Your brain does not process information and it is not a computer | Aeon EssaysWorse still, even if we had the ability to take a snapshot of all of the brain’s 86 billion neurons and then to simulate the state of those neurons in a computer, that vast pattern would mean nothing outside the body of the brain that produced it. This is perhaps the most egregious way in which the IP metaphor has distorted our thinking about human functioning. Whereas computers do store exact copies of data – copies that can persist unchanged for long periods of time, even if the power has been turned off – the brain maintains our intellect only as long as it remains alive. There is no on-off switch. Either the brain keeps functioning, or we disappear. What’s more, as the neurobiologist Steven Rose pointed out in The Future of the Brain (2005), a snapshot of the brain’s current state might also be meaningless unless we knew the entire life history of that brain’s owner – perhaps even about the social context in which he or she was raised.
Morphological computationMorphological computation is a concept inspired by observations of nature. It theorizes that the physical bodies of biological systems (animals, plants, cellular structure, etc.) play a crucial role in intelligent behavior. “In nature, computation does not just happen in the brain, but is partly outsourced to all over the body,” says Hauser. A human example of this is the way in which the muscles and tendons in our legs react to uneven ground when running, and can adapt without communicating with the brain. Nature provides more dramatic examples in the form of a trout with a body so well-designed that it can swim in flowing water even when it’s dead. Without brain activity, the body still interacts with its environment.
The website is dead, long live the platformIf in five years I’m just watching NFL-endorsed ESPN clips through a syndication deal with a messaging app, and Vice is just an age-skewed Viacom with better audience data, and I’m looking up the same trivia on Genius instead of Wikipedia, and “publications” are just content agencies that solve temporary optimization issues for much larger platforms, what will have been point of the last twenty years of creating things for the web?
By 2017, an amount of data equivalent to all the films ever produced will be transmitted over the internet in a three-minute period, according to Cisco, a manufacturer of communications equipment.Internet traffic today per person is measured in gigabytes, with six gigabytes of information exchanged per human per year. In 2017, that number will have risen to 16. By then, global data will be counted in zettabytes – roughly one trillion gigabytes.
There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record. The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world's record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected.
Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified. The lawyer has at his touch the associated opinions and decisions of his whole experience, and of the experience of friends and authorities. The patent attorney has on call the millions of issued patents, with familiar trails to every point of his client's interest. The physician, puzzled by a patient's reactions, strikes the trail established in studying an earlier similar case, and runs rapidly through analogous case histories, with side references to the classics for the pertinent anatomy and histology. The chemist, struggling with the synthesis of an organic compound, has all the chemical literature before him in his laboratory, with trails following the analogies of compounds, and side trails to their physical and chemical behavior.
What I fear is that the entire web is basically becoming a slow-motion Snapchat, where content lives for some unknowable amount of time before it dies, lost forever. Sites like archive.org can’t possibly keep up; and the moguls who own most of the content online are simply not invested in the ideals of the link economy. When even Google is giving bloggers just three days to save their sites or see their content disappeared — three days when many of them are on summer vacations, no less — it’s pretty obvious that there’s no such thing as a truly benign online organization any more.
I don’t think I have an unmet need to interact with random unknown people. After all, Josh Miller is not screening out the uncool, so after the surge of the glitterati it will be simply random people, even if they are the next door neighbor of somehow I vaguely know. My real need is to gather information that is critical to my ongoing research practice, ie living on earth in the present day. And as a side effect of that, I have been meeting really cool people already, in the normal course of events. They are my Twitter contacts, or the folks I follow on Tumblr. Potluck has it backward.