When I was at school and about 13 or 14 something terrifying happened to me. My biology teacher told me, quite convincingly, that the brain we had inside our heads peaks at 20 and after that it begins to lose brain cells, shrink as we age, consigning us, as a species into a long, gradual decline into imbecility which, however, we are too dumb by then to even spot.
The idea that I had maybe just a handful of years to reach my full mental potential and make my mark upon the world galvanized me into squeezing every possible second out of the day. I experimented with sleeping just six out of the seven nights of the week (arguing with myself that the number of hours of sleep I needed on average was being fulfilled - on average). I became addicted to coffee which enabled me to feel my brain coming alive with a newfound stimulus and I found myself burning a slow, steady anger towards nature’s perceived unfairness that would give us lives way longer than our best mental peak.
Thankfully my biology teacher who, was most probably working with the best medical knowledge and theories we had at the time, was wrong: (https://goo.gl/kXoYxy
). Even more thankfully my coffee drinking habits and battles to fight the need for sleep prepared me for the digital age ahead of those of my generation.
We live in times when something extraordinary has happened. The secret world of the brain is being made visible without having to resort to crude methods like craniotomies and electrodes (http://goo.gl/f7WvkC
) and the brain as neuroscientist, Christopher deCharms, says is revealing itself to us and, even more importantly, allows us to learn how to control it better. When we can control our brain, we can control our pain (https://goo.gl/49Tw8W
) he says and that in itself is an important development.
If our brains evolved to control movement (https://goo.gl/it8PnQ
). The one way we have of controlling the world around us. Controlling our sense of pain allows us to unfurl dimensions of interaction that go beyond our sense of comfort and discomfort. Suddenly of all the living things on planet earth we become something more. Something greater. Capable of rewiring ourselves: https://goo.gl/XOo1h0
. Producing a better version of who we are because we can rewrite our own mental code.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprising) what we are learning now about the brain suggests that the tightly-knit communities of the past which venerated age as wisdom and used it as a valuable resource for the tribe may not have been wrong after all: http://goo.gl/r5w7pv
Our brains, used now as a model for machine learning to program neural nets to function a little like us, are revealing themselves not just for what they can learn but also what they unlearn as they do so: http://goo.gl/FGDy0Q
Our brains use an internal language we have yet to crack, to decide just how to decode what we perceive: http://goo.gl/b0mU3S
. There is a strong sense that we use our brains not just to understand the world and control our environment but also to control ourselves at a deep, cognitive level: http://goo.gl/jRzmWn
and the ability of the brain to do that, apparently, does not depend directly on size as much as may think it does: http://goo.gl/iU9rCd
As we look at the world through an increased understanding of the mechanics of the governor behind our eyes, two things begin to happen. First, we begin to better understand and then scientifically codify our own behavior: http://goo.gl/iLZnSa
, especially in the digital age. And then we begin to understand that the consciousness we feel, the ability we have to impose a complex metalayer of meaning upon the world we belong to, is itself an emergent phenomenon arising out of the complex organization of information: https://goo.gl/B4yz5o
(link courtesy of +Ron Serina
For the first time ever, any of us, can understand the software that runs inside our heads (https://goo.gl/HByJH
) and, at the same time rewire the hardware itruns on. This makes us, impossibly enough, responsible for our own creation. Descartes’ existential assertion based upon his perception of cognitive awareness: https://goo.gl/QGAu0q
is now not only not quite as far-fetched but also can be taken one step further: We are what we think. Or rather we are how we think.
And that is actually pretty terrifying as a thought because it lays upon our feet the responsibility for everything we see: the faults and miracles of our world. Its insanity and its wonders. Its stupidity and brilliance. We are responsible for the sense of us: http://goo.gl/ed7F4d
. And that means that for whatever we perceive as being broken we are responsible for finding a solution to fix it.
All that requires, of course, plenty of coffee and a little bit of sugar. Some croissants and a donut or two, Cookies and some chocolate cake, pleasures which, apparently can only be experienced by a conscious brain (http://goo.gl/asW4H4
). Have an awesome Sunday wherever you are.