Friday, May 7, 2021

New books on the brain and what it can and cannot do


Useful hints
Self-deception brain power and contradiction
By Shankar Vedantham and Bill Messler
233 pp. Norton. $ 27.95.

Should we always advocate the truth? History suggests that false beliefs can be dangerous, leading to genocide, racism and attacks on democracy. However, they can also reconcile and help us. Consider the health benefits of placebos or the comfort of religion. It is not truth, but the result of a belief, which makes it good or bad, Vedantham and Messler argue. “Life, like growth and natural selection, ultimately does not care what is true. It cares what works“And if you believe in science, then you must accept the overwhelming evidence that wrong beliefs are necessary for the well-being of people, because they often help reduce anxiety and increase motivation.” Poopers cannot think of it as a breath piece of flesh. It gets in the way of happy hour. “

Recognizing that people’s beliefs depend less on evidence than on their hopes, feelings, and tribal affiliations is critical to addressing global threats such as climate change. We need to work with the mind to persuade people to act, instead of working against it. Fighting irrational belief with numbers and underlines is ineffective. Instead, we should fulfill the wishes of the people and fulfill their need. True to his thesis, compelling data with hard data from Vedantham and Messler Pepper to make their case. Vedantham’s sympathy and intuitive understanding of human nature, which shines on his popular “Hidden Brain” podcast, comes through “useful illusions”.

One thousand brothers
A new theory of intelligence
By Jeff Hawkins
272 pp. Original Books. $ 30.

“One Thousand Brains” takes us on a journey from the evolution of our brain to the extinction of our species. The way Hawkins beautifully describes neuroanatomy and landmark discoveries in neuroscience, including the existence of cells that indicate our location in space and the population of neurons that “poll” to reach a group’s decision. Process information. The book is built around Hawkins’s theory of intelligence, according to which columns in the Neocortex encode thousands of “reference frames”. However, the theory has not yet been empirically tested, and it does not take much time to expand it or how it might be responsible for higher-level tasks such as language and thought.

Hawkins, the inventor of Pampilot and a neurologist researcher, aims to crack human intelligence to develop artificial intelligence. The problem with current AI systems, they point out, is that they can solve only a finite set of predefined problems. They do not possess common sense as humans do. According to Hawkins this is because they are unable to represent knowledge. Part of Hawkins’ motivation to develop “true” AI is to prepare for human extinction.

While it is not predictable when or how we will meet this fate, Hawkins advises readers to now prepare an “estate plan for humanity”. Homo sapiens may seek extinction from other planetary habitats, but Hawkins is not optimistic. Instead, he suggests, we would be wise to use machines to preserve human knowledge for the benefit of other beings, even if we are unable to sustain humanity. Hawkins continues to engage the reader with this and other ideas.

think again
The power to know what you don’t know
By Adam Grant
307 pp. Viking. $ 28.

We live in a world where conversations about complex issues, such as infectious disease and climate change, revolve around statements of about 280 characters. Nuance is lost, and opinions are increasingly radical. It is a centuries-old problem of inflexible thinking – in which people have difficulty changing their beliefs despite contradictory evidence – especially at the time.

“Think Again” Grant, a psychology professor and author of “Original” and “Give and Take” at Wharton, urges us to continue to believe in our beliefs about politics, science, work, and relationships. Grant believes that currently we can believe in our ability to uncover the truth as well as being wrong. We must make our uncertainties and information gaps available to others, he argues. To achieve such “confident humility”, Grant advises us to “look for information that goes against our ideas” and “resist the temptation to preach, prosecute, or do politics.” We should suggest, “Think like a scientist.”

To illustrate the scientific method of rethinking and modification, Grant has described a study in which he attempted to reduce hostility between Yankees and Red Sox fans. He began by encouraging rivals to consider their equality. This strategy had worked in other contexts but was unsuccessful in this case. “We both love baseball,” they agreed, but “they like the wrong team.” Efforts to humanize the contestants were also unsuccessful. The hostile nature of hostility was finally brought to an end (team loyalty was due to random factors, such as place of birth). No tool is guaranteed to always help us rethink our thoughts, habits and priorities. This is why we need a diverse set of strategies, which Grant provides.

Hidden spreading
A journey to the source of consciousness
By Mark Solms
415 pp. Norton. $ 28.95.

What is consciousness, how does it arise and why do we need it? These are the big questions Solms, a South African neuropsychologist, tackles with “The Hidden Spring”. There are many things that our brain can do unconsciously. For example, we can distort images and words, and estimate the speed of an oncoming car to cross the road to determine if we are doing so. According to Solms, there is one thing, which requires consciousness: emotions. You may be unaware Why You are feeling angry or happy, he argues, but you cannot feel angry or happy without being aware of it. He concludes that emotion is “the fundamental form of consciousness.”

Emotions are valid – good or bad – that give us an indication of what should be approached and what should be avoided. Our most burning needs are prioritized by focusing our attention on a certain spirit so that we take immediate action to fulfill them: when we feel thirsty, we look for water; When we feel lust, we look for a partner. These basic needs and emotions are evolutionarily ancient and depend on deep sub-structures in our brain. According to Solms, this means that most other animals are also conscious.

“The Hidden Spring” often requires the reader to work hard to follow Solms’ arguments. But readers sticking with it will be rewarded with interesting ideas about what it means to feel, think and be.



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