Saturday, 21 May 2016

The Empty Brain

This essay from aeon is worth reading.

Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or 

store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer

No matter how hard they try, brain scientists and cognitive psychologists will never find a copy of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in the brain – or copies of words, pictures, grammatical rules or any other kinds of environmental stimuli. The human brain isn’t really empty, of course. But it does not contain most of the things people think it does – not even simple things such as ‘memories’.


James Higham said...

What does do those things then?

Sam Vega said...

Nice article. The really interesting bit for me is the idea that the "IP model" is a type of "sticky" metaphor which permeates our thinking to such an extent that we cannot readily depart from it. Even talking about the inadequacies of the model ("It's a map, rather than the terrain, etc...") is to use similar imagery. It gives me the slightly queasy but distinctly interesting idea that (contrary to our fondest imaginings) our thoughts are not our own.

Anonymous said...

I found this article just as confused as the IP metaphor. Surely 'I remember therefore I am' applies, there most certainly is memory but doubtless its physical manifestation is nothing like a computer's. Indeed the structure of my 'memory' is probably not the same as your 'memory'. Although similarities probably exist and one might suspect all mammalian brains have a similar basic structure. I suppose to say something is 'like' something we humans can touch and feel is natural enough but an idea to be treated with much caution.

Demetrius said...

Thank you, now I know why I need a shopping list to shop.

A K Haart said...

James - he doesn't really say, merely that they are inaccurate metaphors.

Sam - I have a similar queasy feeling, but also a sense that we are on the edge of major insights which many will never accept.

Roger - my reading of it is that there is memory in the sense that we are changed by experiences, but not in the computer metaphor sense. In other words we take the metaphor too far and to make progress need to get rid of it.

Demetrius - good example. A shopping list is a record of various experiences such as running out of Eccles cakes.

Derek said...

The brain is an illogical organic item, capable of remembering many things which have never been written down, but come to you when stimulated by the senses of sight (which includes reading), smell, and hearing.

Now, I just need to find my car keys.

A K Haart said...

Derek - the stimulation is a clue. We don't seem to have a dictionary in our heads yet words pop up in the right way, but not if there is no stimulation.