Some Aeon articles of interest

Cruel ships of prosperity:

  • An estimated 2 million Europeans made trading voyages between Europe and Asia between 1580 and 1795. Of these, 920,412 survived: an overall mortality rate of 54%. This is the equivalent of one life lost for every 4.7 tons of Asian cargo returned to Europe.

The empty brain:

I found this article both revelatory and fascinating

  • Computers operate on symbolic representations of the world. They store, retrieve and process information. They actions are determined by algorithms.
  • The Information Processing (IP) metaphor for human intelligence now dominates how we view the brain. But it is just a metaphor.
  • Multiple and sometimes large areas of the brain are often involved in even the most simple memory tasks. Memories are not stored in individual neurons.
  • Visualising something is far less accurate than seeing something in its presence. This is why we’re much better at recognising than recalling.
  • Our brains are changed by experiences
    • We observe what is happening around us
    • We are exposed to the pairing of unimportant stimuli with important stimuli
    • We are punished or rewarded for behaving in certain ways
  • Uniqueness problem
    • We have neither ‘memory banks’ nor ‘representations’ of stimuli stored in the brain
    • There is no reason to believe that any two of us are changed the same way by the same experience
    • Each of us is unique not only in genetic makeup but even in the way our brains change over time
    • Even if we were to take a snapshot and then simulate the state of the brain’s 86 billion neurons it would mean nothing outside of the body that produced it. A snapshot of the brain’s current state might also be meaningless unless we know the entire life history of the brain’s owner and perhaps even the social context in which the brain was raised.

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