropic and social-impact investing goals is greatly rewarding work. It allows me to get beyond the transactional relationships and build trust with my clients and their other advisors.

The most critical message for those passing down wealth is to remember that you are passing down more than just wealth. You are passing down your values.

The great wealth transfer taking place is a tremendous opportunity to make significant changes for good in our world. Following these guidelines can help move you and your family toward a true legacy with a real impact for good.

Richard Tafel is director of Marcum Social Capital Advisors, a division of Raffa-Marcum's Nonprofit & Social Impact Group. He can be reached at richard.tafel@marcumllp.com.

Marcum LLP is one of the largest independent accounting and advisory firms in the U.S., with offices in major business markets across the country and select international locations. For more information, visit marcumllp.com.
  • Project Blitz, a coalition of Christian right groups founded by former Republican congressman, Randy Forbes, began as a way to introduce pro-Christian legislation.
  • Bills include faith-based adoption discrimination and mandating that public schools use "In God We Trust" on signage.
  • This year, 226 pieces of anti-transgender legislation, many backed by The Blitz, have been introduced.

In 1861, Reverend M.R. Watkinson pleaded with U.S. Secretary of the Treasure, Salmon Chase, to mint American money with the term, "In God We Trust." The Pennsylvania minister believed that America's separation of church and state was a disgrace. Three years later, all two-cent bronze pieces bore the slogan; other coins soon followed.

Ninety years later, President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon helped add "under God" to Francis Bellamy's 1892 secular tribute, the Pledge of Allegiance. Congress officially adopted the pledge in 1942. A dozen years later, on Flag Day, the accolade to a higher power was added. That same year the phrase, "In God We Trust," was first printed on U.S. postage stamps. In 1955 the term was added to paper money; a year later it became the nation's first official motto.

Although the First Amendment calls for the separation of church and state, the Eisenhower administration pushed hard to ensure that God was at the forefront of government transmissions. While every clause of the First Amendment has been challenged in some capacity, nothing has created as much longstanding tension and debate as religion. To this day, many Americans believe that we live in a Christian nation—that such a reality should be as obvious as Judaism in Israel.

One of the latest groups to push this agenda is Project Blitz, a coalition of Christian right groups founded by former Republican congressman, Randy Forbes. The Virginia representative served from 2001-17 in the state's 4th congressional district, having spent the previous term in the Virginia Senate. He's also served as Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and founded the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (CPCF), a group that claims to have a network of 950 state legislators in 38 states.

Project Blitz is, first and foremost, political. The group specifically creates legislation that, according to Mr. Forbes, "protect the free exercise of traditional Judeo-Christian religious values and beliefs in the public square, and to reclaim and properly define the narrative which supports such beliefs."

In 2018, 70 Blitz-backed bills were considered in state legislatures; 25 were introduced. These bills include refusing adoption to adults based on faith and mandating that public schools include "In God We Trust" on signage, as well as teach from the Bible. There are also anti-LGBT measures on tap—226 this year alone. One tactic favored by the Blitz is to brand opponents of their legislation as being against the freedom of religion.

On its website, CPCF has a series of toolkits that offer guidance to help "advance a God-honoring culture in our communities and nation." The goal is to identify the political landscapes of states by pinpointing "anti-faith" and "pro-faith" groups in various districts. The Blitz can then focus on districts susceptible to its agenda.

Frederick Carlson works as a senior research analyst at a think tank that studies right-leaning political groups. He expresses consternation over the fact that a political organization brazenly announces its intentions in plain sight, referencing the founding document of CPCF.

"It's very rare that you come across a major primary source document that changes the way you view everything, and this is one of those times. This is a 116-page strategy manual hidden away on a website explaining at least what a section of the religious right are doing in the United States. To me that's astounding."

Rep. Steve King and Rep. Randy Forbes

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, left, and Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., talk before the start of the House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the United States Department of Homeland Security" on Thursday, May 29, 2014.

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

The Blitz's signature tactic, according to Rachel Laser, the president of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, is to start small with signage in public places. Ascending levels of religiosity follow, such as denying homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexuals. The ultimate goal, she says, is to codify Christian principles into the American government.

The First Amendment, Laser continues, does not allow you to play favorites. You cannot favor the agendas of a particular religion over others. That goes directly against the separation of church and state.

The Blitz has no intention of slowing down. The current administration appears particularly willing to cater to bills being pushed forward by CPCF and related organizations. For example, right now there are nine Blitz-backed bills being considered in Iowa. These include putting mottos like "In God We Trust" and "endowed by their Creator" in every public school throughout the state. Meanwhile, Blitz-backed anti-transgender proposals were or are being introduced in ten states.

Project Blitz is part of a very long game: to so familiarize the American public with debates over signage that we fail to recognize that the goalposts are constantly being moved. As Princeton history professor, Kevin Kruse, writes in his book, "One Nation Under God," "touchstones of religious nationalism have only become more deeply lodged in American political culture over time, as the innovations of one generation became familiar traditions for the next." What is first presented as innocuous, commonsense even, can soon transform a nation. The gap implied by "separation" is closed by inches, not miles.

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Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook. His next book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."

  • While pluralism is considered a condition, toleration is the response to it. To recognize and accept a diverse range of perspectives on ethical views is to exhibit tolerance.
  • Singapore Management University professor Chandran Kukathas points to toleration as a cornerstone of the classical liberal tradition. In fact, liberal thought arises from the reality that people disagree substantially on any number of things.
  • The principle of toleration offers guidance in understanding what makes a good society, as well as how that society upholds conditions of pluralism and diversity.
  • Biological researcher Helen Fisher's 2005 fMRI study on couples in love proved that romantic love is primarily a motivation system that can be similar to what we experience during addiction.
  • Cognitive scientists at MIT explain that we experience peak processing and memory power at around age 18. We experience a lot of firsts (such as our first love) at a time when our brains are still developing or reaching this processing peak.
  • These emotional and hormonal imprints of first love (at a time when our brains are in such an important growing stage or peak) cause life-long effects not only to our psyche but our biology as well.


Romantic love is an addiction, research says - and your first love is your first dose

concept image of love chalkboard two people love on the brain

The hormonal surges you feel when you're in love are particularly impactful the very first time.

Image by Mr.Exen on Shutterstock

A 2005 study by biological anthropologist Helen Fisher concluded that romantic love is primarily a motivation system, rather than an emotion (or set of emotions). This was proven using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to study the brains of people who are in love.

What happens in your brain when you fall in love (according to 2017 Harvard Medical School research):

  • Oxytocin, which is considered the "love hormone" responsible for our feelings of attachment and intimacy, is released.
  • Dopamine is released, which activates the reward pathway in our brain, causing a "motivation/reward" affect. This is where the "addiction" part of love comes in. We seek out the reward of love even through obstacles that may be dangerous or painful (a cheating spouse, etc.).
  • Norepinephrine, a hormone similar to dopamine, is also released in the initial stages of love (lust or infatuation) and this causes us to become giddy, energized, and euphoric.
  • During sex with a partner, cortisol levels lower. Cortisol is the primary "stress" hormone that is released in intense situations. Having less of this helps us ease into a more relaxed and vulnerable state, which is oftentimes why "meaningless sex" with someone turns into something more; you're vulnerable and have just gotten a big dose of hormones that make you feel attached and infatuated.
  • Serotonin levels drop—this is important to note because the brains of people who have been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) also have lower serotonin levels. This leads to speculation that being in love can make you act with obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

The results of the Harvard study (combined with Fisher's fMRI study on a brain in love) very strongly suggest that because love provides a kind of chemical feedback in our brains, recreating this chemical response may eventually become our human drive or motivation to stay in love.

First love takes longer to heal and leaves an “imprint” on the sensory areas of your brain

young couple kissing in nature sunlight first love

The first time you experience the addiction-like effects of love can leave an imprint on the sensory areas of your brain, research says.

Photo by solominviktor on Shutterstock

With this evidence in mind, we can recall what it felt like to be in love for the first time and to experience all of these hormone surges only to have that taken away when the relationship ends.

Heartbreak is a complex and emotional thing—but there is no heartbreak that hits you quite like the first time.

According to a 2017 study from the Journal of Positive Psychology, 71 percent of people are able to heal from a breakup within a span of 3 months after the relationship has ended. In this context, "healing" meant the participants in the study reported feeling "rediscovery of self" and "more positive emotions."

Of course, some feelings of sadness, anger, resentment, and pain may linger on for a while longer, but typically you're able to see past your heartache and into what else life has to offer within 3 months of a relationship ending.

Why is it, then, that our first love seems to hold on for longer?

While research on this specific topic is quite thin, we can speculate the real reason by looking at what we know about what our brains experience when we fall in love. The first time you fell in love, your brain experienced all the things mentioned above (increases in positive hormones, decreases in negative hormones).

Multiple studies have confirmed our brains experience something very much like an addiction when we're in love—and the first time may be the most important because it's the foundation. Most likely, you experienced this foundation of love during a time (adolescence) when your brain was still developing.

While we may be triggered to think of our first love in an emotional way when we hear a certain song or see a photo of them on social media, it's the hormonal imprints that cause the life-long effects we all experience. The hormonal interactions are imprinted in the sensory areas of the brain at a time when the neurological developments we are experiencing are forming who we are as individuals.

Jefferson Singer, a psychologist who focuses on autobiographical memory, says that most people experience a "memory bump" between the ages of 15 and 26. This memory bump happens at a time when we are experiencing all kinds of firsts (driving a car, having sex, falling in love, etc.). Later in life, these memories tend to be more impactful because they occurred when our memory was at its peak.

"We have the opportunity to rehearse it and replay it, rethink it, reimagine it, re-experience it," says Singer.

This idea is corroborated by cognitive scientists at MIT, who explain that the overall brain processing power and detail memory peak for our brains happens around 18 years old.

First love also affects us psychologically. According to Dr. Niloo Dardashti, a couples therapist based in New York, the feelings we experience with our first love become a blueprint for how we approach future relationships. In a very real way, just as our perception of platonic and familial love is forged in childhood by our parents or caregivers, our idea of romantic love is impacted by how we experience it for the first time.

There is still be much research to be done on the true effects of love on the human brain, but from what we understand so far, love doesn't just affect us while we experience it. Its impact on our biology can be felt for the rest of our lives.

"How on earth are you going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?" - Albert Einstein