How Not To Simulate a Brain While Wasting A Billion Dollars

Take a look at this fascinating TED talk by Henry Markram. The talk is about six years old, and he outlines how we can build a mathematical simulation of the human brain by mapping all the neurons and their interconnections. Once we can do this we will be able to simulate consciousness, he says. It may also help us find answers to mental disease and mental degeneration.

Markram was involved in developing a simulation of part of a rat’s brain. Now he’s on to people. Not long after this talk Markram was given 1.3 billion dollars by the European Union to turn this dream to reality over a period of one decade, via the Human Brain Project.

The thing is, as you watch the talk with any critical capacity, it is easy to see that there are numerous guesses and unquestioned presuppositions posited about the way the brain functions, and about the nature of consciousness. The computer metaphor appears again and again and again, as if it is unquestionably true that the brain operates like a computer. If you get the founding principle wrong, there’s not much chance anything else is going to go right.

That mathematical description will yield the secrets of consciousness is about as valid as believing that positing a simple equation to describe two oranges tells us the nature of oranges. OR 1 + OR 2 = 2OR. All you really have is an abstract representation of a couple of pieces of fruit.

And little did go right in the Human Brain Project. In 2015 Markram was fired as the project head, after the entire project became a “brain wreck” a mere two years after it began. The whole story is testimony to how far into delusion both neuroscience and popular perceptions about the brain have descended. Fancy computer graphics reify the delusion.

It is a giant ego fall. We just don’t know very much about the brain, and very, very little about consciousness.

Maybe it’s time to start asking some new questions.

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