Saturday, April 30, 2016

How Brains Make Moral Judgements (inspiration, process)

This is Rebecca Saxe, cognitive neuroscientist, talking about what really interests me at the moment: cognitive science, science of the mind--and the human capacity to think about other people's thoughts.

"...the crux of the problem is the machine that we use for thinking about other minds, our brain, is made up of pieces, brain cells, that we share with all other animals, with monkeys and mice and even sea slugs. And yet, you put them together in a particular network, and what you get is the capacity to write Romeo and Juliet. Or to say, as Alan Greenspan did, "I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." 


"Until recently, what we knew about the brain were the things that any other animal's brain could do too, so we could study it in animal models. We knew how brains see, and how they control the body and how they hear and sense. And the whole project of understanding how brains do the uniquely human things -- learn language and abstract concepts, and thinking about other people's thoughts -- that's brand new. And we don't know yet what the implications will be of understanding it."

Friday, April 15, 2016

About Paying Attention (inspiration, process)

Something I really find interesting and inspiring:
In her TED talk, developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik, author of "The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life" talks about how babies and young children learn, about the differences between adult consciousness and young children's ways of paying attention, about the plasticity of the brain and the brilliance of the "research and development" work that children do.

"And if you actually look in their brains, you see that they're flooded with these neurotransmitters that are really good at inducing learning and plasticity, and the inhibitory parts haven't come on yet. So when we say that babies and young children are bad at paying attention, what we really mean is that they're bad at not paying attention. So they're bad at getting rid of all the interesting things that could tell them something and just looking at the thing that's important. That's the kind of attention, the kind of consciousness, that we might expect from those butterflies who are designed to learn. [...] But if what we want is to be like those butterflies, to have open-mindedness, open learning, imagination, creativity, innovation, maybe at least some of the time we should be getting the adults to start thinking more like children."