13 June 2010

We're nothing but a pack of neurons


In order to keep my grey cells from rotting, I've been studying. Yep, studying. German entrance beckons, but no progress there yet.

I've been studying psychology.

If there's one subject I regret never having studied, this would be it. I've always had an inkling that I'd love it if I got that opportunity, but I never did find out. But thanks to the Yale Open Courses, I get to listen to classroom lectures right here in my room. Awesome, or what? I discovered these courses last December, and have since then developed crushes on Yale professors and Yale itself. It is somuchfun! If I'd had the chance to study there, you would probably have to drag me out of the lecture halls because I don't think I'd ever walk out willingly. Now this is usually where I'd begin this whole "I-hate-my-life" crib-fest and blame everyone for messing up my US chances, but in the last six months I have matured come to realise that I needed a reality check all along and I didn't actually have even a one-in-a-millionth chance of actually making it to a good college there, so luckily you shall be spared all that. To quote the wise Lorelai Gilmore, I just took a detour and ended up someplace good.

So anyway, psychology. I've only got as far as the second lecture in the term but I love it already. This was a lecture on the brain, and of course since school was useless I don't remember much biology, though certain words did trigger vague recollections. I am totally putting my kids, if I ever have any of those, in an ICSE school. Or IB. Or maybe I'll just homeschool them and teach them myself, because by then I will hopefully have digested Yale lectures on many subjects.
I wonder how you "cure" Attention Deficit Disorder. If I'd had psych as a subject, I might have known. These are things you really need to know to get through life, hmph.

Yeah, so back to the brain. Isn't it hard to believe that that tiny squishy lump actually makes us capable of feeling and thinking and acting? Descartes refused to believe it could be responsible for all of that, because it just freakin' didn't seem possible. We can't, of course, choose to believe that anymore, not with all the scientific evidence that claims to assign all our feelings and reactions to a huge bunch of neurons. The physicality of the brain is something we can't deny, when we know that damage to a certain part corresponds to a change in the ways we behave. But what still remains a mystery is that we can't explain how or why every brain said to be made up of the same units behaves and reacts so differently. Try as we might to make machines that reproduce the brain, that can think and perform things we never would have thought were imaginable, feelings are inexplicable. Every computer acts in the same way. You can't explain the nervous system arithmatically, there are no set permutations and combinations, and that's what makes it so wonderful.

And I'm fine with not knowing. Because we don't need answers to everything.

And it's seriously scary to think about how machines are taking over our life. The time seems close when we will be confronted with a Metropolis or I, Robot situation, a nightmare that we won't be able to wake from. If the brain can be figured out, it can be recreated. Argh.

But until then, I have my stupid computer to worry about. It is ruining my life. And I actually suspect it might have emotions because it promptly faints or becomes otherwise troublesome when I abuse it, but so be it. I just read an article in the paper about how people are not reading anymore, and this is nothing new, except that I'm now ONE OF THEM.

Checklist:

- start writing regularly again: Check.
- read the newspaper everyday like you once used to: Check.
- close the Facebook tab in your browser: *fingers twitch uneasily but are conquered* CHECK.
- devour books again: I'm on it. (Note to self: Record progress in a week)

Feel free to chastise me.

Also, will the brain beat the machine? Or will it be the other way round? :O

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