[extropy-chat] Brain Awareness Week

Hal Finney hal at finney.org
Mon Mar 13 19:40:03 UTC 2006

The name of "Brain Awareness Week" is actually pretty funny.  Since the
function of the brain is to be aware, it is a somewhat redundant phrase.

Next we could have "Heart Pumping Week", "Stomach Digestion Week",
"Kidney Filtration Week", "Muscle Contraction Week", "Lung Breathing Week"
and many others.

When I was young, Readers Digest magazine ran a series of public health
articles with names like "I am Joe's Heart", "I am Joe's Liver", and
so on (satirized in the movie Fight Club).  I don't remember if they
did one, but imagine how different it would be to have an article,
"I am Joe's Brain".  Hearing from Joe's brain would be totally unlike
hearing from Joe's heart or Joe's liver.  After all, Joe's brain is who
does all the talking for Joe, all the time!

I could tell people, "I am Hal's Brain" and it would be true.  That is
who is writing this message.  We are all brains, talking to each other.
You are your brain.

Once we start dividing the body up into organs and personifying each
one, it becomes a bit paradoxical to apply it to the brain.  The brain
is already a person; in a way, it has a better claim to personhood than
the body as a whole.

I'll say one more thing about "Brain Awareness", a little more
speculative.  Can the brain really be aware of itself?  In some ways
I would say, no.  Can the eye see itself?  Can the ear hear itself?
Not really.  The eye could see a model of the eye; the ear could hear
a description of the auditory system.  And the brain can think about a
representation of itself.  But it is not aware of itself in raw form.
Self-awareness is (just) another model constructed by the brain for its
own purposes.  The brain is fundamentally transparent to itself.


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