Week 9 Neuro Reverie
“We will undoubtedly find support fir the core contention of the human sciences, that human societies are not formed by aggregations of such isolates, each bounded by the surface of its individual body. We will find much evidence that disproves the idea that the nature of humans is to seek to maximize self-interest, and hence to challenge the view that to govern in accord with human nature is to require each individual to bear the responsibilities and culpabilities of his or her selfish choices. Such unpredictable conversations between the social sciences and the neurosciences may, in short, enable us to begin to construct a very different idea of the human person, human societies, and human freedom. We have tried to show, in this book, how neuroscience has become what it is today; let us conclude with a simple hope for the future: that neuroscience should become a genuinely human science.”
-Rose , N., & Abi-Rached, J. (2013). Neuro: The new brain sciences and the management of the mind. (p. 234). Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
This had to be the most spine-tingling paragraph of the entire book for me. Although it makes perfect sense that neuroscience will undoubtedly alter human social structures, it is hard for me to imagine how the future of humanity and the world will manifest itself. I love how sure the authors are about what we will come to experience with the continual advancements in neuroscience: the lessening of self-interest and responsibility, a new way of viewing ourselves and our actions, and new forms of freedom. It seems that neuroscience has the capacity to build a more collective and cohesive global consciousness; hopefully one that unites us all as equals stemming from the same all-encompassing body, a single heart that pumps the same fiery blood through our veins. Unfortunately the course of human history has not proven this to be likely. With new forms of freedom come new forms of oppression. Perhaps we are drifting away from human compassion and closer to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
Week 8 Neuro Reverie
“…your brain is amazing; it is flexible; it can be trained, developed, improved, optimized: learn to use it well for your own benefit and for that of your society, perhaps even for the world. It is not that you have become your brain, or that you are identical with your brain, but you can act on your brain, even if that brain is not directly available to consciousness, and in so acting, you can improve yourself—not as a brain, but as a person.”
-Rose , N., & Abi-Rached, J. (2013). Neuro: The new brain sciences and the management of the mind. (p. 222). Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
If I have not become my brain then I must be tucked away somewhere within its pinkish folds, muddling thoughts and breaking my focus. Recently, I made the decision to shave my head completely and it’s actually brought me closer to my brain. Looking at the eggish shape of my head it’s easy to imagine a mind encapsulated inside my awkward skull. That line about how the brain “is not directly available to consciousness” sort of gives me the creeps. To not know who or what you are can be extremely dooming when it happens at inopportune times.
Week 7 Neuro Reverie
“The headline on Sky News on April 26, 2010 read: ‘Murdered Gangster’s Brain Donated to Science: Scientists Have Been Given the Chance to Get Inside the Mind of One of Australia’s Most Notorious Gangsters.’ It was reporting the fact that Roberta Williams had given ‘experts’ permission to examine the brain of her husband, Carl Williams, who had been murdered in Melbourne’s maximum security Barwon Prison less than three years into a thirty-five year sentence. ‘I believe it’s to help with research,’ Mrs. Williams is quoted as saying, ‘and might help explain why guys like Carl do the violent things they do.’”
-Rose , N., & Abi-Rached, J. (2013). Neuro: The new brain sciences and the management of the mind. (p. 165). Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Who can fathom the thoughts of a notorious murdering gangster? Who can fathom any thought that does not stem from their own brain in the present moment? I picture a team of neuroscientists, suiting up as they prepare to enter into a dead mind that once thought dark thoughts. They are going to shrink to the size of brain cells and venture into the mind of Carl Williams like hikers venturing into wilderness. “What is there to find?” they wonder as their latex gloves began to coax sweat from eager, clammy hands. They will find dim and endless forests, pools of love at the base of extraordinary mountains and mazey caves without exits leading into them. They will see the cancerous growth of violence protruding from the earth like the head of a stone giant aroused from buried sleep. They will see the tense expression of anger and sadness, his behemoth fears, the innocence that fuels his rampant trample over the beauty around him. He sculpted a criminal mind with looming silence and the pounding of his massive fists.
“It appeared that this challenged the conventional, rationalist accounts of ascription—that we understand the intentions of others by creating theories about what lies behind their appearance or their acts, on the basis of our own commonsense psychology about their desires and their beliefs about how to achieve them. It was not through theorizing about others, but through feeling what they feel, that we understand the mental states of others. I really do ‘feel your pain.’”
-Rose , N., & Abi-Rached, J. (2013). Neuro: The new brain sciences and the management of the mind. (p. 146). Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
“We have a social brain in that the brain has evolved to favor a certain type of sociality manifested in all the interactions between persons and groups that come naturally to humans in our social lives. And we have a social brain in that this organ in now construed as malleable, open to, and shaped by, social interaction—shaping sociality as it is itself reshaped by it.”
-Rose , N., & Abi-Rached, J. (2013). Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind. (p. 163). Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
The masses dethrone the mind so that we wake up at night and hate ourselves and hate our lives and reach out for flesh and LED screens and the bottles and the needle and the scalpel that’s only purpose is to divide and divide and divide. Now I picture a brain surgeon alone in a sterilized space, dressed in pale green garments with a scalpel raised about his naked brain. I wish that for a moment I could hold my mind in the cup of my hands. To turn it over like the heavy weight it is and to mold what I am told is malleable. So this is why my heart beats and where it pumps most of its blood. Oh my mind, my mind, you’re a thirsty beast aren’t you? Thanks for the daydream; something in me was parched for some poetry.