View Full Version : The Designed Mind

20-07-05, 19:45
In a 2004 Philadelphia Inquirer commentary, John Timpane muses on the disturbing prospects of current research aimed at "custom designing" consciousness.

The 1990s, dubbed "The Decade of the Brain" by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, was a true explosion of intellectual vigor and research breakthroughs. ...Yet at the end of that wonderful decade, the grand quarry—consciousness itself—had eluded us. We still do not know how you get from a firing cell to a subjective experience. It will take us a while to build that bridge. (What a lovely paradox: that something so near to us, so obvious a fact, so familiar and intimate—should also be so elusive. Well did the Greeks assign an ancient word for butterfly—psyche—to the soul or mind. Beautiful, super-real, hard to catch.) But the net is poised. Someday, we may be able to head off diseases and disorders of the brain ranging from depression to Alzheimer's. We may be able to change and improve not only my mood, but also my ability to learn, understand, and remember; perhaps my memory(ies). And if you can do all that to me, where or what is the "I"? A future generation will have to deal with this notion—a designer consciousness. ...All this new neurobiology can make people feel as if they are being turned into machines or hunks of baloney. That the romance of the individual life—all that delicious richness, the things that paint the one-of-a-kind portrait of myself and yourself—is gone. That the soul is no more.1

So what would we do if we could become what we wanted? Would we make everyone have a high IQ? What about music and art capabilities? Or maybe math. Or having "perfect recall". If we can design ourselves who or what would we become? We are on the verge of having to make these kinds of decisions. How much should we change our "natural" selves?

20-07-05, 19:59
Just recalled one sci-fi story. When some people moved to another planet and new generations there with every one had become more creative, artistic and intelligent. Skilled in many fields - music, poetry, art, science and so on... well, there was only one problem they had no keen listeners and viewers anymore, no one to admire their 'perfectness'. Had to 'import' them from mother-Earth :D

20-07-05, 20:02
But if such staff can help disorderly people, it would be not bad, i guess

21-07-05, 07:13
I would definitely design me a better memory.

21-07-05, 08:50
If you can follow the instructions sheet, you can DIY in the comfort of your home and save a whopping $40/h on labor which you can donate to the World Food Drive for a tax deduction. If in doubt, there's always the 1-800-555-1212 tech support and on-line support at www.designerbrains.com.

It would definitely help to be able to modify brain qualities short term and long term. To enhance desirable qualities and to reduce undersired qualities of the brain could benefit both the healthy and the suffering. But not knowing the whole range of possible brain space--referring to the multidimentional possible states on many independent or dependent variables involving the brain-- the 'experiments' on the human mind can be as dangerous as ocean faring without a sea chart. Obviously the possible space could not be boundless, but there might be dangerous rocks, uninhabitable lands, and hostile lotus eaters lurking beyond the waters in the untamed territories.

Suppose one variable, memory, is relatively better understood, and the brain engineers recommend a 'safe range for the average person' and most people would comply with the guideleines. Using the Intel CPU analogy or just any engineering practice, there will also be people tempted to take advantage of what's called engineering safty margin of say 15%, and push 'memory' 5% above mfr. recommendation. Finding it rather safe, let's just push it a bit up to 10%, and 15%. Wow, it still works fine without overheating. Then why not put a cooling fan with a Peltier-electrothermal device and tush it to 20% ? Still working ? Great, now let's try 25%, whoa, my head is getting real good with only a slight headache, but I can deal with it with two pills of Tylenol. But if I use codeine, maybe I can push it up to 33%. Let's try it; never hurts to try. I can come back down anytime I want, right ?

(video flash)
This is your brain,
this this is your brain on designer nuerochemicals,
and this is what used to be your brain---*goes up in smokes*
(end of video flash)

If that happened, your Mum, girl friend, or wife may take your fried brain to the neurochemical manufacturer with a claim, but the limited warranty would state just that, limited warranty. Even if the court ruled in your favor while you are resting in a deep, deep coma, the accused mfr. would not know how to reboot your brain because you didn't come with a backup hard disk or a system recovery CD, and who knows what that magical id and password you never wrote down on paper were ? Big trouble indeed. :(

What I'm trying to say is, "Do not trust those tunnel visioned brain engineers who claim to have expert knowledge of your brain. It's all very experimental, and you do not want to be the guinea pigs for the funny doctors and the profit-minded pharmaceuticals who couldn't care less about your wellness unless it hurt their yearly earnings."

For treating mental illnesses, it might give new cures or adjustments for a small price to pay in negative side effects, but for the perfectly healthy you, don't ! Many processes in nature and in the lab are irreversible; love your brain as is. It's working quite fine. :biggrin:

nb: 1-800-555-1212 and www.designerbrains.com are purely fictitious. Any resemlence to a real telephone number or a web page is purely accidental.

21-07-05, 12:58
In The Undiscovered Mind John Horton makes a good case that we are a long, long way from understanding the human brain, that it may in some sense forever remain 'undiscovered' and that the 'decade of the brain' was a damp squib. He also argues that most treatment of mental illness works only by placebo effect.

In answer to the question: If it was proven 100% safe I would like my neuroses surgically removed, and my memory reverted to its 'age 15' level. I have really noticed my memory capacity slipping these last couple of years.

BTW Lexico, I clicked on your fictitious link in the hope that you had accidentally discovered a real website, but it's not. Maybe I will register it!

01-09-05, 17:13
(I mean no disrespect for Creative Chaos; only some pastime humour while we wait for the real big news. :bow:)

Update on brain replacement technology

New Medical Breakthrough: Swap out your overloaded brain with cow tripe

John's Big Head (http://www.johnsbighead.com/jbh-3.htm)

Find Yourself a New and Improved Brain @ http://www.BrainFind.Com

@Tsuyoiko: You are welcome to register www.designerbrains.com under your name. :-)

01-09-05, 17:17
Wow Lex, you are so 'last year'! I had that operation already. What do you think of the results?

01-09-05, 17:44
I heard that some hospitals are offering a brain doner service.
Media 'babe' Jordan and Posh Spice have already helped out!

01-09-05, 18:07
Wow Lex, you are so 'last year'! I had that operation already. What do you think of the results?Well, with the cow tripe installed, I started regurgiating a lot of the same old thing over and over; a bit repetitious should I say ?
I also began drooling a lot while thinking, and have bursts of laughter or raving madness sometimes. I guess that has to do with the cow farts ?
Other than that; I'm perfectly fine. O, I've gotten predominantly vegetarian. Don't even have the urge for milk now. :-)
And as for stamina... o well, I feel a bit sedated cause I got the cow's, not the bull's. :biggrin:
I heard that some hospitals are offering a brain doner service.
Media 'babe' Jordan and Posh Spice have already helped out!As donors, recepients, or nurses ?

Mars Man
05-09-05, 05:20
As Steven Pinker pointed out in his book, The Blank Slate--The Modern Denial of Human Nature, it may be better to say 'body donor' rather than 'brain donor'; it's the brain that's doing the getting.

I have dreamed about getting a new body...now, how about a Brad Pitt look...hummmmm. :lol:

05-09-05, 11:25
I would like a new body and a new brain. :-)

What a pity, though, that I wouldn't actually be aware of, and therefore able to enjoy, the benefits. :(

In seriousness... I am fascinated by the brain and consciousness... but I have nothing intelligent to say (hence the need for a transplant!) on the subject... except that I think we (that is, human beings) will probably never be able to understand it fully... except we cannot stop from trying, because of that feeling that it is almost within our grasp...

05-09-05, 12:36
I read somewhere that our current knowledge of the brain is analogous to a 16th century map of the world.

05-09-05, 12:50
I fully vouch for your analogy and more; actually the analogy would be a vastly generous assessment in my calculated opinion. Whereas the 16th century maps were well on they way to

1) getting exacting mathematical models of various projections

2) improving upon themselves by increasingly accurate measurements

3) actively being used in navigation for exploration thereby inducing work in the areas of 1) and 2),

the brain charts and mind maps are not even close to gaining a good mathematical models of structure and function. Structure seems to be better understood, but how do we deal with the objective real-time neurochemical brain activity and the subjective movement of the mind-thinking-memory-perception-analysis-intergation-association-imagination-creativity-development-aging-emotions-reasoning-reflection ? :relief:

13-09-05, 16:46

we just have to wait "a little" :D

Disembodied Spirit
28-09-05, 19:04
It's nice to think about it, though, if we all become perfect the world will seriously end. Or we must think of a different way of living together, because there are things need to be done in order to keep us happy and alive :)

p.s. If everyone becomes a super skilled artist, or music artist. What's the point of being one if everyone is one already? It's not unique anymore.