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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Day 684: Brain Control!


At the beginning of this video the 2 doctors compare the human brain to a computer, and as they progress in their Talk it becomes more and more evident that this is a very accurate comparison. What if we could take that one step further and compare the human in its entirety to a computer - ie: not restrict the "mind" to exist only in the brain?

The brain is the hardware and the mind can be called the software, the "mind" being thoughts and emotions and other 'internal' experiences within the human. When we are born, our brain is pretty limited in terms of the programs it runs, basic body functions and maybe some deep programs passed down from family members that will be activated under specific circumstances. As we develop physically, we also program our brains. We develop specific thought patterns along with the basics that will be unique to us, yet similar to those of many other people. When we start participating in something frequently, whether it be a physical action (like sewing, driving, singing) or an idea (that manifests as a recurring thought), we are programming the physical structure of our brains to make that action more easily accessible - in other words our brains start creating specific pathways dedicated to that particular thing (including thought patterns). Thoughts are not simply bubbles that float around in your 'mind' - your mind is integrated into your body and so will your thoughts, emotions, actions etc be. This is partly why it can be so difficult to stop participating in a thought pattern that has become a kind of addiction or even self definition. Take Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as an example: A person starts off with one single thought and for whatever reason, they will actively bring this thought up over and over (yes, obviously there is a lot more to it, this is only one aspect of what is happening). Sometimes the thought is more like a subconscious time bomb that may strike at opportune moments in order to maximise its effectiveness (this aspect I will not go into). Over time, the continuous participation in the thought creates well-used routes in the brain - and what tends to happen to the things we give attention to is that they get more resources to become more developed - so those areas of the brain will be more developed than other areas. This leads to things like OCD, depression, specific personality types and so on in extreme cases - but in reality all of our brains undergo the same (or similar) process. We all have thought patterns that are more prominent than others, belief systems that we have created by literally 'talking ourselves into it' inside our heads.

The question becomes, should technology be used to change these thought patterns? A hard question to answer. The reality is that sometimes it would be incredibly difficult for someone experiencing extreme 'symptoms', like in severe cases of OCD for example, to help themselves to change those thought patterns. They would need very specific support and tools (methods to deal with the thought patterns) to be able to even have a chance of changing their experience. In these cases the electric probes in the brain may be a preferred alternative, at least as an interim form of support . More than that, it would be very possible to use this technology to improve the nature of the human in those people who have no interest in changing themselves. I am speaking of murderers, rapists, pedophiles, psychopaths and other people who have no regard for the wellbeing of anyone but themselves. Controversial, sure. What would you prefer: a rapist with free choice or a functional human being who contributes to society without thoughts of harm, even if it means that their free choice was removed for one moment?

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