Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Human Brain: The Most Complex Machine on Earth

The human brain is the most complex machine on earth. It not only manufactures our perceptions, feelings, thoughts, and behavior; it is also enables us to communicate those feelings, thoughts and perceptions to other brains in the form of information. As you read the words on this page your brain is seamlessly transforming these black marks into information, or ideas. Hence, my ideas are in your brain right now! Of course, I stole most of my ideas from dead philosophers, so you’re welcome to store them in your brain too.

At the microcosmic level, the basic unit of exchange is the “neuron,” which processes both “matter” and “information.” Brains that study brains use the idea of neurons to explain predict, and control the feelings, thoughts, and behavior generated by the human brain. The brain itself contains about 100 billion of neurons, with about thirty billion of them located in the outer layer known as the cerebral cortex. We still do not know how brains transform matter into information, or whether information exists independent of brains.

At the macrocosmic level, the human brain evolved as an adaptive response to survival challenges experienced by our distant ancestors during the Pleistocene period, about 3.5 million years ago. The brains of brain scientists now say that, functionally speaking, the brain resembles a “Swiss army knife,” a multiple organ comprised of identifiable subsystems or “modules.” The matter of our brains really hasn’t changed much since then, but the cultural information contained within it has evolved much faster. Consequently, there is a “mismatch” between our hunter-gatherer brains and modern culture. Unfortunately, our mismatched Pleistocene brains still tend to identify with similar brains, which accounts for the persistence of sexism, racism, tribalism, nationalism, and speciesism.

Evolutionary scientists say that the brain resembles an archeological site that contains the history of other brain-carrying organisms from our evolutionary past. The oldest parts of our brains structures, which are located near the center of our brains, regulate our body functions. Scientists often refer to this as the Reptilian Brain. The more recently evolved structures responsible for thought, language, and reasoning are located closer to the surface. If the outermost structures that manufacture thought mind are damaged, your body can still survive for a long time, as long as your brain stem continues to function. Unfortunately, if your brain gets locked into this persistent vegetative state, it won’t have any perceptions, feelings, thoughts, or behavior.

The only machine more complex than the human brain is a network of brains, which also processes matter and information, only on a larger scale. The most basic brain network involves two brains. XX (female) and XY (male) networks, periodically get together to manufacture more brains. The process requires two distinct processes: a material process via the replication of DNA; and an informational process called education.

Brains also process matter. If you own one, it will consume about 33 % of your daily caloric intake. That means you will have to spend at least 8 hours a day networking in the production and exchange of matter and or information, which we call work. Networks of brain scientists manufacture information about brains and transform it black marks on white surfaces. These black marks are then replicated by brain networks called publishing companies and later distributed by other networks called bookstores, libraries, and Internet sites. The process of exchange is facilitated by an artificial form of matter called money, which can be exchanged for calories that feed brains. Networks of economists study this exchange.

The most important brain module is the one that facilitates the making and use of tools. In recent years, brain scientists have benefited immensely from new tools: especially, very expensive, state-of-the-art new imaging machines that allow researchers to observe the flow of matter within the brain. Networks called research laboratories, buy these expensive machines from a network of brains called General Electric Corporation. Brain scanners generate a lot of calories that feed a lot of brains: manufacturers, distributers, salesmen, technicians and researchers. These technologies are often located in larger networks called colleges and universities that use these scanners to generate pictures of brains, and then sell the information gleaned from these images to younger brains or students. Because colleges and universities need money to pay for these scanners and feed the brains of their professors, they charge students a sum of money, called tuition. Students usually borrow their tuition from brain networks called banks, which also generate a lot of calories, especially for the brains of their stockholders and CEOs. Many of the colleges and universities that buy these scanners are public institutions; governmental networks that extract money from the brains of citizens via taxation. My college does not own any brain scanners, but it does have many photocopy machines and  computers, that replicate information; and a cafeteria and vending machines that sell calories to feed our brains.

1 comment:

SteveBrad said...

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