You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts
is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials
, heartbreaking eulogies
, and agonizing run-ins with fascists
) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting
science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed
2006 novel Blindsight [full text]
-- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room
, the Philosophical Zombie
, Chernoff faces
, and the myriad quirks and blind spots
that haunt the human mind.
's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew
, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism
), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section
, tomorrow will see the release of
Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website]
, the long-delayed
"sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi
on Aug 25, 2014 -
In a nutshell
, this new study provides evidence that we need a certain amount of sleep every night, because the brain takes this time to rid itself of toxic metabolic byproducts, which would otherwise accumulate in the brain and impair brain function, destroy neurons — and potentially cause neurodegenerative disorders.
posted by Brandon Blatcher
on Oct 19, 2013 -
Is Psychometric g a Myth?
- "As an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi's essay g, a Statistical Myth
approaches 1. Usually the link is accompanied by an assertion to the effect that Shalizi offers a definitive refutation of the concept of general mental ability, or psychometric g
." [more inside]
posted by kliuless
on Apr 11, 2013 -
The Brain on Trial.
Advances in brain science are calling into question the volition behind many criminal acts. A leading neuroscientist describes how the foundations of our criminal-justice system are beginning to crumble, and proposes a new way forward for law and order.
"We may someday find that many types of bad behavior have a basic biological explanation—as has happened with schizophrenia, epilepsy, depression, and mania." [more inside]
posted by Eideteker
on Jul 15, 2011 -
Swimming around in a mixture of language and matter, humans occupy a particular evolutionary niche mediated by something we call 'consciousness'. To Professor Nicholas Humphrey we're made up of "soul dust
": "a kind of theatre... an entertainment which we put on for ourselves inside our own heads." But just as that theatre is directed by the relationship between language and matter, it is also undermined by it
. It all depends how you think it.
posted by 0bvious
on Feb 4, 2011 -
Get your learn on. 180+ ways of investigating the human brain = hours of fun for the whole family.
Thanks to an innocuous question by a 5 year old, my entire evening is now being spent investigating and discussing the structure and workings of the human brain. This flash site lets you explore the workings of the brain according to 12 subject areas (each with subtopics which are not included in the "180" count), within each of which are 5 levels of organization from social to molecular, within each of which are three levels of explanation (beginner, intermediate, and advanced.) discovered via Wikipedia.
posted by ThusSpakeZarathustra
on Aug 19, 2008 -
We are because of others. We are born into this world with minds as naked as our bodies and we have to rely on others to feed, clothe us, and to teach us to think of ourselves as selves. The key is language -- grammatical speech and human culture build upon the brain's biological capacities to create a mind that is something different again than that with which we are born. We are conscious because we can speak to others and ourselves, because we can speak of ourselves to others and ourselves. Language gives us as individuals, memory, and as groups, culture, the social memory. Or so thought Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky
, among others. Welcome to the the neuronaut's guide to the science of consciousness
posted by y2karl
on Jul 11, 2003 -
Gene Prevents 'Brains Everywhere'
The human version of the gene probably is not involved in keeping the human brain inside the skull, but likely plays some other role in nervous system development in human embryos, says Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado, a developmental biologist at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
posted by Grod
on Oct 11, 2002 -
The discovery of mirror neurons
in the frontal lobes of monkeys, and their potential relevance to human brain evolution — which I speculate on in this essay — is the single most important "unreported" (or at least, unpublicized) story of the decade. I predict that mirror neurons will do for psychology what DNA did for biology: they will provide a unifying framework and help explain a host of mental abilities that have hitherto remained mysterious and inaccessible to experiments.
(after you read the essay, you might be interested in the responses
posted by grumblebee
on Jun 8, 2000 -