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Scientists have been carrying out experiments and tests on the brain to understand its many functions and also to manipulate brain activity. New, increasingly detailed maps of the brain are now being drawn out.
Breakthroughs in technology let us change the brain’s structure, or plug it to external components, like a paralysed man controlling a robotic arm by simply commanding the brain.
We have been taught that our brain is just a biological computer. It is actually an integrated and highly evolved structure that is shape-shifting and extremely adaptive towards all kinds of stimulation.
New discoveries provide us with a glimpse of the brain’s previously unknown powers, like reading minds or detecting criminal behaviour. Despite new technologies and breakthroughs, our understanding of the brain is still minuscule and maybe in the wrong direction.
Neuroscience handling big data still lacks a theoretical framework or even a basic principle that convert brain data into basic knowledge and understanding. Vast amounts of information end up being counterproductive by injecting uncertainty into existing global understanding while adding new levels of complexity.
A creative application of the new and emerging technologies is required, along with further advances in data analysis methods.
By considering the brain as a computer, we assume that it functions as a series of linear steps. However, the brain is a visually breathtaking three-dimensional network of complex neural nodes that are interconnected both internally and externally.
It is not a simple input-output response mechanism that processes data and represents information, but an active organ that constructs information.
Certain phenomena cannot be explained by a single activity, where individual components work in tandem with each other and it is hard to pinpoint where the process starts or ends. The workings of such a phenomenon, known as Strong Emergence, cannot be categorized or bracketed in a single explanation.
Strong emergence is one of the few ways a brain can be explained. When we read a book, the page is made up of atoms, and so are we, but labelling it as simply an interaction of atoms cannot explain our ability to read, or the book’s ability to shape our mind into higher-level structures. This strong emergence does not take into account the complexities of understanding, language and how millions of neurons interact.
Certain activities in nature, such as how a group of tiny fish move in response to an attack from a bigger fish, are based on the behaviour of individuals who influence their entire group.
These activities are known as Weak Emergence, and are commonly observed in many behavioural and seasonal studies by scientists.
Some researchers envision the brain as an operating system that is ‘installed’ on neural hardware. This naive viewpoint assumes that brains and minds are identical in all living creatures, and can be separated into neat categories like hardware and software.
Even to simulate such a hypothesis requires a kind of deep understanding that we lack.
Holding a single thought is a miracle in itself, and a neural network that makes this happen cannot be mimicked, at least until the far, far future.
Even understanding the simplest parts of the brain is beyond our reach.
Recent experiments trying to reverse-engineer a computer chip from the 70s(those used to play Atari and Nintendo games) showed that one cannot even detect the hierarchy of how the information is processed inside, despite having a clear understanding of how chips work in a computer.
This provides a glimpse of the vastness of the brain and how little we know about it.
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