Knowing Your Brain

In Endeavor, we strive to help each student understand how they learn best.  We want to make the process of learning as transparent as possible so that learning becomes intentional instead of accidental.  I have found a very interesting article that, although it may not help you better understand how you think, but it certainly may spark some interesting project or research ideas.  At the very least, we hope it will encourage some great discussions.

For over 60 years, the predominant model for understanding the human brain has been the computer.  The model is based on the believe that the brain functions as an information processing (IP) machine that can store memories, retrieve knowledge, and process algorithms to do the amazing things that it does.  However, according to Robert Epstein, the IP model for the brain has led to surprisingly few breakthroughs that help us to better understand how our brains work and it is time to bury an outdated model so that we may move forward in understanding how the brain works.

Epstein is a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California.  He is the author of over 15 books, and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today.  In other words, he has some credentials.  I have shared articles by IP proponents in the past, such as Ray Kurzweil, that talk about a future where man’s consciousness may be downloaded into a computer ala Johnny Depp in Transcendence, something he explains through what he calls the Singularity.  Epstein says those are pipe dreams because the brain does not even store memories, much less man’s sentience.

Is a human’s consciousness a collections of memories and emotions that can be downloaded, or is it a spontaneous result of neural pathways and patterns that have been developed through a lifetime of interacting with one’s environment?  Nobody knows, but I hope you find Epstein’s article an interesting read.  Perhaps you will develop theories of your own.