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Friday, March 5, 2021

Brain food

Current and recent reads.

Just where are we these days in the neurosciences (including implications for AI)? Comparing some current, learned views. Stay tuned. How do humans reason? WHY do humans reason? (Hint: "The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword." Whether any given "pen" is an effective purveyor of BS is wholly another matter.)

to wit,
Lots to cross-eompare in these books. "Livewired" was particularly enlightening and inspiring. David Eagleman concludes:
…If you’ve ever doubted the significance of brain plasticity, rest assured that its tendrils reach from the individual to the society.

Because of livewiring, we are each a vessel of space and time. We drop into a particular spot on the world and vacuum in the details of that spot. We become, in essence, a recording device for our moment in the world.

When you meet an older person and feel shocked by the opinions or worldview she holds, you can try to empathize with her as a recording device for her window of time and her set of experiences. Someday your brain will be that time-ossified snapshot that frustrates the next generation.

Here’s a nugget from my vessel: I remember a song produced in 1985 called “We Are the World.” Dozens of superstar musicians performed it to raise money for impoverished children in Africa. The theme was that each of us shares responsibility for the well-being of everyone. Looking back on the song now, I can’t help but see another interpretation through my lens as a neuroscientist. We generally go through life thinking there’s me and there’s the world. But as we’ve seen in this book, who you are emerges from everything you’ve interacted with: your environment, all of your experiences, your friends, your enemies, your culture, your belief system, your era—all of it. Although we value statements such as “he’s his own man” or “she’s an independent thinker,” there is in fact no way to separate yourself from the rich context in which you’re embedded. There is no you without the external. Your beliefs and dogmas and aspirations are shaped by it, inside and out, like a sculpture from a block of marble. Thanks to livewiring, each of us is the world.

Eagleman, David. Livewired (pp. 244-245). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Got onto this author and his new book by way of an Atlantic article.
Goes to the questions "How and Why Do Humans Reason?"
FORTY YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE MY PARENTS WERE PURSUED BY THE KGB over the simple right to read, write, and listen to what they chose and say what they wanted. Today, the world they hoped for, where censorship would fall like the Berlin Wall, can seem much closer: we live in what some academics call an era of “information abundance.” But the assumptions that underlay the struggles for rights and freedoms in the twentieth century—between citizens armed with truth and information, and regimes with their censors and secret police—have been turned upside down. We now have more information than ever before—but it hasn’t brought only the benefits we expected.

More information was supposed to mean more freedom to stand up to the powerful. But it also has given the powerful new ways to crush and silence dissent. More information was supposed to mean a more informed debate, but we seem less capable of deliberation than ever. More information was supposed to mean mutual understanding across borders, but it has also made possible new and more subtle forms of conflict and subversion. We live in a world of influence operations run amok, where the means of manipulation have gone forth and multiplied, a world of dark ads, psy-ops, hacks, bots, soft facts, fake news, deep fakes, brainwashing, trolls, ISIS, Putin, Trump…

Pomerantsev, Peter. This Is Not Propaganda (pp. x-xi). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

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