Every human is born as many and dies as one.
Your brain is physically changing as you read this.
This books explores the concept of neural plasticity, or what the author refers to as the property of being “livewired”. The idea of the brain being livewired is that it keeps changing throughout or lives, in all sorts of ways. This idea may sound simple enough, but its consequences and subsequent revelations on the nature of our brain are very far reaching.
It is proposed that the wet blob in our skull is born half baked, with little skill pre-programmed (in the form of genetic memories, due to millions of years of darwinian evolution). Over the course of our lives, the brain learns everything, from how to use our eyes, to how to interact with the world. This is a very profound thing to think about. Our brain is the greatest general computational machine ever created, its sole strength lies in the fact it has a rabid need to find meaning in noise.
The profundity in this revelation lies in the fact that everything we see, hear, feel are just a bunch on electrical noises hitting our brain. This means we are only limited by the kind of signals we can plug into our brains. David Eagleman explores this concept thoroughly, with portions of the book revealing how close we are to the sci-fi sounding concepts of sensory substations and enhancing our body in various ways.
He covers a lot of the amazing behaviour of our brains, and the strange strategies we have developed as a species to keep, memories, habits and knowledge that we accrue in our lives. The hopfield and hebbian learning models inspired by our brain were also covered, which I found interesting, since I had learnt about them in the past from a purely computational point of view.
Another pleasant side effect of reading this book, is that it helped me with my meditation practice, since it better helped me absorb the idea that all the thoughts, noise, touch and sight are all just noise in my consciousness.
This book is excellent pop-sci, and really helps you appreciate the brain. It has me fascinated in the field of neuroscience, and its intersection with computation and engineering. I only wish, this book had covered in greater detail how the humans today have managed to game our mind in the form of today’s unethical attention economy. I find this topic to be of great social importance in today’s day and age. Here is an interesting excerpt of this topic being covered by another neuroscientist Andrew Huberman on the Joe Rogan podcast.
This book is fascinating read, I give this a book, a 4/5.